IT has not been all success. I have had to learn the soil and the location best suited to each plant; to know when each bloomed and which lived best together. Mine is a garden of bulbs, annuals, biennials and hardy perennials; in addition to which there are Carinas, Dahlias and Gladioli, whose roots can be stored, through the winter, in a cellar. All the rest of the garden goes gently to sleep in the autumn, is well covered up about Thanksgiving time, and slumbers quietly through the winter; until, with the first spring rains and sunny days, the plants seem fairly to bound into life again, and the never-ceasing miracle of nature is repeated before our wondering eyes.
I have no glass on my place, not even a cold-frame or hot-bed. Everything is raised in the open ground, except the few bedding plants mentioned whose roots are stored through the winter. Therefore, mine can truly be called a hardy garden, and is the only one I know at all approaching it in size and quantity of flowers raised, where similar conditions exist.
I have observed that, with few exceptions, the least success with hardy perennials is found in the gardens of those of my friends whose gardeners are supposed to be the best, because paid the most. These men will grow wonderful Roses, Orchids, Carnations, Grapes, etc., under glass, and will often have fine displays of Rhododendrons. But to most of them the perennial or biennial plant, the old friend blossoming in the same place year after year, is an object unworthy of cultivation. Their souls rejoice in the bedding-out plant, which must be yearly renewed, and which is beautiful for so short a time, dying with the early frost. I was astounded last summer on visiting several fine places, where the gardeners were considered masters of their art, to see the poor planting of perennials and annuals. I recall particularly two Italian gardens, perfectly laid out by landscape gardeners, but which amounted to nothing because the planting was insufficient, - here a Phlox, there a Lily, then a Rose, with perhaps a Larkspur or a Marigold, all rigidly set out in single plants far apart, with nothing in masses, and no colour effects.
A shady garden walk May thirty-first.
To attain success in growth, as well as in effect, plants must be so closely set that when they are developed no ground is to be seen. If so placed, their foliage shades the earth, and moisture is retained. In a border planted in this way, individual plants are far finer than those which, when grown, are six inches or a foot apart.
First of all in gardening, comes the preparation of the soil. Give the plants the food they need and plenty of water, and the blessed sunlight will do the rest. It is wonderful what can be done with a small space, and how from April to November there can always be a mass of bloom. I knew of one woman's garden, in a small country town, - house and ground only covering a lot hardly fifty by one hundred feet, - where, with the help of a man to work for her one day in the week and perhaps for a week each spring and fall, she raises immense quantities of flowers, both perennials and annuals. For six months of the year she has always a dozen vases full in the house, and plenty to give away. More than half the time her little garden supplies flowers for the church, while -others in the same village owning large places and employing several men "have really no flowers."
I remember returning once from a two weeks' trip, to find that my entire crop of Asters had been destroyed by a beetle. It was a horrid black creature about an inch long, which appeared in swarms, devoured all the plants and then disappeared, touching nothing else. Such a thing had never before happened in my garden. One of the men had sprayed them with both slug-shot and kerosene emulsion to no effect, - and so no Asters. My friend with the little garden heard me bemoaning my loss, and the next day sent me, over the five intervening miles, a hamper - almost a small clothes-basket - full of the beautiful things. It quite took my breath away. I wondered how she could do it, and thought she must have given me every one she had. Yet, upon driving over in hot haste to pour out thanks and regrets, lo! there were Asters all a-blow in such quantities in her garden that it seemed as if none had been gathered.
Except by the sea-coast, our dry summers, with burning sun and, in many places, frequent absence of dew, are terribly hard on a garden; but with deep, rich soil, and plenty of water and proper care, it will yield an almost tropical growth. Therefore, whenever a bed or border is to be made, make it right. Unless one is willing to take the trouble properly to prepare the ground, there is no use in expecting success in gardening. I have but one rule: stake out the bed, and then dig out the entire space two feet in depth. Often stones will be found requiring the strength and labor of several men, with crowbars and levers, to remove them; often there will be rocks that require blasting. Stones and earth being all removed, put a foot of well-rotted manure in the bottom; then fill up with alternate layers, about four inches each, of the top soil, taken out of the first foot dug up, and of manure. Fill the bed or border very full, as it will sink with the disintegration of the manure. Finish off the top with three inches of soil. Then it is ready for planting. If the natural soil is stiff or clayey, put it in a heap and mix with one-fourth sand, to lighten it, before returning to the bed. Thus prepared, it will retain moisture, and not pack and become hard.
Stalks of Hyacinthus Candicans August twenty-first.
A clump of Valerian June sixth.