SOME years ago I heard of "A Garden of Lilies," a garden where nothing else was grown. The phrase and the description of this garden remained in my mind and the desire to have one where Lilies particularly should be grown took great hold of me. In my imagination I saw the tall, graceful stalks crowned with their beautiful flowers, cut the lovely things and breathed their delicious perfume. After reading all that I could find upon the cultivation of Lilies, and studying the catalogues, I finally made a beginning.
The place where I planned to have this garden had been for years a garden where small vegetables had been raised. The ground sloped slightly towards the southeast, enough to continually wash the top soil to the foot of the slope, which was partly corrected by terracing; the soil was hard and clayey and had never made a very successful vegetable garden. The first thing was to plan the best arrangement of the space.
Some time before, a friend had given me a plan of her garden, which was old when the Revolutionary war was ended. Washington and his officers had walked there, and for the hundred and thirty years that had passed since those days the place with its beautiful garden had remained in the same family, loved and cared for in every generation.
This old garden has the formal-shaped, Box-edged beds seen in all Colonial gardens. The Box, tall and thick, entirely fills the beds in some places, and the bushes of old-fashioned Roses, Paeonies, Madonna Lilies, and many of the other old-time flowers have grown on, increasing in size and beauty, while generations who have tended them have followed each other to their last long sleep.
Hydrangeas around the pool July twenty-third.
The straight Box-edged paths, and the formally shaped beds surrounded with Box, are found in all of the early gardens, the idea having been brought over from the old country by the colonists who planned their new gardens here, after the manner of those they had known and loved at home, and grew wherever possible the flowers they had tended across the ' sea.
The English and early American formal gardens were a modification and simplification of the elaborate Italian gardens, where architectural structures, tall cypress trees and ilex and myrtle hedges were the principal elements.
To many persons who have never been gardeners themselves, or studied the pleasing art, all formal gardens are Italian gardens, and since making this new one I have spent much time in explaining, that it is not an Italian garden but a Colonial one, designed from a garden made in America about 1760.
Having longed for the sound of falling water among the flowers, it seemed that now was my opportunity; so a pool, round, twelve feet in diameter and three feet deep, was planned for the center of the garden. First the place was excavated and the water pipe and connections with shut-off valve and hack drainage put in place; then a wall of stone about eighteen inches thick was laid up in cement, the bottom concreted and the overflow pipe laid to a loosely stoned-up blind cistern made below the level of the bottom; this also served to drain out the pool in winter, the water soaking away through the loose stones into the earth.
The pool finished, the surface of the entire garden was covered with a thick layer of manure, on which was spread about three inches of muck taken from the bottom of a pond that was scraped for the purpose. Lime also and sand were added to mellow the stiff soil. The ground was then thoroughly ploughed, harrowed several times, spaded and carefully raked. Then with stakes and garden cord the beds were marked out, and again spaded and thoroughly prepared, the whole garden again raked, and the place was at last ready for planting. The pool was begun in early April, but various delays made it the end of May before the garden was finally laid out. The beds were surrounded with Box-edging and many pyramidal evergreens planted.
On June the fifth, the space between the beds was sown with grass seed, an unheard-of date, and as it was too late to think of Lilies for that year, the beds were sown the following day with Asters.
For seven weeks there had been no rain, and, worse still, no wind, and the wind-mill did not pump and the great reservoir sup-plying the gardens became dangerously low. Early in June I sailed away for Europe in a sad state of mind, begging the men to cart the water if necessary to keep the Box and evergreens alive.
Scarcely did I dare all Summer to think of this garden, and no mention of it was made in any letters received, so that upon our return the middle of September I went to look at it, expecting to see a bare expanse, broken by dead evergreens and brown Box-edging; but the rains had begun the very day we sailed, and the Summer had been cool with frequent rains.
It was just sunset when we reached home that September day, and as I stood on the marble steps, looking down upon what my imagination had portrayed as a dead garden, it seemed as if a miracle had been wrought. The evergreens were green and flourishing, the Box-edging was covered with tender shoots of new growth, the grass of the paths was thick and free from weeds and the beds were filled with blooming Asters, of which there were certainly hun-dreds in each bed, and although three colors had been used, white, palest pink, and faint blue, each bed contained but one variety.
Vase of Siberian Iris May twenty-fifth.
In the pool the Nelumbium speciosum spread its great blue-green leaves and two of its pink lilies with golden hearts rose on tall stems above the water. The pale colors with the fresh green setting seemed in the soft sunset-light almost unreal after the sad expectation that had so long filled my mind. Any garden lover will sympathize and understand my great delight.
In October, when frost had killed the Asters, the beds were finally prepared for the Lilies and Iris which they were then to receive. Over each bed was spread a layer each, of old manure, leaf-mould, bone meal, wood ashes, phosphate, and a sprinkling of air-slaked lime, the beds were then spaded and re-spaded so as to mix the new constituents thoroughly with the soil already there, and then came planting time.