The morning-glory tribe of ipomaea is both useful and decorative for rapid-growing screens, but heed should be taken that the common varieties be not allowed to scatter their seeds at random, or the next season, before you know it, every plant in the garden will be held tight in their insinuating grasp. Especially beautiful are the new Imperial Japanese morning glories that are exquisitely margined and fringed, and of the size and pattern of rare glass wine cups. Petunias, if judiciously used, and of good colour, belong in the second grade of the first rank. They have their uses, but the family has a morbid tendency to run to sad, half-mourning hues, and I have put a black mark against it as far as my own garden is concerned.
Drummond phlox deserves especial mention, for so wide a colour range has it, and so easy is its growth (if only you give it plenty of Water and elbow room, and remember that a crowded Drummond phlox is an unhappy plant of short life), that a very tasteful group of beds could be made of this flower alone by a careful selection of colours, while by constant cutting for the house the length of the blooming season is prolonged.
The dwarf salvias, too, grow readily from seed, and balsams, if one has room, line up finely along straight walks, the firm blossoms of the camelia-flowered variety, with their delicate rosettes of pink, salmon, and lavender, also serving to make novel table decorations when arranged in many ways with leaves of the laurel, English ivy, or fern fronds.
Portulaca, though cousin to the objectionable "pusley," is most useful where mere colour is wanted to cover the ground in beds that have held early tulips or other spring bulbs, as well as for covering dry, sandy spots where little else will grow. It should not be planted until really warm weather, and therefore may be scattered between the rows of narcissi and late tulips when their tops are cut off, and by the time they are quite withered and done away with, the cheerful portulaca, feeding upon the hottest sunbeams, will begin to cover the ground, a pleasure to the eye as well as a decorative screen to the bulbs beneath, sucking the fiercest sun rays before they penetrate.
Chief among the low-growing worthies comes the verbena, good for bedding, good for cutting, and in some of the mammoth varieties subtly fragrant. Verbenas may be raised to advantage in a hotbed, but if the seed be soaked overnight in warm water, it will germinate freely out of doors in May and be a mass of bloom from July until late October. For beds grouped around a sundial or any other garden centre, the verbena has no peer; its trailing habit gives it grace, the flowers are borne erect, yet it requires no staking'and it is easily controlled by pinching or pinning to the soil with stout hairpins.
One little fragrant flower, fraught with meaning and remembrance, belongs to the annuals, though its family is much better known among the half-hardy perennials that require winter protection here. This is the gold and brown annual wall-flower, slender sister of die gelbe violet, and having that same subtle violet odour in perfect degree. It cannot be called a decorative plant, but it should have plenty of room given it in the bed of sweet odours and be used as a border on the sunny side of wall or fence, where, protected from the wind and absorbing every ray of autumn sunlight, it will often give you at least a buttonhole bouquet on Christmas morning.
The Summer Garden - Verbenas.
The cosmos is counted by catalogues and culturists one of the most worthy of the newer annuals, and so it is when it takes heed to its ways and behaves its best, but otherwise it has all the terrible uncertainty of action common to human and garden parvenues. From the very beginning of its career it is a conspicuous person, demanding room and abundance of food. Thinking that its failure to bloom until frost threatened was because I had sown the seed out of doors in May, I gave it a front room in my very best hotbed early in March, where, long before the other occupants of the place were big enough to be transplanted, Mrs. Cosmos and family pushed their heads against the sash and insisted upon seeing the world. Once in the garden, they throve mightily, and early in July, at a time when I had more flowers than I needed, the entire row threatened to bloom. After two weeks of coquettish showing of colour here and there, up and down the line, they concluded that midsummer sun did not agree with any of the shades of pink, carmine, or crimson of which their clothes were fashioned, and as for white, the memory of recent acres of field daisies made it too common, so they changed their minds and proceeded to grow steadily for two months. When they were pinched in on top, they simply expanded sidewise; ordinary and inconspicuous staking failed to restrain them, and they even pulled away at different angles from poles of silver birch with stout rope between, like a festive company of bacchantes eluding the embraces of the police. A heavy wind storm in late September snapped and twisted their hollow trunks and branches. Were they discouraged? Not a particle; they simply rested comfortably upon whatever they had chanced to fall and grew again from this new basis. Meanwhile the plants in front of them and on the opposite side of the way began to feel discouraged, and a fine lot of asters, now within the shadow, were attacked by facial paralysis and developed their blossoms only on one side.
The middle of October, the week before the coming of Black Frost, the garden executioner, the cosmos, now heavy with buds, settled down to bloom. Two large jars were filled with them, after much difficulty in the gathering, and then the axe fell. Sometimes, of course, they behave quite differently, and those who can spare ground for a great hedge backed by wall or fence and supported in front by pea brush deftly insinuated betwixt and between ground and plants, so that it restrains, but is at the same time invisible, may feast their eyes upon a spectacle of billows of white and pink that, at a little distance, are reminiscent of the orchards of May.
But if you, Mary Penrose, are leaning toward cosmos and reading in the seed catalogue of their size and wonderful dawn-like tints, remember that the best of highly hybridized things revert unexpectedly to the commonest type, and somewhere in this family of lofty Mexicans there must have been a totally irresponsible wayside weed. Then turn backward toward the front of the catalogue, find the letter A, and buy, in place of cosmos, aster seeds of every variety and colour that your pocket will allow.
Of course the black golden-rod beetle may try to dwell among the aster flowers, and the aphis that are nursery maids to the ants infest their roots; you must pick off the one and dig sulphur and unslaked lime deeply into the soil to discourage the other, but whatever labour you spend will not be lost.
Other annuals there are, and their name is legion, that are pretty enough, perhaps, and well adapted to special purposes, like the decorative and curious tassel flower, cockscombs, gourds, four o'clocks, etc., and the great tribe of "everlastings" for those people, if such there be, who still prefer dried things for winter bouquets, when an ivy-wreathed window filled with a succession of bulbs, ferns, or oxalis is so easily achieved! It is too harsh, perhaps, to call these minor annuals unworthy, but as they are unimportant and increase the labour rather than add to the pleasure, they are really unworthy of admission to the woman's garden where there is only time and room for the best results.
But here I am rambling at large instead of plainly answering your question, "What annuals can we plant as late as this (May 25) while we are locating the rose bed?" You may plant any or all of them up to the first of June, the success of course depending upon a long autumn and late frosts. No, not quite all; the tall-growing sweet peas should be in the ground not later than May Iin this south New England latitude, though in the northern states and Canada they are planted in June as a matter of course. Blanche Ferry, of the brilliant pink-and-white complexion, however, will do very nicely in the light of a labour-saving afterthought, as, only reaching a foot and a half high, little, if any, brush is needed.
We found your rose list replete with charming varieties, but most of them too delicate for positive success hereabouts. I'm sending you presently the list for a fifty-dollar rose garden, which it seems is much in demand, so that I've adapted my own experience to the simple plan that Evan drew to enlighten amateur rose lovers and turn them from coveting their wealthy neighbours' goods to spending their energy in producing covetable roses of their own!
Asters well Massed.
By the way, I send you my own particular list of Worthy Annuals to match the hardy plants and keep heights and colours easily before you until your own Garden Book is formulated and we can compare notes. (See page 387.)
You forgot to tell me whether you have decided to keep hens or not! I know that the matter has been discussed every spring since you have lived at Woodridge. If you are planning a hennery, I shall not encourage the rosary, for the days of a commuter's wife are not long enough for both without encountering nervous prostration on the immediate premises.
Some problems are ably solved by cooperation. As I am a devotee of the ornamental and comfortable, Martha Saunders nee Corkle runs a codperative hen-yard in our north pasture for the benefit of the Cort-rights and ourselves to our mutual joy!