Among the readers of this work there may be many whose gardens do not permit of extensive planting. Woodland in the expansive sense of that alluring term is denied to them. Even so, they may, as I have shown, capture the woodland spirit. The purpose of the present chapter is to suggest that they may also aim at seclusion and shade through the media of walks and water.
The typical garden walk requires no description. One is glad, in a sense, that it is so completely a side issue of the subjects dealt with in the present work that it calls for no more than passing reference. There must be firm, hard walks in certain parts of every garden. These walks are serious works in the making. They are drained and ballasted, gravelled and cambered. When they are finished they have a decorous and correct air. We cannot be light-hearted on walks like these. They are in, but not of, the garden. They come into being because there must be relatively clean, dry access to houses in all weathers, and they are tolerated as macadam roads are tolerated.
The walks in gardens which we really love are those winding, undulating, shady, soft-footed walks which have no fixed duty and no sense of responsibility. They never look stiff. They do not jar. They seem to be as much a part of the garden as the leaf is of the tree. We do not feel that they call for polished footwear. We can even, on occasion, traverse them barefooted. Birds love them. Flowers spring in them. Moss spreads over them.
Walks such as these never look as if they have been made. They seem to have grown. Yet it is not every garden owner who finds one on his place, and he may wonder if, like the mushrooms, they have spots which they favour. It may seem merely a coincidence to him that after the walk has rambled on in its inconsequent way for some distance it presently ends by a shadowy pool. This kind of walk has that kind of way.
Perhaps the walk never really more than half grew. In a year long past someone did something that started it on its way. It may have been a very simple thing, no more than planting a line of shrubs and scattering a few grass seeds beside them, but it was something and it sufficed. Nature took the walk in hand after that and finished it off.
Does the garden-maker realise how easily a grass garden-walk is framed? A few shrubs and a few seeds will do it. First, of course, there must be a conception. There must be two points fixed, now detached, but presently to be linked up. The ultimate point may be wood, or water, or summerhouse, or seat, or whatever makes the strongest appeal. That objective which interests the garden lover the most may serve for the termination of the walk.
Does the gardener want to form his walk in a series of flowing curves? Then let him lay on the ground a waved cord, following the outline which he desires. On one side of the line he will sow his seeds, on the other he will plant his shrubs. He will plant for beauty and he will plant for shade. He will intermingle leaf-trees such as Birch and Oak with flowering trees such as Thorn and Lilac. His shrubs will include the Rhododendron, the Azalea, the Berberis, the flowering Currant, the Forsythia, the Deutzia and the Weigela. He will plant for berries the Cotoneaster, the Holly, the Aucuba, and perhaps the little Pernettya.
Fig. "A Place Of Cheerful Peace." The Lily Pool at Wisley, showing an effective background of beautiful trees. Painted by Josephine Gundry.
Where space permits the walk may be wide - eight feet or more, because then a portion may be planted with bulbs for spring beauty. A strip in the centre may be kept mown in spring in order to provide reasonably dry walking, and in July the whole may be scythed over, taking down the yellow tops of the bulbs together with the tall grasses then in bloom. Daffodils will, of course, form the bulk of the bulbs.
There may be groups of Tree Paeonies beside the walk. There may be clumps of Bamboo. Dwarf flowers can fringe the front.
The walk that leads to the water-side will carry with it all the way the sense of coolness and shade. Willows may be planted to overhang the pool. Details as to kinds and treatments are given in later chapters.
The waterside is dull, even melancholy, in winter, but in summer it is a place of cheerful peace. In every garden there must be parts suited to the seasons. We cannot have every portion of every garden topically beautiful and interesting at every period of the year There is, however, one thing that we can do, we can draw on memory and cultivate imagination; then, when the planting season is with us, we can form pictures for this part of the garden and that, for this season and the other. It is thus that the most beautiful and enjoyable gardens are made.
Fig. At peace with time. A Yucca blooming after forty years growth. For description see Chapters 16. and 19. Photo by F. Mason Good.