This section is from the book "Beautiful Gardens - How To Make Them And Maintain Them", by Walter P. Wright. Also available from Amazon: Beautiful Gardens: How To Make And Maintain Them.
With the wealth of material available for beautifying houses, it is truly sad to see so many homes a mere mass of coarse, sombre Ivy, or lumbered with the ugly, sprawling growths of the common Virginian Creeper. The latter is a vegetable pest of the first magnitude, impoverishing the soil, suffocating really good but less aggressive plants, and harbouring multitudes of birds. It is true that it is bright for a week or two in autumn, but the leaves begin to fall almost as fast as they change colour, and the plant is bare for the greater part of the year. The common Ivy is a shade less objectionable, but in view of the fact that there are dozens of Ivies far better in every way it must stand condemned.
The principal reason why these wretched plants are allowed to spoil the appearance of houses is that they make a covering quickly. It is a bad reason. If it were accepted we might as well clap a frame of green, suburban trellis-work on the house at once; it would be no uglier than the Virginian Creeper, and not half such a nuisance in other ways. But the steady covering of a house with beautiful creepers is a pleasant process to watch. The interest is "long drawn out." To hurry it is a mistake, and to hide a handsome house in any rubbishy greenery available when there are plenty of beautiful plants at command is a blunder.
Fig. Shakespeare's Garden, Stratford-On-Avon. From a Water Colour Drawing by A. C- Wyatt.
Assuming that an evergreen foliage covering is wanted, we may by all means turn to Ivies, but instead of choosing the common green let us select among such charming forms as variegata, rhombea, marmorata, and Donerailensis. They will grow slowly, but they will always be beautiful. If a Virginian Creeper is wanted, choose Ampelopsis Veitchii, which is self-sup-porting, clings closely, and makes none of the abominable tangle of growth which marks the common sort. Or plant one of the splendid Vines, Vitis Coignetiae and V. vinifera purpurea.
Fig. Plant one of the splendid vines, vitis coignetiae.
It is a pity, however, to exclude good flowering plants, inasmuch as a good selection will add a great charm to the home for a good many weeks. Such favourites as Roses, Clematises, Honeysuckles, and Jasmines, might be represented, in spite of the fact that they are not evergreen. Let us glance at the various aspects of the house, and note material for each.
The south wall ought to be the easiest to deal with, because, being warm, it suits a great many plants. As a matter of fact, south walls often cause a great deal of trouble, for the reason that people think the aspect is everything, and accordingly put plants out in any sort of soil and at any period of the year. Thus, Clematises, which loathe poor, dry soil, are often planted in a weird mixture of gravel sweepings in May, to be summarily scorched up and killed. Borders at the foot of south and west walls ought to be particularly well prepared. Anything short of 2 feet of well-manured soil is unsafe. Moreover, early planting ought to be practised, so that the plants may have a chance of becoming well rooted before the hot weather comes.
Among Roses for the south wall, Reine Marie Henriette, with its beautiful, deep, rosy red, richly scented flowers, claims attention. It will give at least two heavy crops of flowers a year in a good soil, and a sprinkling of buds between times. It is not a bad plan to take up long rods, and prune for flowering wood around the bedroom windows, covering the lower part of the wall with a good Honeysuckle (such as Lonicera flexuosa), or Cydonia Japonica, or Kerria Japonica flore pleno. Three strong rods of the Rose will support a considerable spread of flowering wood above, and be in no way inconvenienced by a dwarf creeper below, always provided that the soil is good. Any of the Clematises named in another chapter could be grown on the south wall, and so could Wistaria Sinensis, or the Passion Flowers, Passiflora caerulea, blue; and Constance Elliott, white. Ivy-leaved Geraniums would be beautiful in summer. The same plants will do on the west wall, consequently the material chosen may be divided between the two aspects.
Fig. A fine ivy-leaved geranium on a house front.
The east wall will, of course, be colder, but it need not go bare. The dainty white Mountain Clematis will often thrive on a wall facing due east. Amongst Roses, William Allen Richardson and Gloire de Dijon are available. The beautiful Thorn Crataegus Pyracantha Lalandi ought not to be forgotten, as its orange-coloured berries are very cheerful. Cydonia Japonica and the Yellow Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, are also at disposal.
The north wall is not too easy to grapple with, owing to its sunlessness. Here, one of the better of the green Ivies may be put, such as Raegneriana. The Crataegus may thrive, and the author knows of a north wall the lower part of which is well covered with the dainty Roses Homère and Aimée Vibert.
If there be a porch it also must have attention. The pretty Rose Félicité Perpétue may be planted against it, or a selected Clematis, or a Passion Flower. Of annual creepers, or plants that may be treated as such, Canary Creeper, Cobaea scandens, Convolvuluses, and Eccremocarpus scaber may be named. There is no reason why the border which contains the roots of the wall plants should not be planted with dwarf things such as Primroses, Polyanthuses, Wallflowers, and Portulacas, so long as it is a large one, the soil deeply cultivated, and annual manuring practised.
Fig. A creeper covered house seen through a pergola.
Window boxes play an important part in house decoration in Suburbia, where capacious, creeper-supporting borders are often difficult to provide. The country house will have less need of them, and if well covered with good climbers it will require no further embellishment. Often a good effect is spoiled by the addition of an over-gay box. But window boxes have their uses, and if the fronts are draped with Creeping Jenny, Ivy-leaved Geraniums, or Tradescantia they are not offensive. It shows a paucity of ideas to merely fill the boxes with Geraniums and Marguerites in summer. Fuchsias are much quieter, and equally as pretty. The Butterfly Flowers (Schizanthuses), which are easily raised from seed, are also light, graceful, and pleasing. Given good soil, and a not too hot position, tuberous Begonias will thrive, and when they do nothing to equal them can be got.
Fig. Fresh Ideas For Window Boxes. Window boxes are often very stereotyped. Here are two fresh ideas. A, a rustic box with Iceland Poppies. B, a box with plain tiles set in Bamboo. The early bloom is Ranunculuses above Forget-me-nots; the late, Begonias above Violas. Ivy is trained on the arch.
Hanging baskets on porches, and specimen plants on terrace walls and window ledges, will also brighten up house fronts.
Fig. Pretty cottage fronts at Bournville.
Fig. A Villa front relieved of its bareness with plants.