This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
The bulbous plants best adapted for massing are Tulips, Hyacinths, and Crocuses, of which there is great variety in colour, including good scarlet, yellow, blue, and pure white, with many rich composite colours, and also many handsome striped varieties in the two latter genera. Narcissus, Scilla, and some other genera furnish varieties better suited for mixed beds. The following are some of the miscellaneous hardy plants employed in spring bedding: - Arabis albida, Alyssum saxatile, A. Gremonense, Aubrietia Campbelli and other varie-ties, Anemone hortensis and A. Coronaria in variety, Phlox subulata varieties, Doronicum Caucasicum, Helleborus orien-talis, Anemone Hepatica varieties, Myosotis alpestris, Polyanthuses, Primroses, Wallflowers, Sweet Violets, etc., etc.
In the preceding pages we have hastily sketched the principal features of a pleasure-garden, and pointed out some of the commoner defects in planting and arrangement; but as most of our remarks apply to a garden of two or three acres, or more, in extent, and as gardens of still more limited dimensions are those usually worst arranged and managed, we purpose going a little more into details respecting the planting and choice of plants suitable for small gardens and garden plots. This we shall do with special reference to modern villa gardens, in the country and on the outskirts of towns. These vary from a small plot in front of the house, consisting of a few poles in area to two or three or more roods, surrounding the house. Frequently the nature of the soil is the principal difficulty in the way of establishing a flourishing and ornamental garden. A stiff clay, especially, is a very disheartening soil to encounter, and perhaps one of the commonest the occupier of a new house meets with, as land of an inferior description in country places is that first sold for building upon. Another drawback is the impossibility in many places of finding an outlet for under-drainage, which, where practicable, is one of the first operations towards improving the condition of the ground. In the case of a person purchasing a plot and building his own house, many of these untoward circumstances may be avoided or controlled. Arrangements can be made for effective drainage, and if the alluvial soil be thin and poor, the most can be made of what there is. For instance, the mould should be removed from the spot to be built upon, as well as the roadway and walks, and transferred to such parts it is intended to cultivate, that are most in need of enrichment. Where a plot is covered with turf, this should be taken off and stacked up with some-good farm-yard manure. When partially rotten, it would require turning over, and by the time the house was built it would be ready for use. That portion of the garden, if any, intended for a lawn, would naturally retain its turf, if level and good; but otherwise it would be better to procure fresh turf, or prepare the soil and sow it with a selection of grasses. Where the soil is very heavy and stiff, it is much more economical to procure some better, to plant trees and shrubs in, and to make up the flower-beds, than to try to make anything grow in it without mending, for the loss of plants by death, to say nothing of the loss of time, would soon exceed the cost of a few tons of mould.
The principal and first thing for consideration is the general plan of the garden. Of course this would depend upon a number of circumstances, such as size, position of the front of the house with regard to the public road, whether it is to be a detached or semi-detached house, or one of a block of houses with means of exit on both sides, etc. As a rule, the south or west aspect is preferred for the front of a house, and consequently the flower garden or the principal part of it would be between the house and the main road, or the back of the house towards the road. We will take a detached house standing in grounds about half an acre in extent, and facing south or west, as the case may be, towards the main road. A portion of the ground at the back of the house is usually set apart for growing a little fruit and a few vegetables, and the remainder, with that in front and at the sides, is devoted to flowers and shrubs. There will be sufficient space for a carriage-road in to the front door on one side, and a secluded pathway to the back door on the other, and a conservatory might be erected against the south or west end of the house. But all these are details that cannot be fixed for any one to act upon, as the local circumstances, surrounding premises, and tastes of owners, are as different as the number of places. The main thing is to make the most of the site by properly planning out the ground, and deciding upon a design before starting, and then in selecting suitable plants to fill it. Shrubs with woolly or clammy leaves should be avoided for planting near a dusty road, and those, whether evergreen or deciduous, with smooth shining leaves preferred, as they are much more readily cleansed by a shower of rain. In a garden the size we have imagined, there would be room for a belt of shrubs, faced with mixed borders, around the circumference of the front garden, enclosing a lawn with a few small beds, and a central shrub, or vase or fountain and small basin, and a path past the conservatory, or west (or south) end of the house, to the back garden.
The planting of shrubs and small slow-growing ornamental trees would depend upon the object in view, whether to make the garden as secluded as possible, and shut out overlooking neighbours, or to keep open some pleasant prospect. But under no circumstances should large fast-growing trees be planted, as they soon kill or starve everything else. Two or three good trees in such a garden would be quite enough, for the rest evergreen and flowering deciduous shrubs would suffice. Tender subjects should be avoided altogether, as blanks caused by frosts would be too conspicuous. Even the Common Laurel might well be dispensed with, especially in heavy soils, for there is the risk of its being cut down to the ground every fifth or sixth year; and the Portugal Laurel is equally effective as an evergreen and much hardier.