The wild garden, as the name suggests, is a garden of informal outline, but it is not, as many think, a wilderness, requiring little or no attention. The primary purpose of the garden is flowers, and if success is to be looked for there must be a degree of care and regard bestowed upon it, although when the garden is once established this care may be reduced to a minimum.
Very often an entire property is developed along naturalistic lines, aiming toward the picturesque in landscape design. Such a development may not be classed as a wild garden, as very often the effects secured are the result of almost constant care.
The true wild garden should be treated as an isolated feature and will appear best in a depression (Fig. 170) where it is practicable to plant the side slopes with evergreens and flowering shrubs in a naturalistic way. When boulders are at hand it may be made even more picturesque by placing them on the slopes and extending the plantations of wild flowers around them to tie the entire scene together.
Where space admits the plot given over to the wild garden should be large enough to allow the greatest freedom in the modification of the ground; walks should lead through depressions, the slopes of which may be built up with the earth excavated from them.
Very often a favorably located spring will supply running water and add a feature of inestimable worth to the wild garden. Many and varied are the native plants that can then be introduced and charming indeed the effects procurable.
The wild garden should be so designed that the scenes are ever changing; the paths should follow the running water, through dense, cool, shaded places, where ferns and mosses thrive, and again through open, sunny, meadow-like spaces where Buttercups and Daisies abound.
In the wild garden the paths should be of turf (Fig. 171) or stepping stones, and very broad, allowing the flowers to sprawl over the path in places without interfering entirely with the purpose of the walk. Stepping stones should be placed twenty inches apart, center to center.
Beds for the establishing of flowers should not be more than six feet wide. Where it is necessary to have them of greater width, it is preferable to place shrubbery in the center of the bed and to allow about three feet between the shrubbery and the turf edge of the path.
The proper planting of the wild garden will require an intimate knowledge of plants and a fine sense of fitness. The proper planting relates not only to the colonies of the smaller flowers that border the walks and the edges of streams, but also to the trees, shrubs and evergreens needed to make up the scene. Trees and shrubs should be selected which will supply the overhanging branches desired in places without encroaching on the open meadow-like sunny spots.
Many plants, such as the Foxgloves and Cardinal Flowers that are given places in the regular flower garden, are equally at home in the wild garden, but plants such as Geraniums and Scarlet Sage, which are peculiarly garden plants, have no place in it.