I AM frequently surprised to hear people say, "Oh, a flower garden is very nice, but such a trouble!" I have heard this expression several times from friends who employ a number of men and have large places with extensive lawns, shrubberies and vegetable gardens, but without flowers, except, perhaps, a few annuals growing among the vegetables.
Yet no one is indifferent to the beauty of a garden, or unobservant of the improvement which even a few flowers can make around the humblest cottage. Think of the pretty thatched cottages one sees everywhere in England and France, covered to the eaves with Roses and Clematis, and surrounded by flowers growing wherever they can find root in the tiny gardens. Yet all this is the result of only a half hour's daily care after the long day's work is done.
One should begin with a few plants - perhaps a dozen only - and the "trouble" will soon become a delight, unless one is devoid of all love for flowers.
Whenever I hear remarks on the "trouble" of a flower garden, I think of those peasant homes, and also of a little plot grown and cared for by a certain tenant farmer's wife I know. She has six children, and must cook and bake and clean for four men in addition; yet, some time every day, she finds a few minutes to tend her flowers. She has a border along the fence four by fifty feet, filled with perennials; a border across the front of her house with Phlox and Funkias, and a couple of beds with Asters, Poppies, Balsams, Portulaca and Pinks. The perennials were given her, a few at a time. She separated the roots, saved the seeds to raise others, and has been able in this way to increase her borders. The seeds of the few annuals she buys do not cost more than a dollar a year. Thus, for a trifling expenditure and a short time every day, this woman makes her humble surroundings beautiful, while her soul finds an object upon which to expend its love of beauty, and her thoughts have a respite from the daily cares of life.
Vase of Peonies June sixth.
Many people have the mistaken idea that a flower garden, however small, is an expensive luxury, and are so convinced of this, that they never venture any attempt at gardening, and pass their lives knowing nothing of its pleasures.
Let us suppose some one is starting a suburban home in a simple way, and see how flowers can be had for many months at small cost. If one has a place in a town or village, the plot of ground not over fifty by two hundred feet, still the possibilities are great, and the owner can easily gather flowers for herself and her friends from April until mid-November. A house or cottage on such a piece of ground generally stands back from twenty to fifty feet, with a gravel or flagged walk running to the street. If the owner be a beginner in gardening and expects to do most of the work herself, let her commence with a few plants in a small space. As the plants thrive and become beautiful, the care of them will give an added pleasure to life, and, little by little, the beds and borders can be increased.
In beginning to plant a small plot, the most natural place first is a border, say two feet wide, on either side of the walk leading from the house to the street. Have these borders dug out and made properly. Then, if the owner wishes to see them continually abloom, bulbs must be planted, to give the early spring flowers. Tulips can be had for eighty cents a hundred, Narcissus Poeticus for sixty-five cents a hundred, and Yellow Daffodils for one dollar and twenty-five cents a hundred. Hyacinths are more expensive, and cost from four dollars a hundred up. If a hundred each of the Tulips, Narcissi, Hyacinths and Daffodils were planted they would make the borders lovely from early in April until late in May. The Daffodils will bloom first, then the Hyacinths, followed by the Narcissi, and the Tulips last, if care is taken to buy a late variety.
There should certainly be three or four Peonies in the borders, - pink, white, and dark red; good roots of these can be had for about thirty-five cents each. Once planted, they should not be disturbed for years; and, although the first season they may not yield more than two or three blossoms, in each succeeding year the flowers will increase in number. A friend told me, not long ago, that she had counted sixty blossoms upon each of several of her plants.
There should also be at least a dozen Columbines (Aquilegias) to bloom the end of May and the first of June. The roots of these can be bought for a dollar and a half a dozen, or they can be raised from seed; in the latter case, however, they would not bloom until the second year, being perennials-No border can be complete without Delphiniums ( Larkspur). Good-sized roots of the Delphinium formosum, lovely dark blue, are a dollar and twenty-five cents a dozen. Formosum Ccetistina, the light blue variety, is two dollars and a half a dozen. Then, of course, there must be other perennials, - Phlox, at least a dozen plants in the different colours, which will cost a dollar and a half.
A few Lilies will add greatly to the beauty of the borders. Tiger Lilies, which are only sixty cents a dozen; Auratums, which can be had from eighty-five cents a dozen up, according to the size of the bulbs; Speciosum rubrum from eighty - five cents a dozen up, and Candidums, or Madonna Lilies, a dollar and a half a dozen. German Iris, a dollar a dozen, and Japanese Iris, at a dollar and a quarter a dozen, should also have a place.
Excellent Gladioli can be bought for a dollar and fifty cents a hundred, and these will be most satisfactory if planted in the border about May fifteenth in groups of six to ten.
A dozen Chrysanthemums of the hardiest varieties to be obtained, and costing a dollar and a half a dozen, will, with the other plants mentioned, about fill two borders two feet wide by thirty long. It would also be well to sow the seeds of some Calendulas, Nasturtiums and Asters wherever there may be a vacant place. Or better, perhaps, sow the seeds in boxes in mid-April, and transplant to the border the early part of June. The first cost will be the only expense for these borders, except in the case of the Auratum Lilies, which will die out in about three years, and of the few flower seeds. The only care needed is to keep the borders free from weeds, to stir the soil every week, and to water after sunset in dry weather.