The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

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

by S. Armitt.
Volume 12, no. 9, 1901, pgs. 459-462

"What is a garden but a piece of ground where the art of man protects the chosen plants from one another and from all invaders . . . "

No. 6

"Here is June, with the flowering of the rhododendrons, and the crumpling of their pink and mauve tulle, which calls up visions of ball-dresses; and with their lovely tawny black spots, like drones cradled in the core of the flower; and here with the flowering of the rhododendrons come to blossoms of the climbing roses, which mount into the great trees and are lost in the ivy. Trails, wreath, cascades, arranged as deftly as those of the old Venetian masters around the curves of their ewers; cascades of white, yellow and pink roses, which with the sun enclosed in their translucent petals, illumine the dark verdure. And, at dusk, days which fade to the scent of pepper blent with the savours of Eastern spices, to the slowly modulated songs of the weary birds, and where, upon a sunless day, a lingering ray of the vanished sun gilds even at eight o'clock the green of the lawn. It is the moment beneath the twilight for the sport of young and imprudent blackbirds still unfledged, watched over by an old grave and very ebon blackbird. And amid the sinking into sleep of colour, when the white of the great headed viburnum, the yellow of a bunch of iris, the certise of a Broughton rhododendron, are no more than phantoms of white, yellow and cerise, the zigzags of little blurred bats no longer seem like flights, but the shades of flights."--La Maison d'un Artiste (Edmond de Goncourt).

Such is an appreciation of a June garden nearly half a century ago. We are now not so enthusiastic about rhododendrons, and the early sorts appeal to us more than do the later ones in June. Azalias are, perhaps, more beautiful in flower and less stiff in foliage than the ubiquitious rhododendron, and their autumnal tints are of great value, as indeed one would expect from the swamp-honeysuckles of North America. The evergreen Kalmias from the same region are seldom seen, and the exquisite flowers with the stamens in pockets are too little known. But for all these things, one needs broad acres that their masses may be seen from a distance; it is a mistake to introduce them to small gardens where they need ruthless cutting back and frequent removal.

The wild flowers of the fields and hedges come forth in June by troops and companies; in the garden it is not quite so, the rush of spring and early summer is over and there is a pause before the glories of late summer and autumn begin. The special June flowers are therefore valuable to bridge over the time between the seasons. Among these are the perennial Pyrethrums, beautiful and long-lived; once established, they are no trouble at all, they come year after year just the same, but each time a little larger, a bunch of flowers that needs a stake when the stems are growing tall, Yet a hard winter will surely kill off the newly planted. It used to be that roses came in June, but the hard pruning has stopped all that and put them back to July; happily there are still the unpruned climbers that flower at the old time in early summer. Scarlet Lychnis is an old-fashioned flower of June days, and the great Larkspurs come on towards the end of the month, columns of blue beauty. It seems strange to say, but these two have been arranged to look very well together. The large Spireas come too, Aruncus, palmate, and the others, without care and without toil, each year arising from the flat earth stronger and larger until they encroach upon a neighbour's ground or light and struggle together for life until one succumbs. This is a great danger in a crowded garden; if there is not a big soil margin round every plant they need careful watching. I never go away in summer for a month without returning to mourn those that have been slain in the hard struggle for life that never ceases, and in which the weak unaided must untimely perish. A Florentine Cistus in its quick growth has been the death of many smaller things, by simply overshadowing them when no one was near to turn aside the ever-lengthening branches. What is a garden but a piece of ground where the art of man protects the chosen plants from one another and from all invaders, just a place where the struggle is never permitted in which the weakest, the least fitted to fight in that spot, are sure to fail.

In a crowded rockery, where half-a-dozen little beauties are running into one another, it is a problem which to save, and without the large bare spaces of earth, the whole summer through, one must watch and move and clear away. Those tiny earth-creepers that are but foliage plants, the Acaenas, are most troublesome in running through their neighbours and coming up in the midst of them. The Campanulas do this also; the great handsome glomerata tempts one frequently to banish it entirely, so often must it be wrestled with to keep it in any moderate dimensions and to preserve its neighbours. Yet it is certainly true that the deep-rooted and the shallow-rooted will grow together if neither of them makes too much shade to endanger the life of the other. An arrangement was tried once of Auratum lilies growing from a bed of ivy; the idea was that the dark foliage beneath would enhance the beauty of the huge flowers by contrast; very few of the dozens of lilies so planted emerged into the light of day above the level of the ivy, for the slugs and the snails had partaken of them in the seclusion of shade and moisture provided by the ivy leaves. Miss Jekyll, in her book Wood and Garden, tells how she successfully grows some of the largest lilies. I recommend that story to all who would grow lilies, that they may "mark, learn and inwardly digest" the meaning of the preliminaries of that great success. How many are the books about gardens, and how little may we learn from them! words, words, words, of such are books made up! The writers of the words are scarcely ever the doers of the deeds, hence are they false guides and of little account in gardening matters. In Praise of Gardens is the title of one of them, and is perhaps the meaning of many; beautiful appreciations of gardens there are, such as E. V. B's. charming Days and Hours in a Garden.

The tall herbaceous Phloxes are autumn flowers that the growers produce in greater beauty of colour, form and habit each year. Few of them are, however, midsummer flowers, but one of these, named Her Majesty, is among the most lovely; it bears a raceme some ten to twelve inches long of large white flowers, and the whole group of these racemes does not exceed two feet in height. It is a most fragile beauty, the weight of its stems is sufficient to break them at the base; a shower of rain is dire destruction unless each branch has been tied to a small stake long before the flowering time. When this has been successfully achieved, the flowers last long and the plants endure year after year without further trouble, increasing in size each season. Close to Her Majesty in my garden grew one season a group of pale yellow foxgloves, and it turned out somewhat unexpectedly a most successful combination of colour.

Early June is the time of beauty in the fern garden, when all the delicate green lace is newly expanded; later in the month comes the ripening of the spores. The traditional Eve of St. John for the perfecting of this process is by no means incorrect. I know a splendid collection of British ferns, raised by their owner himself entirely from spore. This is an interesting process, which I recommend to all those who care to have an insight into the life-history through its two generations of any or all of the ferns. The large royal fern, Osmunda regalis, is easy to follow through the unfamiliar other generation, which so few ever are conscious of at all, on account of its comparatively large size. Very little apparatus is needed; a flower pot with its base standing in water and covered with a bell glass, and upon the soil in the flower pot a ripening spore branch (to find one ripe and yet unscattered is not always to be achieved), is all that is necessary. In such conditions and in due time the spore will germinate into small plants near an inch in size, bearing on the under surface the two sets of organs whose union produces again the huge spore-bearing Osmunda, so much admired and desired that in many districts it is entirely exterminated. The new plant will be produced upon the old one; it will send its roots into the soil and grow upon the spot where the spore germinated.

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, July, 2010