Manual of Gardening/Chapter II
CHAPTER II: THE GENERAL PLAN OR THEORY OF THE PLACE
Having now discussed the most essential elements of gardening, we may give attention to such minor features as the actual way in which a satisfying garden is to be planned and executed.
Speaking broadly, a person will get from a garden what he puts into it; and it is of the first importance, therefore, that a clear conception of the work be formulated at the outset. I do not mean to say that the garden will always turn out what it was desired that it should be; but the failure to turn out properly is usually some fault in the first plan or some neglect in execution.
Sometimes the disappointment in an ornamental garden is a result of confusion of ideas as to what a garden is for. One of my friends was greatly disappointed on returning to his garden early in September to find that it was not so full and floriferous as when he left it in July. He had not learned the simple lesson that even a flower-garden should exhibit the natural progress of the season. If the garden begins to show ragged places and to decline in late August or early September, it is what occurs in all surrounding vegetation. The year is maturing. The garden ought to express the feeling of the different months. The failing leaves and expended plants are therefore to be looked on, to some extent at least, as the natural order and destiny of a good garden.
These attributes are well exhibited in the vegetable-garden. In the spring, the vegetable-garden is a model of neatness and precision. The rows are straight. There are no missing plants. The earth is mellow and fresh. Weeds are absent. One takes his friends to the garden, and he makes pictures of it. By late June or early July, the plants have begun to sprawl and to get out of shape. The bugs have taken some of them. The rows are no longer trim and precise. The earth is hot and dry. The weeds are making headway. By August and September, the garden has lost its early regularity and freshness. The camera is put aside. The visitors are not taken to it: the gardener prefers to go alone to find the melon or the tomatoes, and he comes away as soon as he has secured his product. Now, as a matter of fact, the garden has been going through its regular seasonal growth. It is natural that it become ragged. It is not necessary that weeds conquer it; but I suspect that it would be a very poor garden, and certainly an uninteresting one, if it retained the dress of childhood at the time when it should develop the personalities of age.
There are two types of outdoor gardening in which the progress of the season is not definitely expressed,--in the carpet-bedding kind, and in the subtropical kind. I hope that my reader will get a clear distinction in these matters, for it is exceedingly important. The carpet-bedding gardening is the making of figure-beds in house-leeks and achyranthes and coleus and sanitalia, and other things that can be grown in compact masses and possibly sheared to keep them within place and bounds; the reader sees these beds in perfection in some of the parks and about florists' establishments; he will understand at once that they are not meant in any way to express the season, for the difference between them in September and June is only that they may be more perfect in September. The subtropical gardening (plates IV and V) is the planting out of house-grown stuff, in order to produce given effects, of such plants as palms, dracenas, crotons, caladiums, papyrus, together with such luxuriant things as dahlias and cannas and large ornamental grasses and castor beans; these plants are to produce effects quite foreign to the expression of a northern landscape, and they are usually at their best and are most luxuriant when overtaken by the fall frosts.
Now, the home gardener usually relies on plants that more or less come and go with the seasons. He pieces out and extends the season, to be sure; but a garden with pansies, pinks, sweet william, roses, sweet peas, petunias, marigolds, salpiglossis, sweet sultan, poppies, zinnias, asters, cosmos, and the rest, is a progress-of-the-season garden, nevertheless; and if it is a garden of herbaceous perennials, it still more completely expresses the time-of-year.
My reader will now consider, perhaps, whether he would have his garden accent and heighten his natural year from spring to fall, or whether he desires to thrust into his year a feeling of another order of vegetation. Either is allowable; but the gardener should distinguish at the outset.
I wish to suggest to my reader, also, that it is possible for the garden to retain some interest even in the winter months. I sometimes question whether it is altogether wise to clear out the old garden stems too completely and too smoothly in the fall, and thereby obliterate every mark of it for the winter months; but however this may be, there are two ways by which the garden year may be extended: by planting things that bloom very late in fall and others that bloom very early in spring; by using freely, in the backgrounds, of bushes and trees that have interesting winter characters.
The plan of the grounds
One cannot expect satisfaction in the planting and developing of a home area unless he has a clear conception of what is to be done. This necessarily follows, since the pleasure that one derives from any enterprise depends chiefly on the definiteness of his ideals and his ability to develop them. The homemaker should develop his plan before he attempts to develop his place. He must study the various subdivisions in order that the premises may meet all his needs. He should determine the locations of the leading features of the place and the relative importance to be given to the various parts of it,--as of the landscape parts, the ornamental areas, the vegetable-garden, and the fruit plantation.
The details of the planting may be determined in part as the place develops; it is only the structural features and purposes that need to be determined beforehand in most small properties. The incidental modifications that may be made in the planting from time to time keep the interest alive and allow the planter to gratify his desire to experiment with new plants and new methods.
It must be understood that I am now speaking of ordinary home grounds which the home-maker desires to improve by himself. If the area is large enough to present distinct landscape features, it is always best to employ a landscape architect of recognized merit, in the same spirit that one would employ an architect. The details, however, may even then be filled in by the owner, if he is so inclined, following out the plan that the landscape architect makes.
It is desirable to have a definite plan on paper (drawn to scale) for the location of the leading features of the place. These features are the residence, the out-houses, the walks and drives, the service areas (as clothes yards), the border planting, flower-garden, vegetable-garden, and fruit-garden. It should not be expected that the map plan can be followed in every detail, but it will serve as a general guide; and if it is made on a large enough scale, the different kinds of plants can be located in their proper positions, and a record of the place be kept. It is nearly always unsatisfactory, for both owner and designer, if a plan of the place is made without a personal inspection of the area. Lines that look well on a map may not adjust themselves readily to the varying contours of the place itself, and the location of the features inside the grounds will depend also in a very large measure on the objects that lie outside it. For example, all interesting and bold views should be brought into the place, and all unsightly objects in the immediate vicinity should be planted out.
A plan of a back yard of a narrow city lot is given in Fig. 2, showing the heavy border planting of trees and shrubs, with the skirting border of flowers. In the front are two large trees, that are desired for shade. It will readily be seen from this plan how extensive the area for flowers becomes when they are placed along such a devious border. More color effect can be got from such an arrangement of the flowers than could be secured if the whole area were planted to flower-beds.
A contour map plan of a very rough piece of ground is shown in Fig. 3. The sides of the place are high, and it becomes necessary to carry a walk through the middle area; and on either side of the front, it skirts the banks. Such a plan is usually unsightly on paper, but may nevertheless fit special cases very well. The plan is inserted here for the purpose of illustrating the fact that a plan that will work on the ground does not necessarily work on a map.
In charting a place, it is important to locate the points from which the walks are to start, and at which they are to emerge from the grounds. These two points are then joined by direct and simple curves; and alongside the walks, especially in angles or bold curves, planting may be inserted.
A suggestion for school premises on a four-corners, and which the pupils enter from three directions, is made in Fig. 4. The two playgrounds are separated by a broken group of bushes extending from the building to the rear boundary; but, in general, the spaces are kept open, and the heavy border-masses clothe the place and make it home-like. The lineal extent of the group margins is astonishingly large, and along all these margins flowers may be planted, if desired.
If there is only six feet between a schoolhouse and the fence, there is still room for a border of shrubs. This border should be between the walk and the fence,--on the very boundary,--not between the walk and the building, for in the latter case the planting divides the premises and weakens the effect. A space two feet wide will allow of an irregular wall of bushes, if tall buildings do not cut out the light; and if the area is one hundred feet long, thirty to fifty kinds of shrubs and flowers can be grown to perfection, and the school-grounds will be practically no smaller for the plantation.
One cannot make a plan of a place until he knows what he wants to do with the property; and therefore we may devote the remainder of this chapter to developing the idea in the layout of the premises rather than to the details of map-making and planting.
Because I speak of the free treatment of garden spaces in this book it must not be inferred that any reflection is intended on the "formal" garden. There are many places in which the formal or "architect's garden" is much to be desired; but each of these cases should be treated wholly by itself and be made a part of the architectural setting of the place. These questions are outside the sphere of this book. All formal gardens are properly individual studies.
All very special types of garden design are naturally excluded from a book of this kind, such types, for example, as Japanese gardening. Persons who desire to develop these specialties will secure the services of persons who are skilled in them; and there are also books and magazine articles to which they may go.
The picture in the landscape.
The deficiency in most home grounds is not so much that there is too little planting of trees and shrubs as that this planting is meaningless. Every yard should be a picture. That is, the area should be set off from other areas, and it should have such a character that the observer catches its entire effect and purpose without stopping to analyze its parts. The yard should be one thing, one area, with every feature contributing its part to one strong and homogeneous effect.
These remarks will become concrete if the reader turns his eye to Figs. 5 and 6. The former represents a common type of planting of front yards. The bushes and trees are scattered promiscuously over the area. Such a yard has no purpose, no central idea. It shows plainly that the planter had no constructive conception, no grasp of any design, and no appreciation of the fundamental elements of the beauty of landscape. Its only merit is the fact that trees and shrubs have been planted; and this, to most minds, comprises the essence and sum of the ornamentation of grounds. Every tree and bush is an individual alone, unattended, disconnected from its environments, and, therefore, meaningless. Such a yard is only a nursery.
The other plan (Fig. 6) is a picture. The eye catches its meaning at once. The central idea is the residence, with a free and open greensward in front of it The same trees and bushes that were scattered haphazard over Fig. 5 are massed into a framework to give effectiveness to the picture of home and comfort. This style of planting makes a landscape, even though the area be no larger than a parlor. The other style is only a collection of curious plants. The one has an instant and abiding pictorial effect, which is restful and satisfying: the observer exclaims, "What a beautiful home this is!" The other piques one's curiosity, obscures the residence, divides and distracts the attention: the observer exclaims, "What excellent lilac bushes are these!"
An inquiry into the causes of the unlike impressions that one receives from a given landscape and from a painting of it explains the subject admirably. One reason why the picture appeals to us more than the landscape is because the picture is condensed, and the mind becomes acquainted with its entire purpose at once, while the landscape is so broad that the individual objects at first fix the attention, and it is only by a process of synthesis that the unity of the landscape finally becomes apparent. This is admirably illustrated in photographs. One of the first surprises that the novice experiences in the use of the camera is the discovery that very tame scenes become interesting and often even spirited in the photograph. But there is something more than mere condensation in this vitalizing and beautifying effect of the photograph or the painting: individual objects are so much reduced that they no longer appeal to us as distinct subjects, and however uncouth they may be in the reality, they make no impression in the picture; the thin and sere sward may appear rather like a closely shaven lawn or a new-mown meadow. And again, the picture sets a limit to the scene; it frames it, and thereby cuts off all extraneous and confusing or irrelevant landscapes.
These remarks are illustrated in the aesthetics of landscape gardening. It is the artist's one desire to make pictures in the landscape. This is done in two ways: by the form of plantations, and by the use of vistas. He will throw his plantations into such positions that open and yet more or less confined areas of greensward are presented to the observer at various points. This picture-like opening is nearly or quite devoid of small or individual objects, which usually destroy the unity of such areas and are meaningless in themselves. A vista is a narrow opening or view between plantations to a distant landscape. It cuts up the broad horizon into portions that are readily cognizable. It frames parts of the country-side. The verdurous sides of the planting are the sides of the frame; the foreground is the bottom, and the sky is the top. It is of the utmost importance that good views be left or secured from the best windows of the house (not forgetting the kitchen window); in fact, the placing of the house may often be determined by the views that may be appropriated.
If a landscape is a picture, it must have a canvas. This canvas is the greensward. Upon this, the artist paints with tree and bush and flower as the painter does upon his canvas with brush and pigments. The opportunity for artistic composition and design is nowhere so great as in the landscape garden, because no other art has such a limitless field for the expression of its emotions. It is not strange, if this be true, that there have been few great landscape gardeners, and that, falling short of art, the landscape gardener too often works in the sphere of the artisan. There can be no rules for landscape gardening, any more than there can be for painting or sculpture. The operator may be taught how to hold the brush or strike the chisel or plant the tree, but he remains an operator; the art is intellectual and emotional and will not confine itself in precepts.
The making of a good and spacious lawn, then, is the very first practical consideration in a landscape garden.
The lawn provided, the gardener conceives what is the dominant and central feature in the place, and then throws the entire premises into subordination to this feature. In home grounds this central feature is the house. To scatter trees and bushes over the area defeats the fundamental purpose of the place,--the purpose to make every part of the grounds lead up to the home and to accentuate its homelikeness.
A house must have a background if it is to become a home. A house that stands on a bare plain or hill is a part of the universe, not a part of a home. Recall the cozy little farm-house that is backed by a wood or an orchard; then compare some pretentious structure that stands apart from all planting. Yet how many are the farm-houses that stand as stark and cold against the sky as if they were competing with the moon! We would not believe it possible for a man to live in a house twenty-five years and not, by accident, allow some tree to grow, were it not that it is so!
Of course these remarks about the lawn are meant for those countries where greensward is the natural ground cover. In the South and in arid countries, greensward is not the prevailing feature of the landscape, and in these regions the landscape design may take on a wholly different character, if the work is to be nature-like. We have not yet developed other conceptions of landscape work to any perfect extent, and we inject the English greensward treatment even into deserts. We may look for the time when a brown landscape garden may be made in a brown country, and it may be good art not to attempt a broad open center in regions in which undergrowth rather than sod is the natural ground cover. In parts of the United States we are developing a good Spanish-American architecture, perhaps we may develop a recognized comparable landscape treatment as an artistic expression.
Birds, and cats
The picture in the landscape is not complete without birds, and the birds should comprise more species than English sparrows. If one is to have birds on his premises, he must (1) attract them and (2) protect them.
One attracts birds by providing places in which they may nest. The free border plantings have distinct advantages in attracting chipping sparrows, catbirds, and other species. The bluebirds, house wrens, and martins may be attracted by boxes in which they can build.
One may attract birds by feeding them and supplying water. Suet for woodpeckers and others, grain and crumbs for other kinds, and taking care not to frighten or molest them, will soon win the confidence of the birds. A slowly running or dripping fountain, with a good rim on which they may perch, will also attract them, and it is no mean enjoyment to watch the birds at bathing. Or, if one does not care to go to the expense of a bird fountain, he may supply their wants by means of a shallow dish of water set on the lawn.
The birds will need protection from cats. There is no more reason why cats should roam at will and uncontrolled than that dogs or horses or poultry should be allowed unlimited license. A cat away from home is a trespasser and should be so treated. A person has no more right to inflict a cat on a neighborhood than to inflict a goat or rabbits or any other nuisance. All persons who keep cats should feel the same responsibility for them that they feel for other property; and they should be willing to forfeit their property right when they forfeit their control. The cats not only destroy birds, but they break the peace. The caterwauling at night will not be permitted in well-governed communities any more than the shooting of fire-arms or vicious talking will be allowed: all night-roaming cats should be gathered in, just as stray dogs and tramps are provided for.
I do not dislike cats, but I desire to see them kept at home and within control. If persons say that they cannot keep them on their own premises, then these persons should not be allowed to have them. A bell on the cat will prevent it from capturing old birds, and this may answer a good purpose late in the season; but it will not stop the robbing of nests or the taking of young birds, and here is where the greatest havoc is wrought.
It is often asserted that cats must roam in order that rats and mice may be reduced; but probably few house mice and few rats are got by wandering cats; and, again, many cats are not mousers. There are other ways of controlling rats and mice; or if cats are employed for this purpose, see that they are restricted to the places where the house rats and mice are to be found.
Many persons like squirrels about the place, but they cannot expect to have both birds and squirrels unless very special precautions are taken.
The English or house sparrow drives away the native birds, although he is himself an attractive inhabitant in winter, particularly where native birds are not resident. The English sparrow should be kept in reduced numbers. This can be easily accomplished by poisoning them in winter (when other birds are not endangered) with wheat soaked in strychnine water. The contents of one of the eighth-ounce vials of strychnine that may be secured at a drug store is added to sufficient water to cover a quart of wheat. Let the wheat stand in the poison water twenty-four to forty-eight hours (but not long enough for the grains to sprout), then dry the wheat thoroughly. It cannot be distinguished from ordinary wheat, and sparrows usually eat it freely, particularly if they are in the habit of eating scattered grain and crumbs. Of course, the greatest caution must be exercised that in the use of such highly poisonous materials, accidents do not occur with other animals or with human beings.
The planting is part of the design or picture.
If the reader catches the full meaning of these pages, he has acquired some of the primary conceptions in landscape gardening. The suggestion will grow upon him day by day; and if he is of an observing turn of mind, he will find that this simple lesson will revolutionize his habit of thought respecting the planting of grounds and the beauty of landscapes. He will see that a bush or flower-bed that is no part of any general purpose or design--that is, which does not contribute to the making of a picture--might better never have been planted. For myself, I would rather have a bare and open pasture than such a yard as that shown in Fig. 9, even though it contained the choicest plants of every land. The pasture would at least be plain and restful and unpretentious; but the yard would be full of effort and fidget.
Reduced to a single expression, all this means that the greatest artistic value in planting lies in the effect of the mass, and not in the individual plant. A mass has the greater value because it presents a much greater range and variety of forms, colors, shades, and textures, because it has sufficient extent or dimensions to add structural character to a place, and because its features are so continuous and so well blended that the mind is not distracted by incidental and irrelevant ideas. Two pictures will illustrate all this. Figures 10, 11 are pictures of natural copses. The former stretches along a field and makes a lawn of a bit of meadow which lies in front of it. The landscape has become so small and so well defined by this bank of verdure that it has a familiar and personal feeling. The great, bare, open meadows are too ill-defined and too extended to give any domestic feeling; but here is a part of the meadow set off into an area that one can compass with his affections.
These masses in Figs. 10, 11, and 12 have their own intrinsic merits, as well as their office in defining a bit of nature. One is attracted by the freedom of arrangement, the irregularity of sky-line, the bold bays and promontories, and the infinite play of light and shade. The observer is interested in each because it has character, or features, that no other mass in all the world possesses. He knows that the birds build their nests in the tangle and the rabbits find it a covert.
Now let the reader turn to Fig. 9, which is a picture of an "improved" city yard. Here there is no structural outline to the planting, no defining of the area, no continuous flow of the form and color. Every bush is what every other one is or may be, and there are hundreds like them in the same town. The birds shun them. Only the bugs find any happiness in them. The place has no fundamental design or idea, no lawn upon which a picture may be constructed. This yard is like a sentence or a conversation in which every word is equally emphasized.
In bold contrast with this yard is the open-center treatment in Fig. 13. Here there is pictorial effect; and there is opportunity along the borders to distribute trees and shrubs that may be desired as individual specimens.
The motive that shears the trees also razes the copse, in order that the gardener or "improver" may show his art. Compare Figs. 14 and 15. Many persons seem to fear that they will never be known to the world unless they expend a great amount of muscle or do something emphatic or spectacular; and their fears are usually well founded.
It is not enough that trees and bushes be planted in masses. They must be kept in masses by letting them grow freely in a natural way. The pruning-knife is the most inveterate enemy of shrubbery. Pictures 16 and 17 illustrate what I mean. The former represents a good group of bushes so far as arrangement is concerned; but it has been ruined by the shears. The attention of the observer is instantly arrested by the individual bushes. Instead of one free and expressive object, there are several stiff and expressionless ones. If the observer stops to consider his own thoughts when he comes upon such a collection, he will likely find himself counting the bushes; or, at least, he will be making mental comparisons of the various bushes, and wondering why they are not all sheared to be exactly alike. Figure 17 shows how the same "artist" has treated two deutzias and a juniper. Much the same effect could have been secured, and with much less trouble, by laying two flour barrels end to end and standing a third one between them.
I must hasten to say that I have not the slightest objection to the shearing of trees. The only trouble is in calling the practice art and in putting the trees where people must see them (unless they are part of a recognized formal-garden design). If the operator simply calls the business shearing, and puts the things where he and others who like them may see them, objection could not be raised. Some persons like painted stones, others iron bulldogs in the front yard and the word "welcome" worked into the door-mat, and others like barbered trees. So long as these likes are purely personal, it would seem to be better taste to put such curiosities in the back yard, where the owner may admire them without molestation.
There is a persistent desire among workmen to shear and to trim: it displays their industry. It is a great thing to be able to allow the freedom of nature to remain. The artist often builds his structures into a native planting (as in Fig. 18) rather than to trust himself to produce a good result by planting on razed surfaces.
In this discussion, I have tried to enforce the importance of the open center in non-formal home grounds in greensward regions. Of course this does not mean that there may not be central planting in particular cases where the conditions distinctly call for it nor that there may not be trees on the lawn. If one has the placing of the trees, he may see that they are not scattered aimlessly; but if good trees are already growing on the place, it would be folly to think of removing them merely because they are not in the best ideal positions; in such case, it may be very necessary to adapt the treatment of the area to the trees. The home-maker should always consider, also, the planting of a few trees in such places as to shade and protect the residence: the more closely they can be made a part of the general design or handling of the place, the better the results will be.
The flower-growing should be part of the design.
I do not mean to discourage the use of brilliant flowers and bright foliage and striking forms of vegetation; but these things are never primary considerations in a good domain. The structural elements of the place are designed first. The flanking and bordering masses are then planted. Finally the flowers and accessories are put in, as a house is painted after it is built. Flowers appear to best advantage when seen against a background of foliage, and they are then, also, an integral part of the picture. The flower-garden, as such, should be at the rear or side of a place, as all other personal appurtenances are; but flowers and bright leaves may be freely scattered along the borders and near the foliage masses.
It is a common saying that many persons have no love or appreciation of flowers, but it is probably nearer to the truth to say that no person is wholly lacking in this respect. Even those persons who declare that they care nothing for flowers are generally deceived by their dislike of flower-beds and the conventional methods of flower-growing. I know many persons who stoutly deny any liking for flowers, but who, nevertheless, are rejoiced with the blossoming of the orchards and the purpling of the clover fields. The fault may not lie so much with the persons themselves as with the methods of growing and displaying the flowers.
Defects in flower-growing.
The greatest defect with our flower-growing is the stinginess of it. We grow our flowers as if they were the choicest rarities, to be coddled in a hotbed or under a bell-jar, and then to be exhibited as single specimens in some little pinched and ridiculous hole cut in the turf, or perched upon an ant-hill that some gardener has laboriously heaped on a lawn. Nature, on the other hand, grows many of her flowers in the most luxurious abandon, and one can pick an armful without offense. She grows her flowers in earnest, as a man grows a crop of corn. One can revel in the color and the fragrance and be satisfied.
The next defect with our flower-growing is the flower-bed. Nature has no time to make flower-bed designs: she is busy growing flowers. And, then, if she were given to flower-beds, the whole effect would be lost, for she could no longer be luxurious and wanton, and if a flower were picked her whole scheme might be upset. Imagine a geranium-bed or a coleus-bed, with its wonderful "design," set out into a wood or in a free and open landscape! Even the birds would laugh at it!
What I want to say is that we should grow flowers freely when we make a flower-garden. We should have enough of them to make the effort worth the while. I sympathize with the man who likes sunflowers. There are enough of them to be worth looking at. They fill the eye. Now show this man ten feet square of pinks or asters, or daisies, all growing free and easy and he will tell you that he likes them. All this has a particular application to the farmer, who is often said to dislike flowers. He grows potatoes and buckwheat and weeds by the acre: two or three unhappy pinks or geraniums are not enough to make an impression.
The easiest way to spoil a good lawn is to put a flower-bed in it; and the most effective way in which to show off flowers to the least advantage is to plant them in a bed in the greensward. Flowers need a background. We do not hang our pictures on fence-posts. If flowers are to be grown on a lawn, let them be of the hardy kind, which can be naturalized in the sod and which grow freely in the tall unmown grass; or else perennials of such nature that they make attractive clumps by themselves. Lawns should be free and generous, but the more they are cut up and worried with trivial effects, the smaller and meaner they look.
But even if we consider these lawn flower-beds wholly apart from their surroundings, we must admit that they are at best unsatisfactory. It generally amounts to this, that we have four months of sparse and downcast vegetation, one month of limp and frost-bitten plants, and seven months of bare earth (Fig 19) I am not now opposing the carpet-beds which professional gardeners make in parks and other museums. I like museums, and some of the carpet-beds and set pieces are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (see Fig 20) I am directing my remarks to those humble home-made flower-beds that are so common in lawns of country and city homes alike. These beds are cut from the good fresh turf, often in the most fantastic designs, and are filled with such plants as the women of the place may be able to carry over in cellars or in the window. The plants themselves may look very well in pots, but when they are turned out of doors, they have a sorry time for a month adapting themselves to the sun and winds, and it is generally well on towards midsummer before they begin to cover the earth. During all these weeks they have demanded more time and labor than would have been needed to care for a plantation of much greater size and which would have given flowers every day from the time the birds began to nest in the spring until the last robin had flown in November.
We should acquire the habit of speaking of the flower-border. The border planting of which we have spoken sets bounds to the place, and makes it one's own. The person lives inside his place, not on it. Along these borders, against groups, often by the corners of the residence or in front of porches--these are places for flowers. Ten flowers against a background are more effective than a hundred in the open yard.
I have asked a professional artist, Mr. Mathews, to draw me the kind of a flower-bed that he likes. It is shown in Fig. 21. It is a border,--a strip of land two or three feet wide along a fence. This is the place where pigweeds usually grow. Here he has planted marigolds, gladiolus, golden rod, wild asters, China asters, and--best of all--hollyhocks. Any one would like that flower-garden. It has some of that local and indefinable charm that always attaches to an "old-fashioned garden" with its medley of form and color. Nearly every yard has some such strip of land along a rear walk or fence or against a building. It is the easiest thing to plant it,--ever so much easier than digging the characterless geranium bed into the center of an inoffensive lawn. The suggestions are carried further in 22 to 25.
The old-fashioned garden.
Speaking of the old-fashioned garden recalls one of William Falconer's excellent paragraphs ("Gardening," November 15, 1897, p. 75): "We tried it in Schenley Park this year. We needed a handy dumping ground, and hit on the head of a deep ravine between two woods; into it we dumped hundreds upon hundreds of wagon loads of rock and clay, filling it near to the top, then surfaced it with good soil. Here we planted some shrubs, and broadcast among them set out scarlet poppies, eschscholtzias, dwarf nasturtiums, snapdragons, pansies, marigolds, and all manner of hardy herbaceous plants, having enough of each sort to make a mass of its kind and color, and the effect was fine. In the middle was a plantation of hundreds of clumps of Japan and German irises interplanted, thence succeeded by thousands of gladioli, and banded with montbretias, from which we had flowers till frost. The steep face of this hill was graded a little and a series of winding stone steps set into it, making the descent into the hollow quite easy; the stones were the rough uneven slabs secured in blasting the rocks when grading in other parts of the park, and both along outer edges of the steps and the sides of the upper walk a wide belt of moss pink was planted; and the banks all about were planted with shrubs, vines, wild roses, columbines, and other plants. More cameras and kodaks were leveled by visitors at this piece of gardening than at any other spot in the park, and still we had acres of painted summer beds."
Contents of the flower-borders.
There is no prescribed rule as to what one should put into these informal flower-borders. Put in them the plants you like. Perhaps the greater part of them should be perennials that come up of themselves every spring, and that are hardy and reliable. Wild flowers are particularly effective. Every one knows that many of the native herbs of woods and glades are more attractive than some of the most prized garden flowers. The greater part of these native flowers grow readily in cultivation, sometimes even in places which, in soil and exposure, are much unlike their native haunts. Many of them make thickened roots, and they may be safely transplanted at any time after the flowers have passed. To most persons the wild flowers are less known than many exotics that have smaller merit, and the extension of cultivation is constantly tending to annihilate them. Here, then, in the informal flower-border, is an opportunity to rescue them. Then one may sow in freely of easy-growing annuals, as marigolds, China asters, petunias and phloxes, and sweet peas.
One of the advantages of these borders lying at the boundary is that they are always ready to receive more plants, unless they are full. That is, their symmetry is not marred if some plants are pulled out and others are put in. And if the weeds now and then get a start, very little harm is done. Such a border half full of weeds is handsomer than the average hole-in-the-lawn geranium bed. An ample border may receive wild plants every month in the year when the frost is out of the ground. Plants are dug in the woods or fields, whenever one is on an excursion, even if in July. The tops are cut off, the roots kept moist until they are placed in the border; most of these much-abused plants will grow. To be sure, one will secure some weeds; but then, the weeds are a part of the collection! Of course, some plants will resent this treatment, but the border may be a happy family, and be all the better and more personal because it is the result of moments of relaxation. Such a border has something new and interesting every month of the growing season; and even in the winter the tall clumps of grasses and aster-stems hold their banners above the snow and are a source of delight to every frolicsome bevy of snowbirds.
I have spoken of a weedland to suggest how simple and easy a thing it is to make an attractive mass-plantation. One may make the most of a rock (Fig. 26) or bank, or other undesirable feature of the place. Dig up the ground and make it rich, and then set plants in it. You will not get it to suit you the first year, and perhaps not the second or the third; you can always pull out plants and put more in. I should not want a lawn-garden so perfect that I could not change it in some character each year; I should lose interest in it.
[Illustration: 26. Making the most of a rock.]
It must not be understood that I am speaking only for mixed borders. On the contrary, it is much better in most cases that each border or bed be dominated by the expression of one kind of flower or bush. In one place a person may desire a wild aster effect, or a petunia effect, or a larkspur effect, or a rhododendron effect; or it may be desirable to run heavily to strong foliage effects in one direction and to light flower effects in another. The mixed border is rather more a flower-garden idea than a landscape idea; when it shall be desirable to emphasize the one and when the other, cannot be set down in a book.
The value of plants may lie in foliage and form rather than in bloom.
What kinds of shrubs and flowers to plant is a wholly secondary and largely a personal consideration. The main plantings are made up of hardy and vigorous species; then the things that you like are added. There is endless choice in the species, but the arrangement or disposition of the plants is far more important than the kinds; and the foliage and form of the plant are usually of more importance than its bloom.
The appreciation of foliage effects in the landscape is a higher type of feeling than the desire for mere color. Flowers are transitory, but foliage and plant forms are abiding. The common roses have very little value for landscape planting because the foliage and habit of the rose-bush are not attractive, the leaves are inveterately attacked by bugs, and the blossoms are fleeting. Some of the wild roses and the Japanese Rosa rugosa, however, have distinct merit for mass effects.
Even the common flowers, as marigold, zinnias, and gaillardias, are interesting as plant forms long before they come into bloom. To many persons the most satisfying epoch in the garden is that preceding the bloom, for the habits and stature of the plants are then unobscured. The early stages of lilies, daffodils, and all perennials are most interesting; and one never appreciates a garden until he realizes that this is so.
Now let the reader, with these suggestions in mind, observe for one week the plant-forms in the humble herbs that he meets, whether these herbs are strong garden plants or the striking sculpturing of mulleins, burdocks, and jimson-weed. Figures 27 to 31 will be suggestive.
Wild bushes are nearly always attractive in form and habit when planted in borders and groups. They improve in appearance under cultivation because they are given a better chance to grow. In wild nature there is such fierce struggle for existence that plants usually grow to few or single stems, and they are sparse and scraggly in form; but once given all the room they want and a good soil, they become luxurious, full, and comely. In most home grounds in the country the body of the planting may be very effectively composed of bushes taken from the adjacent woods and fields. The masses may then be enlivened by the addition here and there of cultivated bushes, and the planting of flowers and herbs about the borders. It is not essential that one know the names of these wild bushes, although a knowledge of their botanical kinships will add greatly to the pleasure of growing them. Neither will they look common when transferred to the lawn. There are not many persons who know even the commonest wild bushes intimately, and the things change so much in looks when removed to rich ground that few home-makers recognize them.
Odd and formal trees.
It is but a corollary of this discussion to say that plants which are simply odd or grotesque or unusual should be used with the greatest caution, for they introduce extraneous and jarring effects. They are little in sympathy with a landscape garden. An artist would not care to paint an evergreen that is sheared into some grotesque shape. It is only curious, and shows what a man with plenty of time and long pruning shears can accomplish. A weeping tree (particularly of a small-growing species) is usually seen to best advantage when it stands against a group or mass of foliage (Fig. 32), as a promontory, adding zest and spirit to the border; it then has relation with the place.
This leads me to speak of the planting of the Lombardy poplar, which may be taken as a type of the formal tree, and as an illustration of what I mean to express. Its chief merits to the average planter are the quickness of its growth and the readiness with which it multiplies by sprouts. But in the North it is likely to be a short-lived tree, it suffers from storms, and it has few really useful qualities. It may be used to some advantage in windbreaks for peach orchards and other short-lived plantations; but after a few years a screen of Lombardies begins to fail, and the habit of suckering from the root adds to its undesirable features. For shade it has little merit, and for timber none. Persons like it because it is striking, and this, in an artistic sense, is its gravest fault. It is unlike anything else in our landscape, and does not fit into our scenery well. A row of Lombardies along a roadside is like a row of exclamation points!
But the Lombardy can often be used to good effect as one factor in a group of trees, where its spire-like shape, towering above the surrounding foliage, may lend a spirited charm to the landscape. It combines well in such groups if it stands in visual nearness to chimneys or other tall formal objects. Then it gives a sort of architectural finish and spirit to a group; but the effect is generally lessened, if not altogether spoiled, in small places, if more than one Lombardy is in view. One or two specimens may often be used to give vigor to heavy plantations about low buildings, and the effect is generally best if they are seen beyond or at the rear of the building. Note the use that the artist has made of them in the backgrounds in Figs. 12, 13, and 43.
Poplars and the like.
Another defect in common ornamental planting, which is well illustrated in the use of poplars, is the desire for plants merely because they grow rapidly. A very rapid-growing tree nearly always produces cheap effects. This is well illustrated in the common planting of willows and poplars about summer places or lake shores. Their effect is almost wholly one of thinness and temporariness. There is little that suggests strength or durability in willows and poplars, and for this reason they should usually be employed as minor or secondary features in ornamental or home grounds. When quick results are desired, nothing is better to plant than these trees; but better trees, as maples, oaks, or elms, should be planted with them, and the poplars and willows should be removed as rapidly as the other species begin to afford protection. When the plantation finally assumes its permanent characters, a few of the remaining poplars and willows, judiciously left, may afford very excellent effects; but no one who has an artist's feeling would be content to construct the framework of his place of these rapid-growing and soft-wooded trees.
I have said that the legitimate use of poplars in ornamental grounds is in the production of minor or secondary effects. As a rule, they are less adapted to isolated planting as specimen trees than to using in composition,--that is, as parts of general groups of trees, where their characters serve to break the monotony of heavier forms and heavier foliage. The poplars are gay trees, as a rule, especially those, like the aspens, that have a trembling foliage. Their leaves are bright and the tree-tops are thin. The common aspen or "popple," _Populus tremuloides,_ of our woods, is a meritorious little tree for certain effects. Its dangling catkins (Fig. 33), light, dancing foliage, and silver-gray limbs, are always cheering, and its autumn color is one of the purest golden-yellows of our landscape. It is good to see a tree of it standing out in front of a group of maples or evergreens.
Before one attains to great sensitiveness in the appreciation of gardens, he learns to distinguish plants by their forms. This is particularly true for trees and shrubs. Each species has its own "expression," which is determined by the size that is natural to it, mode of branching, form of top, twig characters, bark characters, foliage characters, and to some extent its flower and fruit characters. It is a useful practice for one to train his eye by learning the difference in expression of the trees of different varieties of cherries or pears or apples or other fruits, if he has access to a plantation of them. The differences in cherries and pears are very marked (Figs. 34-36). He may also contrast and compare carefully the kinds of any tree or shrub of which there are two or three species in the neighborhood, learning to distinguish them without close examination; as the sugar maple, red maple, soft maple, and Norway maple (if it is planted); the white or American elm, the cork elm, the slippery elm, the planted European elms; the aspen, large-toothed poplar, cottonwood, balm of gilead, Carolina poplar, Lombardy poplar; the main species of oaks; the hickories; and the like.
It will not be long before the observer learns that many of the tree and shrub characters are most marked in winter; and he will begin unconsciously to add the winter to his year.
Various specific examples.
The foregoing remarks will mean more if the reader is shown some concrete examples. I have chosen a few cases, not because they are the best, or even because they are always good enough for models, but because they lie in my way and illustrate what I desire to teach.
A front yard example.
We will first look at a very ordinary front yard. It contained no plants, except a pear tree standing near the corner of the house. Four years later sees the yard as shown in Fig. 37. An exochorda is the large bush in the very foreground, and the porch foundation is screened and a border is thereby given to the lawn. The length of this planting from end to end is about fourteen feet, with a projection towards the front on the left of ten feet. In the bay at the base of this projection the planting is only two feet wide or deep, and from here it gradually swings out to the steps, eight feet wide. The prominent large-leaved plant near the steps is a bramble, _Rubus odoratus,_ very common in the neighborhood, and it is a choice plant for decorative planting, when it is kept under control. The plants in this border in front of the porch are all from the wild, and comprise a prickly ash, several plants of two wild osiers or dogwoods, a spice bush, rose, wild sunflowers and asters and golden-rods. The promontory at the left is a more ambitious but less effective mass. It contains an exochorda, a reed, variegated elder, sacaline, variegated dogwood, tansy, and a young tree of wild crab. At the rear of the plantation, next the house, one sees the pear tree. The best single part of the planting is the reed (_Arundo Donax_) overtopping the exochorda. The photograph was taken early in summer, before the reed had become conspicuous.
A ground plan of this planting is shown in Fig. 38. At A is the walk and B the steps. An opening at D serves as a passage. The main planting, in front of the porch, fourteen feet long, received twelve plants, some of which have now spread into large clumps. At 1 is a large bush of osier, _Cornus Baileyi,_ one of the best red-stemmed bushes. At 2 is a mass of _Rubus odoratus;_ at 5 asters and golden-rods; at 3 a clump of wild sunflowers. The projecting planting on the left comprises about ten plants, of which 4 is exochorda, 6 is arundo or reed, at the back of which is a large clump of sacaline, and 7 is a variegated-leaved elder.
A back yard is shown in Fig. 39. The owner wanted a tennis court, and the yard is so small as not to allow of wide planting at the borders. However, something could be done. On the left is a weedland border, which formed the basis of the discussion of wild plants on page 35. In the first place, a good lawn was made. In the second place, no walks or drives were laid in the area. The drive for grocers' wagons and coal is seen in the rear, ninety feet from the house. From I to J is the weedland, separating the area from the neighbor's premises. Near I is a clump of roses. At K is a large bunch of golden-rods. H marks a clump of yucca. G is a cabin, covered with vines on the front. From G to F is an irregular border, about six feet wide, containing barberries, forsythias, wild elder, and other bushes. D E is a screen of Russian mulberry, setting off the clothes yard from the front lawn. Near the back porch, at the end of the screen, is an arbor covered with wild grapes, making a play-house for the children. A clump of lilacs stands at A. At B is a vine-covered screen, serving as a hammock support. The lawn made and the planting done, it was next necessary to lay the walks. These are wholly informal affairs, made by sinking a plank ten inches wide into the ground to a level with the sod. The border plantings of this yard are too straight and regular for the most artistic results, but such was necessary in order not to encroach upon the central space. Yet the reader will no doubt agree that this yard is much better than it could be made by any system of scattered and spotted planting. Let him imagine how a glowing carpet-bed would look set down in the center of this lawn!
A third example.
The making of a landscape picture is well illustrated in Figs. 40, 41. The former shows a small clay field (seventy-five feet wide, and three hundred feet deep), with a barn at the rear. In front of the barn is a screen of willows. The observer is looking from the dwelling-house. The area has been plowed and seeded for a lawn. The operator has then marked out a devious line upon either border with a hoe handle, and all the space between these borders has been gone over with a garden roller to mark the area of the desired greensward.
The borders are now planted with a variety of small trees, bushes, and herbs. Five years later the view shown in Fig. 41 was taken.
A small back yard.
A back yard is shown in Fig. 42. It is approximately sixty feet square. At present it contains a drive, which is unnecessary, expensive to keep in repair, and destructive of any attempt to make a picture of the area. The place could be improved by planting it somewhat after the manner of Fig. 43.
A city lot.
A plan of a city lot is given in Fig. 44. The area is fifty by one hundred, and the house occupies the greater part of the width. It is level, but the surrounding land is higher, resulting in a sharp terrace, three or four feet high, on the rear, E D. This terrace vanishes at C on the right, but extends nearly the whole length of the other side, gradually diminishing as it approaches A. There is a terrace two feet high extending from A to B, along the front. Beyond the line E D is the rear of an establishment which it is desired to hide. Since the terraces set definite borders to this little place, it is desirable to plant the boundaries rather heavily. If the adjoining lawns were on the same level, or if the neighbors would allow one area to be merged into the other by pleasant slopes, the three yards might be made into one picture; but the place must remain isolated.
There are three problems of structural planting in the place: to provide a cover or screen at the rear; to provide lower border masses on the side terraces; to plant next the foundations of the house. Aside from these problems, the grower is entitled to have a certain number of specimen plants, if he has particular liking for given types, but these specimens must be planted in some relation to the structural masses, and not in the middle of the lawn.
The owner desired a mixed planting, for variety. The following shrubs were actually selected and planted. The place is in central New York:--
Shrubs for the tall background
- 2 Barberry, Berberis vulgaris and var. purpurea.
- 1 Cornus Mas.
- 2 Tall deutzias.
- 3 Lilacs.
- 2 Mock oranges, Philadelphus grandiflorus and P. coronarius.
- 2 Variegated elders.
- 2 Eleagnus, Eloeagnus hortensis and E. longipes.
- 1 Exochorda.
- 2 Hibiscuses.
- 1 Privet.
- 3 Viburnums.
- 1 Snowball.
- 1 Tartarian honeysuckle.
- 1 Silver Bell, Halesia tetraptera.
These were planted on the sloping bank of the terrace, from E to D. The terrace has an incline, or width, of about three feet. Figure 45 shows this terrace after the planting was completed, looking from the point C.
Shrubs of medium size, suitable for side plantings and groups in the foregoing example
- 3 Barberries, Berberis Thunbergii.
- 3 Osier dogwoods, variegated.
- 2 Japanese quinces, Cydonia Japonica and C. Maulei.
- 4 Tall deutzias.
- 1 Variegated elder.
- 7 Weigelas, assorted colors.
- 1 Rhodotypos.
- 9 Spireas of medium growth, assorted.
- 1 Rubus odoratus.
- 1 Lonicera fragrantissima.
Most of these shrubs were planted in a border two feet wide, extending from B to C D, the planting beginning about ten feet back from the street. Some of them were placed on the terrace at the left, extending from E one-fourth of the distance to A. The plants were set about two feet apart. A strong clump was placed at N to screen the back yard. In this back yard a few small fruit trees and a strawberry bed were planted.
Low informal shrubs for front of porch and banking against house
- 3 Deutzia gracilis.
- 6 Kerrias, green and variegated.
- 3 Daphne Mezereum.
- 3 Lonicera Halliana.
- 3 Rubus phoenicolasius.
- 3 Symphoricarpus vulgaris.
- 4 Mahonias.
- 1 Ribes aureum.
- 1 Ribes sanguineum.
- 1 Rubus cratægifolius.
- 1 Rubus fruticosus var. laciniatus.
These bushes were planted against the front of the house (a porch on a high foundation extends to the right from O), from the walk around to P, and a few of them were placed at the rear of the house.
Specimen shrubs for mere ornament, for this place
- 2 Hydrangeas.
- 1 Snowball.
- 1 each Forsythia suspensa and F. viridissima.
- 2 Flowering almonds.
These were planted in conspicuous places here and there against the other masses.
Here are one hundred excellent and interesting bushes planted in a yard only fifty feet wide and one hundred feet deep, and yet the place has as much room in it as it had before. There is abundant opportunity along the borders for dropping in cannas, dahlias, hollyhocks, asters, geraniums, coleuses, and other brilliant plants. The bushes will soon begin to crowd, to be sure, but a mass is wanted, and the narrowness of the plantations will allow each bush to develop itself laterally to perfection. If the borders become too thick, however, it is an easy matter to remove some of the bushes; but they probably will not. Picture the color and variety and life in that little yard. And if a pigweed now and then gets a start in the border, it would do no harm to let it alone: it belongs there! Then picture the same area filled with disconnected, spotty, dyspeptic, and unspirited flower-beds and rose bushes!
Strong and bare foundations should be relieved by heavy planting. Fill the corners with snow-drifts of foliage. Plant with a free hand, as if you meant it (compare Figs. 46 and 47). The corner by the steps is a perennial source of bad temper. The lawn-mower will not touch it, and the grass has to be cut with a butcher-knife. If nothing else comes to hand, let a burdock grow in it (Fig. 1).
The tennis-screen may be relieved by a background (Fig. 48), and a clump of ribbon-grass or something else is out of the way against a post (Fig. 49).
Excellent mass effects may be secured by cutting well-established plants of sumac, ailanthus, basswood, and other strong-growing things, to the ground each year, for the purpose of securing the stout shoots. Figure 50 will give the hint.
But if one has no area which he can make into a lawn and upon which he can plant such verdurous masses, what then may he do? Even then there may be opportunity for a little neat and artistic planting. Even if one lives in a rented house, he may bring in a bush or an herb from the woods, and paint a picture with it. Plant it in the corner by the steps, in front of the porch, at the corner of the house,--almost anywhere except in the center of the lawn. Make the ground rich, secure a strong root, and plant it with care; then wait. The little clump will not only have a beauty and interest of its own, but it may add immensely to the furniture of the yard.
About these clumps one may plant bulbs of glowing tulips or dainty snowdrops and lilies-of-the-valley; and these may be followed with pansies and phlox and other simple folk. Very soon one finds himself deeply interested in these random and detached pictures, and almost before he is aware he finds that he has rounded off the corners of the house, made snug little arbors of wild grapes and clematis, covered the rear fence and the outhouse with actinidia and bitter-sweet, and has thrown in dashes of color with hollyhocks, cannas, and lilies, and has tied the foundations of the buildings to the greensward by low strands of vines or deft bits of planting. He soon comes to feel that flowers are most expressive of the best emotions when they are daintily dropped in here and there against a background of foliage, or else made a side-piece in the place. There is no limit to the adaptations; Figs. 51 to 58 suggest some of the backyard possibilities.
Presently he rebels at the bold, harsh, and impudent designs of some of the gardeners, and grows into a resourceful love of plant forms and verdure. He may still like the weeping and cut-leaved and party-colored trees of the horticulturist, but he sees that their best effects are to be had when they are planted sparingly, as borders or promontories of the structural masses.
The best planting, as the best painting and the best music, is possible only with the best and tenderest feeling and the closest living with nature. One's place grows to be a reflection of himself, changing as he changes, and expressing his life and sympathies to the last.
We have now discussed some of the principles and applications of landscape architecture or landscape gardening, particularly in reference to the planting. The object of landscape gardening is _to make a picture._ All the grading, seeding, planting, are incidental and supplemental to this one central idea. The greensward is the canvas, the house or some other prominent point is the central figure, the planting completes the composition and adds the color.
The second conception is the principle that _the picture should have a landscape effect._ That is, it should be nature-like. Carpet-beds are masses of color, not pictures. They are the little garnishings and reliefs that are to be used very cautiously, as little eccentricities and conventionalisms in a building should never be more than very minor features.
Every other concept in landscape gardening is subordinate to these two. Some of the most important of these secondary yet underlying considerations are as follows:--
The place is to be conceived of as _a unit._ If a building is not pleasing, ask an architect to improve it. The real architect will study the building as a whole, grasp its design and meaning, and suggest improvements that will add to the forcefulness of the entire structure. A dabbler would add a chimney here, a window there, and apply various daubs of paint to the building. Each of these features might be good in itself. The paints might be the best of ochre, ultramarine, or paris green, but they might have no relation to the building as a whole and would be only ludicrous. These two examples illustrate the difference between landscape gardening and the scattering over the place of mere ornamental features.
There should be _one central and emphatic point in the picture._ A picture of a battle draws its interest from the action of a central figure or group. The moment the incidental and lateral figures are made as prominent as the central figures, the picture loses emphasis, life, and meaning. The borders of a place are of less importance than its center. Therefore:
_Keep the center of the place open;_
_Frame and mass the sides; Avoid scattered effects._
In a landscape picture _flowers are incidents._ They add emphasis, supply color, give variety and finish; they are the ornaments, but the lawn and the mass-plantings make the framework. One flower in the border, and made an incident of the picture, is more effective than twenty flowers in the center of the lawn.
More depends on _the positions that plants occupy with reference to each other and to the structural design of the place,_ than on the intrinsic merits of the plants themselves.
Landscape gardening, then, is the embellishment of grounds in such a way that they will have a nature-like or landscape effect. The flowers and accessories may heighten and accelerate the effect, but they should not contradict it.