Picturesque Beds 50011

Although it is our desire by all means to avoid heaping ridicule on the tastes of any, or to join in the hue and cry against even the most feeble attempts at any style of flower-gardening, we are, at the same time, of opinion that the too exclusive application of garden establishments to one phase of flower-gardening, beautiful and desirable though we hold that phase to be, has been attended with detrimental effect. The skilful grouping of various - coloured flowers and foliage is much to be admired, and we have contributed our mite of assistance in making it popular. At the same time, we were among the first to point out its defects, and to attempt breaking up its monotonous outlines and flat surfaces. Like Chinese paintings and Chinese women, it wanted what painters call "chiaroscuro," and was chargeable with tame-ness and vapidity in everything but colour. It must therefore be desirable to foster a taste for the more picturesque grouping and distribution of such graceful plants as are now within our reach, in very considerable numbers and variety, suitable for outdoor embellishment in summer and autumn.

Bed of Picturesque Plants.

Bed of Picturesque Plants.

To group such plants as Palms, Dracaenas, Yuccas, Agaves, Ficus, etc. in dense masses, and in tame or formal beds, by way of breaking up the monotony of our flower-gardens generally, might to a certain extent remedy the evil complained of. But such a manner of disposing of these plants can never do full justice to their own beautiful outline. To mass such plants as are now referred to, hides their beauty to a great extent, and would not be much less chargeable with the same evils complained of in massing flowering-plants. They can exhibit their peculiar grace and beauty of outline only when set in bold relief to plants of different habit and of dwarfer stature than themselves. There can scarcely be a doubt that more of an artist's skill is required to carry out this style of planting effectively, than has been brought into play by most of the colour massing that has yet been attempted. It not only involves the cultivated arrangement of colours, but, what is of most importance in this instance, the arrangement of outline also.

Although a great deal has been said about copying nature as the desirable style, it is our impression that it is not easy to take up the free and careless-looking ways of nature, and to apply them amidst the formal outlines and surfaces forced upon us in the majority of gardens. It may not be unjustly said of some attempts to copy nature, that they are a sad burlesque and libel on the unerring hand that guides nature in all its ways. We think a garden should be a garden, and not a glade or copse; and think it is about as seemly and appropriate to catch the clodhopper in his "high-lows," with hands like legs of mutton, and send him to cope with courtiers, as it is to fix the locality of the Rhubarb-and-Burdock style of plants where some would have them. Most gardens are surrounded with plenty of nature's inimitable arrangements and selections of plant life; and for the sake of variety we want something different inside our gardens, to mingle its beauties appropriately with the smooth velvety sward of green grass, the glittering walk, the statue, and the vase, and that shall at the same time relieve the vapid tameness to which at the outset we have referred.

It is our opinion that, to work out graceful and picturesque effects, forms and combinations of beds different from those generally met with in flower-gardens are not only desirable but indispensably necessary. Oblong, and all beds approaching that shape, cannot be considered well adapted for the style of grouping which it is our present object to illustrate. Circular beds are capable of being made interesting, but still not in themselves sufficiently removed from what may be termed tameness to meet the want. The plate, which has been engraved from a photograph, will do more towards illustrating what we want to be at, perhaps, than much writing. The body of the bed is what is sometimes contradictorily described as a hollow square, terminating, with a sweep, into a circle at each of its corners. The whole bed is considerably raised above the ground-level, and its surface is shaped to correspond with its ground - plan. The four circles are raised sphere-shaped, and from their junction with the body of the bed, the ground sweeps away like a wave inwards and upwards to the centre, where stands a large plant of Chamaerops Fortunii, round the base of which is a dense circle of Sedum spectabile, with its glaucous foliage, and late in autumn its reddish-pink flowers.

In the centres of the four circles are match-plants of Yucca aloifolia variegata. These five plants alone give a more bold and distinct aspect to the bed than the photograph brings out; and they are placed so as to display their own characters to the very best advantage. To intrude upon them with plants having lines and statures to compete with them, would destroy the effect of both. A little inwards from the junction of the circles with the body of the bed are single dwarf plants of Corypha australis; further inwards, and about 3 feet from the margin in each side, are moderate-sized New Zealand Flax; and a few Ficus and other plants, thinly put in, give outline to the bed. Round each Yucca there is a group of large Echeveria metallica. The whole surface of the body of the bed is made up of Iresine Lindenii and Centaurea Ragusina alternately. The margin all round consists of two rows of the beautiful and most useful Pyrethrum Golden Feather, which, from the bright golden-yellow of its ferny-looking leaves, gives distinctness to the ground-plan of the bed when viewed from a distance.

The bed stands on a circular piece of smoothly-kept grass, and forms the centre of a very extensive group of beds on grass, intersected and surrounded with broad gravel-walks. The four circle-terminating corners of the bed point to the centres of four very broad gravel-walks which converge upon the circle of grass.

It will be remarked that in clothing this bed with foliage there is not any attempt at minute and elaborate design or detail. Such would not harmonise with the extreme simplicity yet boldness of the position of the plants which give character to the bed. We have never yet seen elaborate designs in planting a single bed that did not appear a mere confusion when viewed from a distance. "We consider it much more desirable to dispose of a few telling and picturesque specimen plants in this fashion, than to crowd a quantity of them together in given spots. The plants used from year to year may be varied. We have used large plants of the fountain-like Dracaena australis where the Chamaerops stands in this illustration, dwarf plants of Dicksonia antarctica in place of the Coryphas, Phormiums in place of the Yuccas. At other times we have such as large plants of variegated American Aloes alternating with less rigid-growing plants in the four circles, thus increasing the variety. A handsome Chamaerops in each of the circles, with a Dracaena australis in the centre, and Agaves in place of the Coryphas, with Dracaenas in the body of the bed, would be very effective. For carpeting the surface, lower-growing plants of diverse habits are most desirable.

In the warmest and most-sheltered parts of the country many of the more tender Palms and Dracaenas, Crotons, Musas, etc, can be plunged outdoors in similar beds with good effect; especially such as may be getting too large for the accommodation may be made to do duty in this way for a season at least. On the other hand, there are hardy plants available to those who cannot afford room to winter such plants as those named above. They can fall back on the Gynerium, Arundo conspicua, Phormium, and Yuccas, etc, and command variety without having recourse to less persistent things, that are very well in their proper positions, and which assuredly is not in beds like this.

We have seen attempts at mingling flowering-plants in beds like this, but to produce effective combinations by such means must be one of the matters yet to learn. Of course, this in individual cases will, like most other things, be ruled by taste. But it is conceived that beds of a character to [come under our heading require to be composed of peculiar forms rather than of gay colours, especially as the object of such beds is to throw more grace and beauty of outline where it is conceived there is already more than enough of colour in proportion to those features. To the single central specimen in the centre of a large group of flowers we would make no objection, but in beds where the object is to bring out all that is possible of the striking outline of a number of plants in one bed, we would certainly exclude flowers if there were any other place for them.

Besides the bringing out of the individual features of such plants, there is another reason why they should be planted in select variety at easy distances; namely, that there are few gardens indeed that can afford space to grow and shelter them in sufficient numbers to plant in denser groups. There can be no question as to the bold and massive appearance, in large grounds, of masses of Palms, Aralias, Yuccas, Caladiums, Dracaenas, etc. Where there are resources sufficient to warrant such a style of planting, few features are more desirable and noble-looking. At the same time it would be simply ridiculous to introduce them into cramped and unsheltered gardens. Then, again, few plants look more forlorn than these if not in rude health. A few in good condition and more thinly planted are better fitted to please the eye and relieve formal flower-gardening.