In a gardening paper the other day there was a piece of advice that amused us by its naivete. It was, "never to buy plants, but always to get them given you by-friends, because that way you get much bigger pieces." Certainly friends who have a well-established rockery can assist greatly, and a hamper sent us one October was a treasure-trove indeed, not only for the plants we saw and handled, but also for its waifs and strays. Like the magic ferry-boat, that hamper had brought more travellers than eye could see. Next summer they appeared. One was a vigorous plant of bright pink Yarrow, another a fairy Flax (oh, what a delicious blue!), and one day a weird-looking stranger popped up suddenly. He had a beautiful cream-coloured suit, and peacock's eyes, which the gardener said quite frightened him. His name we discovered afterwards was Calochortus, a Lily from California, which is supposed to require a good deal of warmth and some care, so we were very proud of his appearance in our rockery.
We contrived to find room for many pretty things: Campanula Bavarica, in falls of azure blue; the white Iberis and Arabis, double and single; yellow Alysum; Aubrietia, pink and mauve; as well as one or two Rock Pinks and some crimson Thrift. The Bird's-eye Primrose, and Rock Primulas, and Alpine Poppies (these are lovely), we could not run to for want of space.
Saxifrages are a blessing in the shady rockery. Here, as well as the sunshiny one, mossy and encrusted Saxifrages do very well. Some of the mossy Saxifrages are early bloomers, opening in February with large white flowers, in striking contrast to their tufted dark-green leaves. The encrusted Saxifrages are the most wonderful of rock-plants; any one unfamiliar with their shining silver edges might fancy the foliage were frosted; but the edging is really an incrustation of lime. In some form or other lime is a food these plants must have, or they cannot thrive; it is pretty to see them using their food-stuff to adorn themselves as well as in support of life. Some small Saxifrages we liked are S. sancta, with yellow flowers, S. oppositifolia, with red-purple blooms, and the double-flowered native S. granulata. Perhaps the handsomest of all is S. longifolia, which grows in huge rosettes, throwing from the centre of each a panicle of creamy white flower nearly two feet long.
Wall-planting is easier to manage in the small garden than the rockery because it so economizes space. Many, in fact most, rock-plants do well in walls if made with mould enough to give root-room. A double wall is a delightful thing. On the broad top of it Roses can be planted, and soft-stemmed Roses look even prettier when falling down than when climbing up. Pink blossoms are lovely on grey stone. Cerastium's grey foliage should always rove about among the green things; grey leaves are so pretty, and there are many plants of this colour. The Cotton plant, often called French Lavender, is a good one. Anemone apennina is a wall and rock plant that ought to be mentioned first instead of last; Anemone slyvestris and hepatica also love the stones, and so do the homely House-leeks that remind us of cottage roofs, and the grey-green Cobweb-leeks that are smothered in downy thread.
It would be quite easy to make a beautiful rock or wall garden without going away from our own country to people it; many of our common native stone-loving plants are so good. Snap-dragons are grand, and we could have Foxgloves, the great Mulleins and the delicate Stitchwort, the shining Crane's-bell - so scarlet of leaf as summer wanes - the Wall-Pennywort, and the pink-flowered tiny Toad-flax. Some Ferns, too, could find a place in it, Cetrach and Wall-Rue in the sun, and Polypody and the black-stemmed Adiantum nigrum anywhere, polypodies run freely about the joints of walls, and will keep green all the winter.
The three commonest of our English wall-plants are those we love most dearly; they are Thrift, Wallflower, and Red Valerian. Our own Valerian was brought from the top of a castle-wall in the Isle of Wight, close to the sea, wind-swept and bathed in sunshine. There were masses of it, in patches of deep crimson; we took some while it was in full flower, in spite of the risk. No easy matter was it to get a root, so deeply had every one gone down between the stones, but we managed to secure one or two with fibre on them, and these have grown and spread. Wallflowers are never so happy as on stone-work with air and light all round them, and they are all the better for the slight protection given by a wall. Ivy-leaved Toad-flax was growing merrily near the Valerian, and was not half so difficult to get out. All of these are how quite content in the suburban garden to which they were brought, and in which they thrive and bloom, the red Valerian a special joy to every pussy-cat.
A Rockery In Early Summer
One pleasing thought may cheer the most disheartened while going through the troubles of making a rockery; it will be a delicious salve to one's conscience when running away with roots of dainty little plants from wall, or moor, or mountain, either in England or abroad, to know that at home a comfortable shelter is awaiting them where not even the Edelweis need feel the pangs of Heimweh. Flowers we bring home that live and grow are about the pleasantest log-books it is possible to possess.
"Oh, to what uses shall we put The wild weed-flower that simply blows?"
This is what Tennyson says, and the question is easily answered by another: Could it have a better use than to bring happiness to those who dearly love the country and its flowers, but are obliged by stress of circumstance to live their lives in towns?