To those who cannot discern beauty or merit apart from a high degree of perfection, a visit to such a place as Bonnington will have little interest.
The proprietor, Sir Charles Ross, not having resided on the estate for a number of years, it is not kept in first-rate order; yet there are few places where more is to be learned by the practical gardener in search of information. In the houses the only thing worthy of note is the early vinery. Half-a-dozen years ago the Vines in this house were considered worn out, having been in bearing nearly three-quarters of a century; at that time the young wood was no thicker than good Peach-wood, and in the words of a western worthy they were red Hamburgs. The roots were as destitute of fibre as walking-sticks; now they annually bear large crops of good fruit, which generally colours well. The soil to within an inch of the surface is a mass of fibres; all this has been brought about by simply renewing the border 3 or 4 feet every year, commencing at the stems and working outward. The soil used was fibrous sandy turf, 2 1/2 inches deep, stripped off and chopped up green, with a very small proportion of cow-manure, and a slight sprinkling of half-inch bones, and used at once.
Mr Noble's principle is briefly this - Make a shallow well-drained border of poor sweet soil, and after it has been filled with hardy roots liquid manure may be given ad libitum.
But it is in the matter of bedding that Bonnington has most claims to attention; the limited accommodation for wintering half-hardy plants as compared with the ground to be filled, renders the use of hardy plants a necessity, hence the herbaceous system, in which Mr Noble is an enthusiast, occupies a prominent place. The result is, that while in autumn the beds are as gay as at most other places in winter and spring, when many other places are blank, they look not only tidy, but positively beautiful. An entirely hardy ribbon-border is made thus: first line (which may be substituted for box), blue Gentian; second, Golden Arabis; third, Ajuga repens, purple; fourth, variegated Polymonium; fifth, Purple Nepeta; sixth, White Rocket. In sandy soil the Arabis simply requires to be lifted, divided, and re-laid every year or two years. The Ajuga should be relaid every year; a shady place brings out its colour best. The flowers should be picked off as they appear; and in dry weather, to preserve the glossy purple of the leaves, it should be occasionally watered. In some places it is difficult to keep the Polymonium over the winter. Where the soil is not porous, or the winter is severe, it ought to be wintered in a cold frame.
To have Nepeta in proportion to the other lines, the young shoots should be taken off with a heel in April, and put in without any preparation where they are to remain, giving a slight watering if the soil is dry; but this, although desirable, is not necessary.
If the Rockets are planted pretty close to the Nepeta, they can be cut over as the latter approaches them.
In filling large beds, three or four lines of hardy plants are planted round the edge, and the centre filled with Geraniums, Calceolarias, etc. In October, when the Geraniums, etc, are lifted from the centre, their places are filled as follows: Yellow Calceolarias, replaced by Dwarf Wallflower, Tom Thumb; White-leaved Geraniums by white variegated Kale, and Scarlets by red variegated Kale. Mr Noble has also been making experiments with the view of laying in the centre of beds to be filled with Geraniums a carpet of dwarf Sedum. By this means the soil will be covered at once, and each Geranium allowed to stand distinct. Among other novelties, we were shown an Aquelegia with yellow variegation, which is under trial, and is expected to be a good thing. Also a dwarf plant, which, if we mistake not, was called Lamium maculatum aureum, - leaves of a bright golden yellow, with creamy white centre. It will doubtless prove an acquisition where there are small beds to fill, the outlines of which are often entirely hid by being planted with rank-growing plants.
As a peculiar feature we must not omit to mention the pillar Geraniums, three to seven feet high, which form striking objects in mixed borders, and supply an almost unlimited quantity of cut bloom in winter, kept as they are in a moderate heat. In conclusion, we say from experience, that if the example of energy and skill displayed by Mr Noble were more generally followed, less would be heard of the dul-ness of flower-gardens in winter. Brightspade.