PERPLEXITIES assail a would-be gar-dener on every side, from the day it is decided to start a garden. The most attractive books on the subject are English; and yet, beyond the suggestions for planting, and the designs given in the illustrations, not much help is to be derived in this latitude from following their directions. In England the climate, which is without great extremes of heat and cold, and the frequent rains, with the soft moist atmosphere, not only enable the English gardener to accomplish what would be impossible for us, but permit him to grow certain flowers out of doors that here must be housed in the winter. Daffodils and Narcissi bloom in England, near the coast, at the end of February and early in March, - Lilies-of-the-Valley in March. Many Roses live out of doors that would perish here during our winters. Gardening operations are begun there much earlier than in this part, at least, of the United States, and many of the methods for culture differ from those employed here. In England there is excess of moisture; therefore, care in securing good drainage is essential, while here, except in low places near streams, special provision for drainage is rarely necessary. It is more important to have a deep, rich preparation of the soil, so that plants may not be dried out. A serious part of the gardener's work during the average summer consists in judicious watering of the garden.
One writer will say that this or that plant should have sun, another that it does best in the shade. One advocates a rich soil, another a light sandy soil; so that after all, in gardening, as in all else in life, experience is the best teacher, either your own or that of others who have already been successful under similar conditions.
A garden is almost sure to be gradually increased in size, and its capacity limited only by the grounds of the owner and his pocket-book. The possibilities and capabilities of a couple of acres are great, and will give the owner unlimited pleasure and occupation.
Individuality is one of the most marked of American characteristics; hence, in making a place, whether it is big or little, the tastes and individuality of the owner will generally direct his efforts, and no hard and fast rules can be given.
In starting a garden, the first question, of course, is where to plant. If you are a beginner in the art, and the place is new and large, go to a good landscape gardener and let him give advice and make you a plan. But don't follow it; at least not at once, nor all at one time. Live there for a while, until you yourself begin to feel what you want, and where you want it. See all the gardens and places you can, and then, when you know what you want, or think you do, start in.
The relation of house to grounds must always be borne in mind, and simplicity in grounds should correspond with that of the house. A craze for Italian gardens is seizing upon people generally, regardless of the architecture of their houses. To my mind, an Italian garden, with its balustrades, terraces, fountains and statues, is as inappropriate for surrounding a colonial or an ordinary country house as would be a Louis XV drawing-room in a farm-house.
What is beautiful in one place becomes incongruous and ridiculous in another. Not long ago, a woman making an afternoon visit asked me to show her the gardens. Daintily balancing herself upon slippers with the highest possible heels, clad in a costume appropriate only for a fete at Newport, she strolled about. She thought it all "quite lovely" and "really, very nice," but, at least ten times, while making the tour, wondered "Why in the world don't you have an Italian garden?" No explanation of the lack of taste that such a garden would indicate in connection with the house, had any effect. The simple, formal gardens of a hundred years ago, with Box-edged paths, borders and regular Box-edged beds, are always beautiful, never become tiresome, and have the additional merit of being appropriate either to the fine country-place or the simple cottage.
Rhododendron maximum and Ferns along north side of house, with Ampelopsis Veitchii July fourth.
For a small plot of ground, like the one before mentioned, the plan of which is on page 24, the matter is simple, because of the natural limitations. I love to see a house bedded, as it were, in flowers. This is particularly suitable for the usual American country house, colonial in style, or low and rambling. Make a bed perhaps four feet wide along three sides of the house, - south, east and west. Close against the house plant the vines. Every one has an individual taste in vines, - more so, perhaps, than in any other ornamental growth. If the house be of stone, and the climate not too severe, nothing is more beautiful than the English Ivy. It flourishes as far north as Princeton, New Jersey. I have never grown it, fearing it would be winter-killed.
Ampelopsis Veitchii, sometimes called Boston Ivy, grows rapidly, clinging closely to the wall and turning a dark red in the autumn, and is most satisfactory.
The Virginia Creeper, and the Trumpet Creeper, with its scarlet flowers, are both beautiful, perfectly hardy, and of rapid growth. All of these vines cling to stone and wood, and, beyond a little help for the first two or three feet, need not be fastened to the house. Care must be taken to prevent the vines growing too thickly to admit sun and air to the house.
If the house be of wood, the question of repainting must be considered. Both the White and the Purple Wistaria, which can be twined about heavy wire and fastened at the eaves, Rambler Roses and Honeysuckles may be grown. They can be laid down, to permit painting. But, if the house be of wood and well covered with vines, put off the evil day of painting until it can be deferred no longer, and then have it done early in November. Never, never permit it to be done in the spring, or before November, unless; you would take the risk of killing the vines; or of losing at least a season's growth. The house surrounded by my gardens is colonial, something over a hundred and fifty years old, stern and very simple. Tall locusts, towering above the roof, and vines that cover it from. ground to eaves, have taken away its otherwise puritanical and somewhat uncompromising aspect. These vines are mostly the ordinary Virginia Creeper, which I had dug from the woods and planted when the first fat baby was two months old. Now their main trunks are, in places, as large as my arm. They have never been laid down. Whenever the house has been repainted, I have been constantly by, and admonished the men to gently lift the heavy branches while painting under them, and not to paint the light tendrils. When the master-painter has remonstrated, that it was not a "good job" and took three times as long as if the vines were laid down, my reply has been, that "three times" was nothing in comparison with the years it had taken to grow them, and that stunting or killing the vines could never be a "good job."
Arch over rose-walk, covered with Golden Honeysuckle and Clematis paniculata. September fifteenth.
Among the creepers are the Crimson Rambler Rose and the Honeysuckle. In three years the Roses have grown above the second-story windows.
Clematis paniculata, with its delicate foliage and mass of starry bloom in early autumn, is particularly good to plant by veranda posts in connection with other vines. It grows luxuriantly and is absolutely hardy. The large white - flowered Henryi and purple-flowered Jackmani Clematis, though of slow growth, should always have a place, either about a veranda, a summer-house or a trellis, for the sake of their beautiful flowers.
While waiting for the hardy vines to make their first year's growth, the seeds of the Japanese Morning-Glory, the Japanese Moon-Flower and Coboea scandens may be planted. All of these will grow at least ten feet in a summer, and cover the bare places. But I would not advise sowing them among the hardy vines, except the first summer. In their luxuriance they may suffocate the Roses and Clematis. The seeds of the Moon-Flower must be soaked in hot water, and left over night, before sowing. So much for the vines about a house.
In front of the vines, and on the south side in the same bed, plant masses of Hollyhocks, from eight to twelve in a bunch, and Rudbeckia in bunches of not more than five, as they grow so large. Hollyhocks and Rudbeckias plant two feet apart; they will grow to a solid mass. In front of these, again, put a clump of Phloxes, seven in a bunch, and Larkspur, Delphinium formosum being the best. On either side of the Delphinium have clumps of about a dozen Lilium candidum, which bloom at the same time. Edge the border with Sweet Williams, three kinds only, - white, pink and dark scarlet.
I should not advise making all the borders around a house alike. The easterly one will be most lovely if planted with tall ferns or brakes, taken from near some stream in early April, before they begin to grow. These will become about four feet high if you get good roots and keep them wet. Plant in among them everywhere Auratum Lilies, and you will have a border that will fill your heart with joy. On the north side of the house it is not possible to have much success with vines, as they need the sun. They will grow, but not with great luxuriance. Here plant two rows of the common Rhododendron mam-mum, which grows in our woods. I crave pardon for calling it "common," since none that grows is more beautiful.
In front of these plant ferns of all kinds from the woods, and edge the border with.