Although directions for the management of all our familiar bedding plants will be found under their respective heads, a few words on the general subject are in order. The earliest bedding that the writer can remember was not very unlike that of the present day.
Fifty years ago we had (I am speaking now of the gardens of Great Britain, for the American flower garden had then scarcely an existence) beds of verbenas edged with a variegated geranium, beds of heliotrope, beds of Tom Thumb geraniums, masses of yellow calceolarias.
in fact it was masses of flowering plants, and that is largely the taste of the day, though not exclusively so because we have so many foliage plants now which Mere not then known and which now make beds equal in color effect to many of the flowers. The coleus and achyran-thes were unknown and most of the small plants that afterwards came into favor for carpet bedding were not introduced, or were neglected because of no value in the economy of the flower garden. It seems to me that those gardens of old, with their circles and squares and ovals of showy plants, just as well kept as our gardens are today, were fully as beautiful as any we now have.
Then came the ribbon border - long strips of flower garden, perhaps six or seven feet on each side of a path. This often began with the blue lobelia next the margin of grass or box edging, then a variegated geranium, next Calceolaria aurea floribunda, back of that Salvia patens (a most beautiful blue), then a row of dahlias, and, if the border was wide, backed up by a stately line of hollyhocks. The ribbon border was well done in this country in many places, but as some of the flowering plants could not be depended upon here we had the coleus, which does finely with us and is a poor, stunted, dull colored plant in the gardens of Great Britain.
Then thirty-five years ago, or perhaps a little more, the carpet bedding was evolved and was carried out most elaborately in many places, both private and public. Perhaps in no place in the world was it carried to greater perfection or more ingeniously than in the South Park system, of Chicago, under the direction of Mr. Frederick Kanst. It was admired by millions and criticised by a few. The minority are often in the right, but in this case the critics were only wasting their words. It was gratifying to the millions, and harmless surely, and therefore served its purpose. On a visit to the "Old Country" in 1885 we noticed much less carpet bedding than we expected to see and remember the remark of one head-gardener who was lord of a large domain: "No, we have given it up and gone back to the old geraniums and calceolarias." It was then in its greatest popularity with us, but was on the wane across the water.
As with the coleus so with some of the leading plants used in carpet bedding. They do better in our climate. I cannot believe that the alternantheras would grow there as they do with us, except in the warmer parts of southern Europe, and if you take the alternantheras out of carpet bedding you leave a large hole. Carpet bedding never was a great item with the commercial florist simply because it was too expensive for the great majority of our patrons. A bed that could be well filled with geraniums or coleus for $15 would cost $40 if well done as a carpet bed. The plants we always had to grow, for there was sure to be a demand from people who wanted to try their hand at a fancy bed.
The prevailing taste today is to use flowering plants as much as possible; even the coleus is not as popular as it was a few years since. To be candid, the zonal geranium, with its splendid habit and beautiful trusses of flowers of brilliant and pleasing colors, is such a universal favorite as was the horse Eclipse in the mythical story: "It is the geranium first, the rest nowhere."
There is, however, another style, or rather another arrangement, of bedding that is particularly suited to our climate, and on a lawn that is not wanted for croquet or tennis what can be more cheerful than a bed of cannas, cala-diums and coleus. Perhaps this style of bedding is not worthy the name subtropical, perhaps the latter term is more properly applied to a bed that contains a great variety of our hothouse plants that are bedded or plunged out during the summer months, including crotons, palms, bamboos, etc. They are interesting beds, more interesting than handsome, but are instructive and to those who love plants are attractive.
Various Styles of of Bedding.
Combination Canna and Carpet Bed.
A very simple and well known arrangement of a bed that I saw very recently pleased me very much, and still more when the "Missus" of the grounds said: "Mr. S., we are delighted with the bed this year. Don't you think it is beautiful?" It was surrounded here and there, but not densely, with a few trees and the bed was some thirty yards back from the street. It was simply a center (about two dozen) of a tall, narrow leaved, dark - almost blood red- carina (I wish I could give you its correct name) surrounded by Caladium escu-lentum, then two rows of Coleus Ver-schaffeltii and next the grass a circle of Golden Bedder coleus. This is quite a conventional arrangement with us, but hard to beat and generally pleasing.
The landscape architect, especially of the most approved style, would, I feel sure, declaim against this bed on the lawn and say it was bad taste, not in harmony with the grass and the shade of elm and maple and linden. The up-to-date landscape artist doesn't want you to plant a golden elder or variegated cornus or Prunus Pissardii in shrubbery groupings because the coloring is abnormal and not in accordance with nature. What does the proprietor care about such things? He wants to be cheerful. This sticking to nature is carried to excess. To be true to nature we would have to undergo a great change. We would not cut our hair or pare our finger nails or use knives and forks and would retrograde to ,the days of the fig leaf. Our early ancestors, when crawling or leaping from limb to limb, or wading through bogs when emigrating to the northern regions of the globe, found the natural coats of the animals they had slain very comfortable on their own backs, and now clothing has developed into adornment and frills as well as become a necessity.