WHEN one whose experience in gar-dening has been bounded by a few varieties of bedding-out plants like Geraniums, Coleus, Salvias, and Petunias, begins to plant perennials, she is apt to be disappointed with the first year's results. She has seen great clumps of perennials in a friend's garden, has read of their beauty, has seen pictures of them in catalogues, but when her Paeonies bear no blossoms, her Phlox has only two or three heads of bloom, the Larkspur one or two spikes of varied blue, and the Valerian, Veronica, Monkshood, and Hollyhocks all flower sparingly, she cries in her heart for the bedding-out plants which were her mainstay in former years. Let her have patience, however, and wait for the second Summer of the perennials- Coleus will then no longer find a place in her garden, and the number of Geraniums planted will be reduced to a minimum.
Would that the Coleus might vanish from the land! But, after all, it is not the plants, poor things, but the people who grow them who are to blame.
Geraniums cannot be condemned to the same extent, for they bear flowers, and have besides done valuable service during all the years when gardening consisted largely of beds of every conceivable shape, filled with them, of one color or another. They do not reach perfection before July, and die with the coming of the early frost.
No matter how small may be the place devoted to flowers, plant it with perennials, fill in the chinks with hardy annuals raised from seed, and there will be flowers of many varieties to bloom from May to November.
Perennials increase in size and beauty from year to year, and by separating the roots when well grown, the stock can be increased indefinitely. The same money formerly spent upon bedding-out plants will buy bulbs, perennials and shrubs in quantities, which will beautify your grounds to an extent undrearited of in the days when the bedding-out plants held masterful sway in this country.
This year nearly all the Larkspurs in my garden were seven feet tall, and many of the plants grew so large that a man unaided could not reach around them to tie to the necessary stakes; and there were also seven shades of blue among them; the Hollyhocks sent up five and six great stalks, many of them eight feet in height; the Boconia cor-data rose far above a tall man's head; the Spiraea aruncus was six feet high; Cardinal flowers, Phlox, and many Lilies grew to unusual sizes, and nearly all the flowers blossomed before their accustomed time; in fact, all plants that survived the great severity of the previous Winter seemed to have benefited from the cold.
Last Winter many hardy plants that perished in our part of the country lived under equally low temperatures in other places. Evidently these particular plants were not accustomed to the unusually low temperature, zero or a few degrees below having been the maximum of cold they had previously experienced, while in other places, although as cold, or even colder, the temperature did not, as with us, fall below that of previous Winters. Foxgloves and Canterbury Bells, usually entirely hardy, suffered greatly; so did the Gaillardias; the Helianthus florus plenus was killed; but Tritomas, young plants, too, not considered very hardy, came finely through the Winter, the foot of mulch with which they were covered having completely protected them.
There is no more decorative plant for tropical effect that can be grown in the front of a shrubbery or planted at the back of a border than Boconia cordata. The leaves, immense in size and beautifully indented, are rather a bluish-green in color, and each stalk bears a plume of feathery white blossoms, often eighteen inches long. The first year, this plant may not be taller than three or four feet, but seen when two or three years old, no gardener will be without it. The roots can be separated and it can be grown easily from seed.
Vase of Campanula Pyramidalis August twenty-first.
Last September I made acquaintance at Botzen, in the Austrian Tyrol, with a plant of exceeding beauty. Arriving late one warm afternoon after a tiresome journey, we came into the cool, shaded, white marble hall of the hotel, and on either side of the foot of a fine stairway, rising from a bank of Maidenhair fern with a background of Palms, was a new plant. Slender stalks, quite six feet high, whose entire length was covered either with white or palest blue belllike flowers, rose against the green of the palms. I began to ask questions in my rather imperfect German before going to my room, and the wondering hotel clerk, who doubtless thought another mad American had appeared to cloud his serene horizon, could give no information about them beyond saying that they were supplied to the hotel by a florist whose address he would give me.
The next morning, an early expedition was made to the florist's garden, where we found the admired plant in all stages of growth. But the gardener was crusty, and even a generous douceur had little softening effect. He had no seeds; he was not sure where he bought the seeds; the plant did not bear the tall stalks until two years old if wintered in a cold frame, or three years if grown in the open ground and protected in Winter by a heavy mulch; and, last of all, the name of the plant, Campanula pyramidalis, was dragged from him. I determined to have these flowers in my garden, and set about their pursuit at once upon my return.
A single plant of Platycodon July tenth.
Seeds of these plants, whose common name is Chimney Bell flower, are listed in many catalogues, hut my impatience to have the plants blooming in the garden was too great for me to wait the two or three years necessary for raising them. This Spring I was able to make a beginning with only two dozen; and they have done fairly well, but do not compare with the wonderful plants of Botzen. They were attacked by the same white grub that is the enemy of the Larkspur, and six were destroyed before I knew it, but coal ashes lightly dug into the ground around them with a small trowel proved a specific. The flowers appeared the first of August, and continued to bloom for more than six weeks, but the stalks were only four feet high and the best plant bore but five of them.