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, 1901, pgs. 715-717

No. 7.

In September there is little to do in the garden except the continual, everlasting task of keeping tidy. The clearing away must ever go on; dead flowers, dead stems, dead leaves, must all go to make clear and visible the living, the growing, the blooming. All summer through, the holly leaves fall, all August through, the crab tree sheds its leaves; when September arrives, the first brown oak leaves and the rowan leaves bestrew the walks in the trees' vicinity. The bracted fruits of the limes fly far in the early days of the month. Outside the garden, as too inside, there are already indications of early autumn; birch leaves are yellow, one here and there, all over the trees, one tree has almost all yellow leaves; cherry trees have parti-couloured leaves; wych elms have some that are cream coloured; hazel bushes have quite one half of the foliage greenless; Spanish chestnuts are turning early; ash trees are prominent with bunches of pale pendulous fruit; rowans are scarlet-berried, and guilder-roses hang out balls of crimson succulence. Hazels have fat catkins growing, hidden among their leaves; alders have the empty cones of last year open and dark brown, the full ones of this year green and tightly closed, and the new catkins getting ready for the year to come. The longest of the next year's catkins are the birch's: the fruit of this year is ripe in green catkins and in brown ones and in some that are half green, half brown; when one opens the green catkins 'tis only the bracts that are green, the fruit inside is brown, tiny nutlets with two diaphanous wings and two reddish horns.

In the garden at noon of early September days, the seed-vessels of Alstroemeria (the Peruvian Lily) are splitting, with loud reports, and scattering themselves over the bed for yards around. These explosions are sudden, and therefore difficult to watch; the central column seems to contract and to force the pod open from the top downwards, the whole fruit being flung from the plant in a broken-up condition. The seeds germinate where they fall, and may be removed as little plants three or four inches high, in eighteen or twenty months from the date of violent scattering. These orange-brown flowers from Chili, A. aurea, grow very abundantly, almost rankly in my garden, without any of the precautions and directions given in Robinson's English Flower Garden as necessary to their culture having been attended to. A friend; whose gardener was willing to dig deep, gave me a good-sized clump, it was divided and set in three places where it flourishes in large masses ever increasing. A neighbour, who was starting a garden, purchased a number of Alstroemerias, different sorts; a year or more after, I asked him about them, and he answered that they were not—another instance of an oft-noted fact, that which is given thrives, that which is bought dies!

The Crab trees bear both their own rosy fruit and abundant flowers of the honeysuckle, the second crop of bloom, that comes most years inside the garden as well as outside, where the autumn flowers possess the fields; Ragwort in blossom and seed, Golden-rod, Field Scabions, Devil's-bit and Sheep's-bit growing side by side. The brake-fern is half russet and gold, and the rest of it droops heavy with the weight of descending chlorophyll. The green that is blue-green seems bluer than ever, and where the light shines upon it seems to reflect the sky, from huge drooping bracken-fronds and hedge-skirting Mercury. Enchanter's Night-shade has flowers and fruits that are clothed with fine white and hooked hairs. The larger Lotus shows whorls of more than inch-long browning pods. Spikes of Woodsage are withered and shriveled. The perforate St. John's-wort has large bulging seed-bags of yellow-green, surrounded by brown remnants of petal and stamen. Snow-berries gleam white from the garden-bounding hedges.

In the weeding of August, the Scarlet Pimpernel was suffered to remain; in September, the blue-flowered Pimpernel has been found in the shelter of some large plants, with a foot-long stem and many seed capsules. Some weeds are suffered to grown on undisturbed, the graceful Fool's Parsley is one of them. By the river side the great purple Loosestrife has all gone to seed, but it still stands in dull purple spikes as one must not let the garden plants grow, and for several reasons. There are not many plants that one can afford to let run to seed in a garden, and yet there are some few. All the species of Clematis are graceful with feathery plumes which form their fruit, those of the Traveller's Joy lasting on to decorate the winter hedges. The Flame Nasturtium, Tropocolum speciosum, bears remarkable fruits that are blue, a true blue, as valuable in their time as the scarlet flowers, only not so sure to come. What governs this matter I don't know; is it that the flowers do not get fertilized, or that the fruit does not ripen? Sometimes there is much blue fruit, sometimes none. In a hot, well-manured garden, many things show themselves whether one wishes it or not, and once can add to the beauty of the garden by availing one's self of this means, always, of course, in a judicious way. It is only necessary to know the aspect of every seedling that springs, and to let such as spring up in the right places remain there, and to remove those that come in unappropriate spots to another site. Evening Primrose, Foxglove, Honesty, Snapdragon, Columbine, various species of Oxalis, as well as many others, lend themselves to such guidance. The tall Evening Primrose must stand well in the background, and there in July and August evenings, a single plants will open fifty or more great yellow blooms, scented and of glorious colour in the twilight; these flowers remain open during the next morning, and if it be cloudy till afternoon, the bright sunlight only withering them away, to be followed as the half light grows dim by another set, and so it goes on day after day, or rather night after night. The garden lover will go out last thing to enjoy and revel in the beauty of scent and sight along with the creatures for whom this evening glory takes place—the moths of the twilight and the deeper darkness, who fertilize each individual flower, which has honey and pollen enough and to spare, not only for the nightfliers, but for the long-tongued bees that use the sunlight for their working time.

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Mar 2009