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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Garden Gossip

by S. Armitt
Volume 12, 1901, pgs. 296-297


No. 4

A much more flowery month is April than its predecessor, though the native daffodil comes in March before the swallows dare, a host of others, importations from Spain or South Europe, follow in April. They have, however, been so multiplied from seed, that it is difficult or impossible often to make out from what species they have been started. The large-flowered ones--Horsfieldii, Emperor and Empress, are hardy enough for successful garden culture, and multiply till division is necessary; the dwarf ones are more delicate; the little Hoop Petticoat (Narcissus Bulbocodium) is so charming that it tempts the grower much, but it needs a warm dry home and then often suffers. Another tiny one is very nearly as charming, and, in my garden, very hardy and prolific; I believe it is Narcissus minor, they told me so at Kew; it is not mentioned in any of the gardening books available, and where it came from is unknown. My predecessor left it in this garden; there was one thick group about eighteen inches across a mass of pale flowers on stems three or four inches high in April, the bulbs seemed too thick, and when the leaves were ready to die down the entire lot was lifted and separated, each one was planted about three inches apart in a line three or four deep, and they spread out (treated so) for many yards. Next year each bulb sent up its bloom as if undisturbed, and each year now they come up a thicker and more solid mass, a border along a river walk that is matchless in April days against the blue or the white water, whatever the weather be. Though a river walk is not a damp spot, the rocky bank, the bed's foundation, is never touched by the river's highest flood. All summer and autumn that eight or ten inches of earth above the bulbs was bare, till a thought came to try some late summer bloomer along with the Narcissus minor and so break up the months of bareness. The small Alpine Harebell (Campanula alpina) was planted there, it has spread thickly and produces a dense mat of bells, blue or white, not more than two or three inches high, the flowers so thick that they conceal even their own leaves. This has been the condition of things now for two years, and the experiment has been so far entirely successful, the tiny daffodils do not seem to have suffered at all from their co-possessors of the same ground--will it last? I wonder much! The gardener needs to know of all the plants that will grow together, one of the top of the other, the deep-rooted with the shallow-rooted above, if he is to make the best use of every inch of a tiny garden; the cultivator of lordly acres need follow out no such problem.

Long ago Sir William Temple said: "In every garden four things are necessary to be provided for--flowers, fruit, shade, and water, and whoever lays out a garden without all these, must not pretend it in any perfection." For the last two, shade and water, one has little chance of any perfection if they be not there already before the garden is laid out; in other words, the natural situation of a garden is half and more than half the battle. Artificially produced water is nothing in effect to natural water; how fine is the sight of a garden sloping down to a lake and seen from thence, or even to a river, but in this case it is necessary that the garden be lifted above the flood water for any permanence of beauty. A blue river or a foaming rock-broken river is the loveliest of backgrounds to a flower bed, and when in April breezes the daffodils dance there in unison with the water--

"The poet's heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."

Shade too can scarce be made effective in a man's lifetime, and is best found ready-made and self-made. The planter of an oak must do it in faith and for his children's children.


Proofread via iTouch by Leslie Noelani Laurio, May, 2011