WE are once more unlocked from the chilling embraces of the Ice-King! April, full of soft airs, balm-dropping showers, and fitful gleams of sunshine, brings life and animation to the millions of embryo leaves and blossoms, that, quietly folded up in the bud, have slept the mesmeric sleep of a northern winter - April, that first gives us of the northern states our proper spring flowers, which seem to succeed almost by magic to the barrenness of the month gone by. A few pale snowdrops, sun-bright crocuses, and timidly blushing mezereums, have already gladdened us, like the few faint bars of golden and ruddy light that usher in the full radiance of sunrise; but April scatters in her train as she goes out, the first richness and beauty that really belong to a temperate spring. Hyacinths, and daffodils, and violets, bespread her lap and fill the air with fragrance, and the husbandman beholds with joy his orchards gay with the thousand blossoms - beautiful harbingers of luscious and abundant crops.
All this resurrection of sweetness and beauty, inspires us with a desire to look into the flower garden, and to say a few words about it and the flowers themselves. We trust there are none of "our parish," who, though they may not make flower gardens, can turn away with impatient or unsympathizing hearts from flowers themselves. If there are such, we must, at the very threshold of the matter, borrow a homily for them from that pure and eloquent preacher, Mary Howitt:
"God might have made the earth bring forth Enough for great and small, The oak tree and the cedar tree, Without a flower at all.
* Original date of April, 1847.
"Our outward life requires them not - Then wherefore had they birth? To minister delight to man, To beautify the earth.
"To comfort man, to whisper hope Whene'er his faith is dim; For who so careth for the flowers, Will much more care for him!"
Now, there are many genuine lovers of flowers who have attempted to make flower gardens - in the simplicity of their hearts believing it to be the easiest thing in the world to arrange so many beautiful annuals and perennials into "a living knot of wonders" - who have quite failed in realizing all that they conceived of and fairly expected when they first set about it. It is easy enough to draw upon paper a pleasing plan of a flower garden, whether in the geometric, or the natural, or the "gardenesque" style, that shall satisfy the eye of the beholder.. But it is far more difficult to plant and arrange a garden of this kind in such a way as to afford a constant succession of beauty, both in blossom and leaf. Indeed, among the hundreds of avowed flower-gardens which we have seen in different parts of the country, public and private, we cannot name half-a-dozen which are in any considerable degree satisfactory.
The two leading faults in all our flower gardens, are the want of proper selection in the plants themselves, and a faulty arrangement, by which as much surface of bare soil meets the eye as is clothed with verdure and blossoms.
Regarding the first effect, it seems to us that the entire beauty of a flower garden almost depends upon it. However elegant or striking may be the design of a garden, that design is made poor or valueless, when it is badly planted so as to conceal its merits, or filled with a selection of unsuitable plants, which, from their coarse or ragged habit of growth, or their remaining in bloom but a short time, give the whole a confused and meagre effect. A flower garden,* deserving the name, should, if possible, be as rich as a piece of embroidery, during the whole summer and autumn. In a botanical garden, or the collection of a curious amateur, one expects to see variety of species, plants of all known forms, at the expense of everything else. But in a flower-garden, properly so called, the whole object of which is to afford a continual display of beautiful colors and delicious odors, we conceive that everything should be rejected (or only most sparingly introduced), which does not combine almost perpetual blooming, with neat and agreeable habit of growth.
The passion for novelty and variety among the lovers of flowers, is as great as in any other enthusiasts. But as some of the greatest of the old painters are said to owe the success of their masterpieces to the few colors they employed, so we are confident the most beautiful flower gardens are those where but few species are introduced, and those only such as possess the important qualities we have alluded to.
Thus among flowering shrubs, taking for illustration the tribe of Roses, we would reject, in our choice flower garden, nearly all the old class of roses, which are in bloom for a few days and but once a year, and exhibit during the rest of the season, for the most part, meagre stems and dingy foliage. We would supply their place by Bourbons, Per-petuals, Bengals, etc., roses which offer an abundance of blossoms and fine fresh foliage during the whole growing season. Among annuals, we would reject everything shortlived, and introduce only those like the portulaccas, verbenas, petunias, mignonette, Phlox drummondii, and the like, which are always in bloom, and fresh and pretty in habit.*
* Some of the most beautiful of the perpetual blooming plants for the flower-garden, are the salvias, bouvardias, scarlet geraniums, etc., properly green-house plants, and requiring protection in a pit or warm cellar in winter. Bedded out in May, they form rich flowering masses till the frosts of autumn. - A. J. D.