Forms of Beds and Borders - Landscape Effects - Backgrounds.

We have seen in earlier chapters that several important purposes are served by shrubs and trees, and that more particularly we can obtain by their use beautiful spring pictures in the garden. Let us now go a step farther, and consider those details which arise out of projects for the extended use of this great class. The choice of site, the shape and area of beds and borders, the selection and arrangement of the kinds - all these matters must have consideration.

Areas that are to be planted with shrubs and trees must be considered in relation to everything else in the garden and its surroundings, if only by reason of the space which the plants occupy and the plane on which they grow. The shrub-planter, in fine, has a greater responsibility on his shoulders than his fellow amateur who is engrossed in one special flower and concerns himself solely with growing it to the standard recognised in his particular circle. Beds of Daffodils, of Tulips, of Carnations, of Roses, even of Sweet Peas and Dahlias, owe no particular debt to the landscape.

They are not gardening at all in its true sense. But shrubs and trees are on a different footing. They cannot be worked on the watertight compartment system. They are not merely themselves, they are also an active, inseparable part of the garden. They are linked up with all its other sections.

It is this distinction which puts the shrub-planter under a definite obligation. It forces him to consider the landscape, the surroundings. It makes him plan. It may be that he is forming a new garden. If he were merely going to grow vegetables, plant fruit trees and devote the rest of his attention to one flower, he could afford to feel his way. But directly the formation of beds and borders for shrubs and trees is decided upon a definite plan of procedure becomes desirable. The present volume embraces pictorial suggestions for help in that matter.

Because sites at the side of paths, lawns and water are good for shrub-borders the planting of shrubs must be considered in connection with paths, lawns and water. Because trees rise to altitudes which bring them into relationship with the landscape the planting of trees must be considered in connection with the landscape. Observe that these points have nothing to do with the questions of shade and shelter, which are separate considerations.

But one reader or another may say that questions of landscape at least do not come into his case, because his garden is enclosed, or he may desire to shut out all external features, which are objectionable; what then? The task is simplified, but the case for a ground plan holds good, because the shrubs and trees will still have to be considered in relation to the house, paths, lawn and water.

We may first consider shrubs and trees in relation to the house. One consideration certainly is that a considerable proportion of the planting shall be in view from the principal windows. At once our thoughts go to the lawn and its surroundings, because grass is the most appropriate covering for the area immediately in front of, and often beside, the house. It is a common mistake to cut up a considerable part of the front area of a lawn for flower-beds. There should always be a broad stretch of green between the house and the nearest beds. Adopting this principle of pushing away the beds, we may eventually decide that the principal features of the lawn shall lie on the confines in the form of borders.

Here, then, we have something to work upon - a certain area of ground in view from the principal windows of the house is to be devoted to lawn, on the margins of which adequate space is to be left for borders. Thus we make openings for our trees and shrubs. We do not arrange that lawn-edge and border shall form a straight line. We provide for bays and promontories.

A slight modification of this plan is to set apart a strip a few feet wide between lawn and border for a path; in other words, we do not carry the grass right up to the shrubs, but provide for a walk to intervene.

The question of path or no path may be settled by the consideration of whether a path is necessary for domestic purposes. There must be approaches to the rear of the house, but it does not follow that there is any necessity for a path across the front. In most cases it will probably be found convenient to carry the lawn right to the border opposite the main front, and to provide an intervening path at the sides. In cases where the side walk or road is one used for the coarser domestic purposes - carting manure and coal, the passage of tradesmen's vehicles and the like - it may be completely screened by a belt of shrubs and trees on the edge of the lawn; but a path which is used for ordinary garden purposes alone need not. There may be beds or borders beside it with open spaces between. For the farther elucidation of these points the reader is referred to the plans, in which will be found cases of lawn and shrubbery with and without path, and examples of the planting of isolated trees and beds of shrubs on lawns.

The first phase of the planning problem is disposed of when the position of paths (under which the reader is requested to understand also drives and roads) and of lawn is settled. The second is that of the site, area and form of the borders and beds. These matters we will now consider.

Dealing with the area in front of the principal windows of the house, we may take as our first point consideration of the following questions: do we want to obscure the view beyond the garden boundary because of something uninteresting or unsightly, or do we want to keep it exposed - to "work it in with the landscape"?

A bridge in the water garden at Aldenham House, Elstree. Showing Viburnum plicatum, Syringa, Cupressus Lawsoniana lutea, Salix babylonica, and Choisya ternata. Photo by R. A. Malby.

Fig. A bridge in the water garden at Aldenham House, Elstree. Showing Viburnum plicatum, Syringa, Cupressus Lawsoniana lutea, Salix babylonica, and Choisya ternata. Photo by R. A. Malby.