This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The limited dimensions of city and town yards frequently deter their owners from thinking them worthy of adornment; yet a judicious use of time, and a small amount of money, would soon make them "nooks of loveliness." Floriculture develops a taste for simple and enduring pleasures. The study of nature, and the appreciation of her beauty, give a life-long and ever-increasing investment in interests that widen and deepen as life goes on.
In laying out small yards, it is well to remember that simple plans are best for small spaces. Where graceful or peculiar outlines are desired, they are best shown by being set in grass, and should have space enough to make them quite distinct. I have seen large gardens entirely spoiled by a series of many-shaped beds and narrow paths. These give only a confusion of outline and mingling of plants that hide, instead of reveal, beauty. I have seen, on the contrary, a touch of grandeur given to a yard of good dimensions, by simply setting a large circle in the centre of a square plat of grass, the circle being filled and bordered with gay flowers. Another, seen in Nice, and fifty feet square, was made by peculiar but gracefully outlined beds to have the effect of much larger grounds, a place being given for shrubbery; a row of tall but slender-growing trees on each side ; a bed of roses; other beds containing tall plants, with borders of flowers, and a hedge that made alcoves of each corner next to the street; one contained seats and the other a child's swing; next to the house grew a beautiful screen of Heliotrope.
If the front yard is very small, it can be much improved by placing high-growing plants or vases filled with flowers, in each of the corners nearest the house. A straight path down the centre is best, with grass on either side reaching to the fence, or to a very narrow bed beside it. Set a circular bed on each side and at each end, with an oval bed between them. If there is a high wall on one side, it is best to let the grass come up close, leaving spaces for vines to run up the wall; any but a wide bed is out of proportion to a house or high wall.
In back yards, borders around the fence, with long beds on each side of a centre path economize space, and leave room between the beds for grass plots, which give a good background for the flowers, and also benefit them by the added moisture they give and retain. Do not put a path on each side of the bed, as it has a stiff appearance. I mention these only as suggestions of experience, but there are many plans to use with good effect, if space can be had.
Where the ground rises, or falls, terraces have a picturesque effect, especially if steps of stone are used, with vases at the head or foot, or both if a balustrade is added. I have seen half of a city side yard terraced to reach the back part; a grassy slope forming one side, which descended to a short avenue of pear trees running east and west. This changed the monotony of a flat space into a picture. The walls held a swaying mass of greenery, while the beds in front and on the terrace were almost dazzling with the splendor of flowers.
If the fences or walls are unsightly, they should be covered with carefully trained vines, as they are, aside from their beauty, the best relief for the gayety of flowers.
Where yards are divided by an open fence, light vines, not too closely planted, are very pretty and take away the formal appearance of a long straight line. Barclayana (white, rose and purple), Morning Glories, Cypress (scarlet and white), Sweet Peas (purple), and the single-flowered Clematis, Thunbergia (buff and white), the Allegheny vine, etc., are all suitable. To these for high fences can be added Bignonia grandiflora and B. capreolata, White Jessamine (south of Philadelphia), Akebia quinata (a Japanese vine bearing brown sweet-scented flowers), Ipomea (tropical Morning Glories), Clematis flammula and roses, if the fence is an open one, - for they need circulation of air about them in order to thrive, and languish without it. Any offensive object should be covered with lattice-work, or wire may be fastened to the upper part of a fence, to interpose as a shield for unsightly vistas. Wherever a rustic arch can be put, or a rough post for climbing plants, they will when covered with graceful, swaying vines, add much elegance to the grounds. In Nice I saw wire arches so arranged as to form frames to portions of the landscape. This could be done on a small scale among city vistas or village scenes.
All blank spaces should be covered with vines, as they give life and elegance to an otherwise dreary sameness.