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Title: The English Flower Garden - with illustrative notes
Author: Bright, Henry Arthur
Language: English
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                        ENGLISH FLOWER GARDEN.

[Illustration: LOGO]


                         ENGLISH FLOWER GARDEN

                        WITH ILLUSTRATIVE NOTES


                            HENRY A. BRIGHT


                           MACMILLAN AND CO.

       _The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved._

                      R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR,
                          BREAD STREET HILL.


IT is just a year ago since this Essay on “The English Flower Garden”
was published in the _Quarterly Review_.

It was written with a twofold object: to give in the smallest compass
an outline history of English gardens, and to show once again what
makes the true charm and happiness of a garden. Many—perhaps too
partial—friends have urged me to reprint this article. They have
reminded me that, when the immediate circulation of any one number of
a Review has ceased, its articles are virtually lost and buried, and
they assure me that there are readers who may not have already seen,
and who would yet care to read, this Essay. I hardly know how this may
be, but I do know how very much I am indebted to the proprietor of the
_Quarterly_ for his great kindness in allowing me the opportunity of
this reprint. Should this little book succeed in retaining the friends
that _A Year in a Lancashire Garden_ was happy enough to make, it will
indeed be fortunate. It has been to me a matter of no little surprise
(as, naturally, of pleasure) to find from the generous notices of the
Press and from numerous private letters from owners of gardens, to
whom I am entirely a stranger, that the views I have expressed as to
the necessity of a reform in our gardens are very widely held. So long
as a garden is only regarded as a means for displaying masses of gay
colouring, half the delight and all the real interest of it are gone.
It is only when we learn to make friends of individual plants, and
recall their history and associations, that a garden becomes a pleasure
for the intellect as well as for the senses. But I do not wish to
carry my opinions to any extravagant length. It is Voltaire, I think,
who says that “a man may have preferences but no exclusions,” and I
certainly would exclude nothing that is good in the present system.
Bedding-out is occasionally very effective and sometimes necessary;
and, on the other hand, a garden—such as I saw suggested somewhere the
other day—which should contain only flowers known to Chaucer, would
be extremely disappointing. However, bedding-out can take very good
care of itself, and Chaucerian gardens will not be largely popular.
Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that flowering shrubs and hardy herbaceous
plants may be far more generally grown and cared for than they are at

It has seemed on the whole best to leave this Essay as it was written.
I have made a few verbal corrections and inserted one or two short
sentences, and that is all. I have, however, added illustrative Notes
on points which seemed of some little interest.



  LOVE OF GARDENING                1


  TOPIARIAN WORK                   8

  LANDSCAPE GARDENERS             11

  BEDDING-OUT                     16

  CARPET-BEDDING                  23

  SPRING GARDENING                26


  THE ALPINE GARDEN               29

  FOUNTAINS                       31

  THE WILD GARDEN                 32

  THE SHRUBBERY                   35

  HARDY SHRUBS                    39

  THE WALLED GARDEN               43

  OLD HERBALS                     45

  FLOWERS OF WINTER               47

  SPRING FLOWERS                  49

  ROSES                           51

  SUMMER FLOWERS                  52


  EXPLORERS                       57

  BOTANISTS                       60

  GARDEN ASSOCIATIONS             65

  FLOWER PAINTING                 67

  FLOWER SHOWS                    71




   II. ARS TOPIARIA               82

  III. A POET’S FLOWER-BED        86


    V. THE CHRISTMAS ROSE         92


                        ENGLISH FLOWER GARDEN.


AS spring comes on, the fancy of any man who cares about a garden,
“lightly turns to thoughts” of flowers and the gardens where they grow.
Never, perhaps, was the art of gardening so popular,—I wish we could
say so intelligent,—as at present. The stately homes of England,
the villas that line the roads of suburban districts, the cottages
clustering round a village green, often even a back yard or window-sill
in the heart of some manufacturing town, all testify in their different
ways to the desire of having an adornment of flowers. Indeed this
desire, as Bacon long ago pointed out, in his famous and often-quoted
essay, is as old as man himself; or, if any one prefer to trace back
the instinct, not to the Garden of Eden, but to the habits of a bird,
he may be reminded of the Gardener Bower-bird (_Amblyornis inornata_)
of New Guinea, who, making a bower for the pleasure of his mate, will
decorate the front of it with flowers carefully stuck into the sod.[1]

Nothing more strikingly shows the interest that is now taken in
gardening than the number of books that are published on the subject.
Besides those that deal less with the craft of the gardener than with
the flowers themselves, we have Manuals of gardening, with their
annual and monthly calendars of gardening operations, their practical
advice and technical knowledge. Then there are the almost countless
catalogues of the nurserymen and seedsmen, which often add excellent,
and sometimes coloured, engravings, and always supply much useful
information. Moreover, in addition to the gardening articles

that appear in the _Field_ and elsewhere, there are no less than six
weekly newspapers, and five monthly periodicals, all devoted to
gardening. Lastly, from time to time some publication comes out in
parts, as a monograph on some particular species or group of plants,
which, with its beautifully-painted illustrations, will one day take
its place among other magnificent folios in the botanical libraries of
the world.

So much has been written about the old English or Elizabethan garden,
that I need hardly enter into great detail on the subject. Bacon has
told us what his ideal garden was—the outside lawn, the enclosed
garden, and the wilderness. Of course few gardens can ever have
approached the perfection of which he dreams, but his general type was
the type of the garden of his day. He does not approve of “the making
of knots or figures with divers coloured earths” near the house; but
in the garden proper, which is enclosed by hedges with green alleys
running past them, he will allow of “variety of device.” Each month
is to have its own flowers, and he values flowers, as Milton seems
to have done, more for fragrance than for colour. And the variety of
flowers of the old garden was, even in comparatively small places, far
greater than we might at first suppose. Thomas Tusser, who was then a
Suffolk farmer, published his _Points of Husbandry_ in 1557, and he
gives a long list of the plants he grew for the kitchen, for salads,
for physic, and of flowers for “windows and pots.” The New Shakespeare
Society, too, has lately been reprinting Harrison’s _Description of
England_, first printed in 1577, and he, in a chapter on gardening,
describes his own “little plot, void of all cost in keeping,” as
having, “in the varietie of simples,” “verie neere three hundred of
one sort and other contained therein, no one of them being common or
usually to be had.”

Two of the most celebrated gardens of those days were Nonsuch and
Cobham. Nonsuch seems to have had a number of statues, and a wonderful
fountain, with Diana and Actæon; and its lilac-trees are particularly
mentioned. Of Cobham, in Kent, then belonging to Lord Cobham, but now
to Lord Darnley, Holinshed says, “No varietie of strange flowers and
trees do want, which praise or price maie obtaine from the furthest
part of Europe or from other strange countries, whereby it is not
inferior to the Garden of Semiramis.” A little later, Lord Fairfax’s
garden at Nun-Appleton was glorified by Andrew Marvell. It was built,
as was supposed to be appropriate for a soldier’s garden, in the form
of a fort with five bastions, and

        “the flowers as on parade
  Under their colours stand displayed,
  Each regiment in order grows,
  That of the tulip, pink, and rose.”

Later on still (in 1685) Sir William Temple, in his celebrated essay,
described the gardens in his day as not often exceeding six or eight
acres, enclosed by walls, and “laid out in a manner wholly for
advantage of fruits, flowers, and the product of kitchen gardens.” He
goes on to say, that

 “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 to any perfection. It ought to lie
 to the best parts of the house, so as to be but like one of the rooms
 out of which you step into another. The part of your garden next your
 house (besides the walls that go round it) should be a parterre for
 flowers, and grass-plots bordered with flowers; or if, according to
 the newest mode, it be cast all into grass-plots and gravel walks, the
 dryness of these should be relieved with fountains, and the plainness
 of those with statues.”

He then quotes the garden at Moor Park, made by the Countess of
Bedford, as “the perfectest figure of a garden I ever saw.” He
says, “the length of the house, where the best rooms or of most use
or pleasure are, lies upon the breadth of the garden:” the “great
parlour” opens upon a broad terrace walk, and then three flights of
steps descend to a very large parterre, with its standard laurels, its
fountains, and its statues. This garden must obviously have been a
garden of an architectural rather than of a horticultural character,
and was not at all the ordinary garden of the ordinary country house.
But the garden, which we properly associate with those described by
the poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was the garden
“enclosed by walls,” within which were flower-beds and herb and
kitchen gardens, divided by flowering shrubs, and green walks, and
verdant alleys. It was in such a garden that Spenser’s butterfly met
its untimely end, and such were

  “The gardens of Adonis, fraught
  With pleasures manifold.”

It was in the “pleached bower” of such a garden, where the ripe
honeysuckles obscured the sun, that Shakespeare’s Beatrice was to hide.
Of such a garden Andrew Marvell was thinking when he described the
lilies and roses, on which Sylvio’s fawn was wont to feed. In these old
gardens Cowley wrote his essays; and Herrick gathered the fancies of a
poet, or the warnings of a moralist, with his early violets and fading

And so, with but few changes, these Elizabethan gardens grew on from
year to year, till a certain modification occurred when William III.
introduced a taste for whatever was characteristic of Holland: statues
were fewer, and hedges of box or yew, clipped into fantastic shapes,
became all the fashion. These clipped hedges, indeed, were no new
invention, as Sir Walter Scott appears to have thought, for Bacon had
denounced them. He did “not like images cut out in juniper or other
garden stuff, they be for children.” Earlier still, Leland, in his
_Itinerary_, speaks of the Castle of Wrexhill, and says that outside
“the mote” were orchards, and “in the orchards were mountes _opere

But the most famous specimen of Topiarian work in England is probably
that at Levens Hall in Westmoreland. It was the work of Beaumont, a
well-known gardener of his day, and dates from 1701, the last year of
William III.’s reign. Colonel Graham was at that time owner of Levens,
and some curious letters from his steward still exist, describing the
laying-out of the grounds and the planting of the yews, of which one
group was clipped into the shape of Queen Elizabeth with her maids of

Long rows of trees, moreover, were now formed on the several sides of
great houses, and at

Cobham (the varied fortune of whose garden is singularly instructive)
a semicircle of trees was planted near the west front, from which
radiated five avenues. But the Dutch fashions and the Topiarian work
and the long avenues were to be of no long duration. It is more than
probable that political feeling, as well as mere fashion, may have had
something to do with the change in many cases; but, however this may
be, those who set themselves up as men of taste began to find fault
with the existing style. Pope was among the first to discover that
there was a monotony when grove nodded to grove and each alley had
its brother, and he insisted that nature must “never be forgot,” and
that one must “consult the genius of the place in all.” So he set to
work to consult the genius of his own villa at Twickenham, and this
genius certainly prevented anything monotonous. He had flower-beds,
and slopes, and mounds, and vistas, and a cypress-grove, and a
shell-temple, and an orangery, and a bowling-green, and, above all, a
wonderful grotto, “finished with shells, and interspersed with pieces
of looking-glass in angular forms.”

And it was about this time that Batty Langley, also of Twickenham,
wrote his _New Principles of Gardening, or the Laying-out and Planting
Parterres, Groves, Wildernesses, Labyrinths, Avenues, Parks, &c., after
a more Grand and Rural manner than has been done before_. This “grand
_and_ rural manner” expresses pretty clearly the confusion we find
all through his book. He must have known Pope’s villa, and probably
the poet himself, and it is evident that he too intended to consult
nature and the “genius” of a place. He says there is not “anything more
_shocking_ than a _stiff regular garden_, where, after we have seen
one quarter thereof, the very same is repeated in all the remaining
parts, so that we are tired, instead of being further entertained with
something new as expected.” He thinks “our gardens much the worst of
any in the world, some few excepted,” and is severe on the late Mr.
London and Mr. Wise for having laid out gardens for the nobility “in
a regular, stiff, and stuft-up manner,” with crowded evergreens and
“trifling flower-knots.” But the compliments which he pays to nature
are, after all, not much more than lip-homage. His principles seem
very right, but his designs, of which we have very many, show that the
“grand” had quite got the better of the “rural.” Even the design of
“a rural garden after the new manner” consists of “a fine large plain
parterre, environed with an easy, agreeable slope,” and “adorned with
Apollo, Minerva, and Pallas (_sic_), the Seven Liberal Arts, Mercury,
and Pytho;” then there is an octagon basin, with Neptune, and avenues
and canals and more statues, and “we can never know when we have seen
the whole.”

And now the period of the so-called “landscape gardeners” began, though
in reality their business was rather with the _grounds_ than with the
garden proper.

Of these Kent was the first of eminence. Their idea was to destroy
all the old-fashioned formalities, at the sacrifice of a certain
stateliness which the style possessed, and to bring the scenery of an
English park up to the house itself. But they were constantly haunted
and harassed by the word “picturesque.” Was Nature more picturesque
when closely followed or carefully improved? Was it the duty of the
landscape gardener to arrange his clumps and belts of trees in the way
in which they would look best in a _picture_? This was evidently Kent’s
idea, and Daines Barrington, speaking of him, says it was reserved for
him “to realize these beautiful descriptions [in the _Faery Queen_],
for which he was peculiarly adapted by being a painter, as the true
test of perfection in a modern garden is that a landscape painter
would choose it as a composition.” Kent’s great work seems to have
been the carrying out of the alterations at Stowe, on which Bridgeman
had been originally employed, and much of the beauty of those famous
grounds—which, however, were at least as artificial as natural—was
owing to his taste. The two peculiarities now generally associated with
his name are the planting of _dead trees_ to look picturesque, and the
constant use of _Ha-ha’s_ (or sunk fences), which he is often said to
have originated, though, as matter of fact, Batty Langley also (and I
think previously) advocates their adoption.[3] “Capability Brown” was
perhaps the next most noted landscape gardener. His idea was always to
improve nature, and he was particularly strong in artificial lakes and
canals, with rather formal clumps of trees. He had many disciples, and
it seemed as if half the fine places in England were to be reformed on
the new principles.

But two formidable critics came into the field, Knight and Price. Their
plan was to leave Nature as much as possible to herself, to let the
stream wind about as a stream should, instead of being dammed into a
canal, and to allow trees to grow as they liked. Price’s famous _Essay
on the Picturesque_ is still full of interest, and shows good sense in
the exceptions he allows to his general rule, as, for instance, where
he admits “architectural ornaments” in the garden round the house. He
speaks, too, with regret of having once destroyed a beautiful old
garden, “sacrificed to undulations of ground only.” But he certainly
seems to carry his general rule to very considerable length. He thinks
that “many of the circumstances that give variety and spirit to a wild
place might successfully be imitated in a dressed place;” and although
he cannot advocate modelling a carriage-drive after a cart-rut, or
having water-docks or thistles before one’s door, he still thinks
the cart-rut and the thistles might furnish useful hints. In another
chapter he discusses “the connection between picturesqueness and
deformity,” and explains how large heaps of stones or mould may at
first be considered as deformities and afterwards appear picturesque.
It is impossible not to be reminded of Mrs. Rafferty’s description of
her garden in Miss Edgeworth’s _Absentee_: “‘Yes,’ she said, ‘she hated
everything straight; it was so formal and _unpicturesque_. Uniformity
and conformity,’ she observed, ‘had their day, but now, thank the
stars of the present day, irregularity and deformity bear the bell and
have the majority.’”

Another novelist, Miss Austen, in her _Mansfield Park_, preserves the
name of Repton, who was the last of the noted landscape gardeners of
the last century: “Repton, or anybody of that sort,” says a certain
Mr. Rushworth, “would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down;
the avenue that leads from the west front to the top of the hill, you
know.” And this is just what Repton would have done. He was for ever
cutting down avenues, and out of the five beautiful lime avenues at
Cobham, which must have given such a stately appearance to the place,
no less that four fell victims to his axe. The idea was of course that
avenues prevented the ground from being picturesque and natural, and
Mason, in his _English Garden_, urges “the cruel task, yet needful,” of
breaking “th’ obdurate line” of trees, though

  “A chosen few,—and yet, alas! but few—
  Of these, the old protectors of the plain,
  May yet be spared.”

The next marked development in gardening refers more particularly
to the flower-garden itself. It was between the years 1835 and 1840
that the mode which we call “bedding-out” began to came into general
fashion. John Caie, who was gardener to the Duke of Bedford, and
afterwards at Inverary Castle, is often said to have originated the
system; but Mr. Frost, writing from Dropmore to the editor of the
_Gardener’s Chronicle_, says:

 “I helped to fill the beds here in the spring of 1823, long before Mr.
 Caie had charge of the Campden Hill gardens. It was Lady Grenville who
 began the bedding system in the first place, but she quite abhorred
 both ribbon and carpet bedding. The dowager Duchess of Bedford used to
 visit the grounds here, and much admired the garden, and when she went
 to Campden Hill to live she sent Mr. Caie here to see the place, and
 very probably to take notes of what he saw.”

It would thus appear that to Lady Grenville in her Dropmore gardens
the credit of being the first to bed-out may fairly belong. But some
fifteen years passed before the system was generally adopted. It then
grew rapidly in favour, and before long it was clear that the whole
character of the English garden would be changed. One of the first
plants to be bedded-out extensively was the “Tom Thumb” pelargonium, or
geranium as it was then more commonly called; it was a dwarf scarlet,
and was considered to be of great beauty till the better varieties were
introduced. Then followed verbeneas, calceolarias, and other flowers,
which could be kept as cuttings through the winter, and then be planted
out when summer weather made it safe to do so. And there were many
advantages in bedding-out. In large public gardens, where a glow of
colour only was wanted, where no one stopped to look at any particular
plant, and where a certain uniformity of growth was essential, it
answered extremely well. In gardens which are, as it were, the
approaches of great houses, and which seem laid out rather by the
architect than the gardener, the bedding-out system was both convenient
in itself and striking in its effect. Nothing for instance, in its way,
can be more beautiful than to look down from the long gallery at Crewe
Hall upon the formal garden with its curves of variegated gravel and
its thick box edging, its broad terraced walks and flights of steps,
guarded by quaintly-carved balustrades and strange heraldic monsters.
But it hardly strikes one as a garden; it is rather an appendage to
the house itself, adding to its stateliness, and recalling, by its
prevailing colours of buff and blue, the old traditions of the family.

But what is all very well for public parks and very important mansions
is out of place in smaller country houses, and becomes absurd in small
villa gardens. However, the fashion had seized hold of gardeners and
masters both, and every one must have what was called an Italian
garden. But to make their Italian garden they must do one of two
things. They must either root up the old herbaceous plants, which
year after year had blossomed and scented the air in the old walled
garden; or they must take a piece of their lawn, and, cutting it up
into segments, then plant out their nurslings of the greenhouse. It so
chanced, moreover, that a few years after the new fashion came in,
the duty on glass was taken off, and greenhouses, which had once been
a luxury, now became a supposed necessary of life. Hence, bedding-out,
instead of being an expensive form of gardening, became a singularly
easy and not a very costly method of having a certain show of bright
and effective colouring. But this colouring was all. In the old walled
garden, instead of the plants, which so long had had their home there,
each of which knew its season and claimed welcome as an old friend,
there were bare beds till June, and then, when the summer was hottest,
a glare of the hottest, brightest, colours. But the walled garden was
better than the newly-cut circles on the lawn. In the garden there
would at least be the shade of one of the garden walls. In the outside
Italian garden, where, with the smooth old turf, trees had been cut
away, there would be no shade whatever. Nobody would really care to
walk there, and probably no one would be allowed to gather flowers, for
fear of spoiling the symmetry of the beds. Nor can any one feel the
slightest interest about the hundred little pelargoniums in one bed,
or the fifty calceolarias in the next. Each plant is exactly like its
neighbour. All individuality has gone, and it is impossible to forget
that some four months is the limit of their short lives, and that
the next year a new “crop” of pelargoniums and calceolarias, equally
without interest or character, will appear in their place. Then too the
bedded-out plants are plants with no associations as regards the past.
No poet ever sang their beauty, and no legend tells the origin of their
birth. Again, they are almost entirely destitute of scent, and to our
forefathers at least the scent of flowers was their chief attraction.
Often too it is questionable whether a number of small beds cut out
of the green turf really looks well; in nine cases out of ten it has
a make-shift appearance; flowers were wanted, and the lawn has been

“Nothing,” says Bacon, “is more pleasant to the eye than green grass
nicely shorn,”—a sentiment which Mason, in that somewhat tiresome
poem of his from which I have already quoted, has sense enough to

  “For green is to the eye, what to the ear
  Is harmony, or to the smell the rose.”

But green lawns all over England were being destroyed. The
flower-borders, where there had been no walled garden, had hitherto
generally followed the line of the shrubberies and plantations, and the
windings of garden walks; but these and the flowers that grew there
were now neglected.

Still worse was the effect on the smaller villa-gardens. They had had
their flowers on the sunny side of the garden wall, their pleasant bit
of lawn with specimen trees, their fence of scented shrubs. The trees
were destroyed, the lawn was cut up; and all for the sake of red and
yellow patches during four summer months. Even the cottagers in many
places seem to have forgotten the old English flowers, such as grew in
Perdita’s garden, the “hot lavender,” the marygold, the crown-imperial
and the lily, and have taken to slips of pelargonium and the like.

Nor even yet had the abuse of the bedding-out system done its worst.
There were still, as we have said, in many gardens, strips of border
which, not being in the form of rounded beds, were allowed, half under
protest as it were, to harbour some of the old flowers. Unfortunately
for them, ribbon borders were invented, and the last sanctuary of
herbaceous plants was often ruthlessly destroyed. Pelargoniums again,
and calceolarias, with lobelias in front, and dark-leaved perillas
in the background, made up the new ribbon border. It was no doubt
effective enough in its way, but we have now seen it almost everywhere,
and for the last fifteen years at least. Of course there are happy
variations of it in great places, and where the gardener is a man of
taste and ability; but it sometimes appears to us that such gardeners
must be very rare exceptions. Such a ribbon border as I have described,
and extremely badly grown moreover, is, or was a year or two ago,
supposed to be the appropriate adornment of Shakespeare’s garden at New
Place in Stratford.

A further modification in the round beds has been introduced still more
recently. It is the bedding-out of zonal pelargoniums, of echeverias,
and of other plants, whose beauty lies in the foliage rather than the
blossom. No doubt they give softer tints to the general effect, but
they are a poor substitute for the varied beauty of an old garden. It
may be difficult to find interest in the ordinary “bedding-out stuff,”
but they are poetry itself compared to plants which chiefly remind one
of the last days of the garden of “the Sensitive Plant,” when, instead
of all odorous flowers, there were only growths

  “Whose coarse leaves were splashed with many a speck
  Like the water-snake’s belly and the toad’s back.”

And this latest fancy is itself falling into the further degradation
of _carpet_-bedding. That a carpet should imitate a flower-bed is one
thing; years ago in _Casa Guidi Windows_, Mrs. Browning wrote of some
carpets, where

                “your foot
  Dips deep in velvet roses.”

This may be well enough; but who wants flower-beds to look like
carpets? They may strike you at first as being ingenious, and even
pretty, but the feeling is at once followed by a sense of their
essential debasement as regards gardening. No flower is permitted, and
the glorification of stonecrops and houseleeks is the chief result.
But indeed the geometrical figures of the carpet-bedding are not the
worst. The gardeners are now trying their skill in designs on their
carpet-beds, and names, mottoes, coats of arms, and other frivolities,
are becoming common. The most stupid follies of the Topiarian age were
graceful and sensible compared to this. It is less childish to trim a
yew-tree into a peacock than to arrange your sedums and alternantheras
to look like animals on a badly-woven carpet. Nor has the absurdity
even the merit of being original. It is really an old French invention,
and about the time of Henry IV. the gardens at Fontainebleau and
Chantilly were known for their quaint devices in flowers, their ships,
armorial bearings, and cyphers interlaced. The whole matter has been
well summed up by Sir Joseph Hooker, who writes:

 “It is indeed astonishing that the asters, helianthus, rudbeckias,
 silphiums, and numberless other fine North American plants, all so
 easily grown and so handsome, should be entirely neglected in English
 gardens, and this in favour of carpets, hearthrugs, and ribbons,
 forming patterns of violent colours, which, though admired for being
 the fashion on the lawn and borders of our gardens and grounds, would
 not be tolerated on the floor of a drawing-room or boudoir.”[4]

Well, as we can do nothing worse in this direction, we may at last hope
for a reaction, in which a new school, with some regard to nature, but
without the extravagance of the old “picturesque” gardeners, may bring
us back to good taste and common sense.

It is of course absolutely impossible to form even an estimate of
the number of bedding-out plants used in our gardens during a single
season, to be discarded when the season ends. It must be something
enormous. One single florist in the neighbourhood of London sends to
market annually more than 80,000 plants of one description
of pelargonium alone. It is calculated that the bedding-out of a
single good-sized garden will take at least 100,000 plants to make it

But now, leaving the question of summer bedding-out, we are glad
to note signs of real advance in other directions. It is something
that within the last ten or fifteen years our gardeners should have
discovered that bare earth, all spring, is not particularly beautiful,
and should have taken to what is called Spring gardening. All
flowers are welcome in spring, and even masses of double daisies are
acceptable. But indeed in all the most elaborate bedding-out of summer,
there is nothing that can give greater pleasure for colouring than a
blue lake of _Myosotis dissitiflora_, or of autumn-sown _Nemophila
insignis_. Then again, owing to our more rapid and easy intercourse
with Holland and Belgium, tulips and hyacinths, which, however, were
always in favour, are more used than they were some years ago. The
quantities sent over by the gardeners of the Low Countries must be very
great. Not only do the choicer bulbs go to our own nurserymen, but
they are now sent direct to many private gardens; while large auction
sales in London, Liverpool, and elsewhere, clear off the inferior roots
or those exported by the less well-known growers. Mr. Burbidge tells us
that the value of the flower-roots sent from Holland a year or two ago
was nearly 60,000_l._, and one English grower imports annually 160,000
tulip bulbs. A certain proportion of these will be required for forcing
purposes for the house and the conservatory, but many more will be used
in the open garden. A bed of well-grown tulips is certainly a very
beautiful object, and there are some at least who believe in the rich
fragrance of the tulip, which a living poet says “might be the very
perfume of the sun.”

Besides the spring garden, there is in some places the Semi-tropical
garden, and in others the Alpine garden. No one has done more than has
Mr. W. Robinson[5] to call up an interest in
the broad-foliaged plants which are the chief ornament in the gardens
of Paris, and in the delicate tufts of flowers which nestle in the
crevices of our rockeries. But there is much still to be done. It
is, after all, only occasionally that either Semi-tropical or Alpine
gardening is to be seen in any perfection. For the former, Battersea
and Victoria Parks are extremely good, and for the latter the Messrs.
Backhouse’s nursery, near York, has a deserved reputation. Many very
handsome semi-tropical plants are all but hardy, and require at most
only a protection during the winter months. The canna was known to
Gerard and to Cowley, and needs no more care than a dahlia. The Pampas
grass and _Arundo conspicua_ are perfectly hardy. The _Arundinaria
falcata_ is rather more tender, but unless it flowers, when, like the
American aloe, it will die, it will generally spring up from the root,
even when its long canes themselves are cut by the frost. The aralia,
ricinus, and others, are no doubt safer for being housed during the
winter, and then plunged, either as centres for flower-beds, or as
separate shrubs in the outside garden. Nothing gives greater character
to any garden than the occasional introduction of plants like these.
They are now indeed all the more needed since the old plan of having
orangeries has so nearly disappeared. And yet how well worth the
trouble—the very little trouble—that it cost, the orangery always
was. Nothing could be more stately than a broad walk, along the sides
of which were ranged the orange-trees, each in its huge tub, and each
fruit-bearing and flowering together. And with the orange-trees would
be the white-blossoming myrtles and the _Clethra arborea_, with its
scented sprays, like lily-of-the-valley.

As regards the Alpine garden, the first thing to be remembered is,
that the rockwork on which it is to be formed should look as natural
as possible. Nothing can be more hideous than the usual varieties of
suburban rockeries, where the intention seems to be to make everything
as unnatural and distorted as can well be imagined How well one knows
the jagged fragments of red sandstone standing on end, or the blocks
of various formations heaped up together, with bits of green glass,
coarse coral, and big shells stuck in at different corners, and with
cement between to keep all in place.[6] The rocks used should, if
possible, be the rocks of the country; they should appear to crop up
from the soil; and they should be so laid that plants should really be
able to grow in their fissures and interstices. Scarcely less important
is the choice of a site, for if the rock-garden is placed under the
drip of trees it is hopeless to expect that any of the more delicate
and beautiful Alpine plants can thrive. Most ferns, on the other
hand, will of course do better in moist, shady places; so that it is
impossible successfully to combine the Alpine garden and the fernery,
as is very often attempted. Let the Alpine plants have sun and light,
and give the ferns the cool shade in which they are most at home.
Aquilegias and a few other woodland flowers may be planted in among
the osmunda, the hart’s-tongue, and other hardy ferns; and rare mosses
and lichens may be taught to cling to the darker clefts and hollows
of the rock, as in one rockery which I know, where the “shining moss”
(_Schistostega pennata_) catches and refracts the sunlight with a
metallic lustre like that of the humming-bird’s breast.

One of the greatest ornaments to a garden is a fountain, but many
fountains are curiously ineffective. A fountain is most beautiful when
it leaps high into the air, and you can see it against a background of
green foliage. To place a fountain among low flower-beds, and then to
substitute small fancy jets, that take the shape of a cup, or trickle
over into a basin of gold-fish, or toy with a gilded ball, is to do all
that is possible to degrade it. The real charm of a fountain is, when
you come upon it in some little grassy glade of the “pleasaunce,” where
it seems as though it sought, in the strong rush of its waters, to vie
with the tall boles of the forest-trees that surround it. Such was the
fountain in Leigh Hunt’s _Story of Rimini_, which shot up “beneath a
shade of darksome pines,”

  “And ’twixt their shafts you saw the water bright,
  Which through the tops glimmered with show’ring light.”

Bacon speaks of a “heath or desert” as a part of the garden, and
says it is “to be framed as much as may be to a natural wilderness.”
There are to be no trees there, but thickets of honeysuckle and
other trailing plants, and heaps like molehills, set with pinks or
periwinkles, or violets, or various “sweet and sightly” flowers, and
on some of the heaps little bushes of juniper or rosemary, or other
low-growing shrubs, are to be planted. Such a garden would hardly
seem to be one of “natural wildness”; but Bacon’s theory that there
should be a “wild garden” is, with certain modifications, carried out
in various places. But to _cultivate_ a wild garden almost involves
a paradox. The plants should grow of their own accord, and as their
vagrant fancy takes them. The prettiest of all wild gardens is when the
bluebells are so thick that they seem a reflection of the sky, or the
celandine lies in sunny patches on a bank, or the primrose and violet
come up here and there at the foot of old forest-trees. Sometimes,
too, less common flowers, which have been planted years ago, and have
spread as it has pleased them, give an effect of even greater beauty.
We remember one large shrubbery all blue with hepaticas, and another
golden with the winter aconite. Other plants, such as the anchusa or
the _Petasites fragrans_, may be trusted to take care of themselves,
and are well worth some half-wild corner. On the other hand, it is not
well to attempt to grow native plants when the conditions of their new
life would be unfavourable. It is almost sad to see some bee-orchis, or
grass of Parnassus, or mountain auricula, or other rare British plant,
transplanted into a shrubbery border. It is far better to leave these
“wildings of nature,” as Campbell calls them, in their native haunts,
and to experience for oneself a new pleasure in finding them growing
wild and vigorous on down, or bog, or hilly slope. Occasionally a
garden flower which has sprung up from some stray seed will add a
certain unexpected charm to a walk or grass plot. Such flowers are in
a sense weeds no doubt, but “weeds of glorious feature,” and there are
few who, like Lady Byron—and the story is characteristic—would at
once order the gardener to uproot them. One beautiful form of semi-wild
garden is where, on some piece of rich peat soil, rhododendrons have
been thickly planted. There is a fine example of this at Knowsley,
where thousands of large shrubs are growing in the greatest luxuriance,
and where, as the slight irregularity of the ground permits, you pass
between banks and slopes and hollows, quite purple with the clustered

It is of course impossible to lay down any code of rules which would be
equally applicable to every garden. As I have already said, there will
always be a certain amount of bedding-out necessary, especially for the
architectural gardens that surround a stately house; but we may hope
that in all bedding-out more attention will be given than at present
to the proper harmony of colours. It really would sometimes appear that
half our English gardeners must be colour-blind. The gaudiest and most
glaring contrasts pain instead of gratifying the eye, with their crude
patches of pink and red and blue and yellow. In France the bedded-out
borders have more generally a variety of plants mixed on the same bed,
and this certainly tends to soften the general effect.

But both in the outside lawns and shrubberies, and in the walled inner
garden, there is much room for improvement. A great principle in laying
out the lawns is the old principle of Batty Langley’s (a principle
which he himself parodied rather than illustrated) of so arranging your
grounds that everything cannot be seen at once, and that each turn of
the walks excites some fresh interest. The curved lines of a shrubbery,
now approaching and now receding, the grass running up into little bays
and recesses among deodaras and groups of rhododendrons, specimen trees
occasionally breaking a formal line, but never dotted about at regular
intervals,—these are the features that lend attraction to a lawn. We
would allow of no flower-bed whatever except the shrubbery border,
though an occasional clump of tritomas, of cannas, or of Pampas grass,
may take the place of flowering shrubs, and start up from corners of
the grass. Their height and general aspect enables them to form part
of the picture. But—one cannot repeat it too often—the expanse of
the lawn should be rarely broken except by shrubberies; and that the
lawn itself should be carefully kept and free from weeds is of course

One of the most beautiful gardens I ever knew depended almost entirely
on the arrangement of its lawns and shrubberies. It had certainly been
most carefully and adroitly planned, and it had every advantage in the
soft climate of the west of England. The various lawns were divided
by thick shrubberies, so that you wandered on from one to the other,
and always came on something new. In front of these shrubberies was a
large margin of flower border, gay with the most effective plants and
annuals. At one corner of the lawn a standard _Magnolia grandiflora_ of
great size held up its chaliced blossoms; at another a tulip-tree was
laden with hundreds of yellow flowers. Here a magnificent _Salisburia_
mocked the foliage of the maiden-hair; and here an old cedar swept the
grass with its huge pendent branches. But the main breadth of each
lawn was never destroyed, and past them you might see the reaches of a
river, now in one aspect, and now in another. Each view was different,
and each was a fresh enjoyment and surprise.

A few years ago, and I revisited the place; the “improver” had been at
work, and had been good enough to _open up_ the view. Shrubberies had
disappeared, and lawns had been thrown together. The pretty peeps among
the trees were gone, the long vistas had become open spaces, and you
saw at a glance all that there was to be seen. Of course the herbaceous
borders, which once contained numberless rare and interesting plants,
had disappeared, and the lawn in front of the house was cut up into
little beds of red pelargoniums, yellow calceolarias, and the rest.

But we have now to speak of the shrubbery. It will depend on its
situation whether or not it is backed by forest-trees, but in any
case it will have a certain number of evergreens in front. To plant
evergreens alone is generally a mistake. Horace Walpole says that he
was “not fond of total plantations of evergreens,” and he was certainly
right. Shrubberies composed entirely of holly, yew, and pinus must
inevitably have a solid, heavy appearance, and their use in winter
barely compensates for their melancholy monotony during the summer
months. They should, wherever it is possible, have deciduous flowering
shrubs planted in among them. Nothing can be prettier than to see the
dark shades of the evergreens lighted up by the fresh tender green
of lilac or laburnum, while, later in the season, the background of
evergreen will in its turn give effect to the purple plumes and golden
tresses. But there is great art in the laying out of shrubberies and
the arrangement of the shrubs. There is the time of flowering to be
considered, and no less the various colours of the blossoms, while
(very occasionally it is true) the tints of the leaves, as they first
expand, or are touched by the chills of autumn, and even the prevailing
tone of bark and branches, are studied, so that there may be always
some happy effect of colouring. But for the most part all this is
neglected. There are very few gardeners who pay the attention they
should to the shrubbery, and still fewer owners of gardens who care to
interfere in the matter. A pinetum has of late years become something
of a fashion, and is therefore often a subject of interest, but the
shrubbery and the shrubbery border are scarcely regarded. Lilacs and
laburnums, scarlet thorns, and rhododendrons are very beautiful; but to
confine our flowering shrubs to these implies either want of knowledge
or want of taste. There are numbers besides, perfectly hardy, or only
requiring some slight protection in the winter, which are comparatively
but little known. Even many old favourites have been allowed to
become unfamiliar. The white and yellow broom, the Ghent azaleas
(excepting perhaps the yellow one), the barberry with its bunches of
golden blossom and coral fruit, the Buddleia with its glaucous leaves
and honeyed balls like tiny oranges, the Gueldres rose covered with
its large white tufts of snow, the scarlet ribes with its brisk scent
of black currant, are not to be seen as often as they once were. The
Judas-tree (Cercis), whose little clusters of pink pea-blossom come out
so early in the year, and the bladder-senna, whose curious paper-like
bags of seed, hanging late on in autumn, burst as you press them with a
sharp report, are still more rarely to be found. Of later introductions
the Weigelia alone seems to hold its own, but the _Desfontainea
spinosa_, looking like a holly, but throwing out scarlet and yellow
tubes of blossom, or the diplopappus, with its leaves like a variegated
thyme, and its flowers like a minute aster, are hardly ever seen. But
there are many more as good as these.

For covering a house the large magnolia is perhaps more beautiful than
anything. The perfume of its white flowers, though too strong for the
house, fills the air for yards round, and comes in stray whiffs through
the open window. This magnolia will flourish abundantly in most places,
and if it does not, it is probably owing to its roots requiring to be
cabined, cribbed, and confined. Other good shrubs for the outside of
the house are the ceanothus, the escallonia, and the cydonia or _Pyrus
japonica_, and these two last are well worth growing as independent
shrubs. The _Pyrus japonica_, moreover, when trained as a hedge, and
breaking out all along its twisted stems into knots of cherry-coloured
blossom, is extremely beautiful.

And in the more favoured nooks of England greenhouse shrubs, such as
camellias and cytisus, may be seen to flourish and flower abundantly
in the open air. There is a striking example of this as far north as
the Anglesea side of the Menai Straits. Thirty years ago Sir John Hay
Williams determined to build a house and form a garden on a steep field
sloping down to the water’s edge. The excessive steepness of the
ground made it necessary to construct a number of supporting walls to
form terraces; and the entire plan was carried out by the owner without
any professional assistance. Huge fuchsias, myrtles, the _Fabiana
imbricata_, and other beautiful flowering shrubs grow up against the
house, and, sheltered by a terrace-wall, are magnificent camellias and
cytisus. I once saw this garden of Rhianva under rather remarkable
circumstances. It was the Sunday (March 24, 1878) when the ill-fated
_Eurydice_ went down. The snow-storm came on, and the snow-flakes
fell heavily on the red and white camellias, which were then in great
perfection. An hour later, and the sun was again shining, the snow was
melting away, and the blossoms appeared from beneath it as fresh as if
nothing had occurred.

In front of the shrubbery border should be placed strong-growing
hardy plants, which, once planted, will give no further trouble.
The monks-hood, with its quaint indigo blossoms, the large evening
primrose, whose yellow stars come out each night all through the
summer,[7] the foxglove, which will sometimes grow eight feet high and
bear from two to three hundred flowers upon a single stem, herbaceous
phloxes of every variety of red and purple hue, pæonies and irises, and
for late autumn the old Michaelmas daisy, are among the most suitable
plants for this purpose.

Passing into the walled garden, we shall probably find the northern
side taken up with vineries and plant-houses, with which, however,
we have nothing to do, except in so far as they supply us with any
tender or half-hardy plants for our garden-beds. In front of these
houses will be great borders of stocks and mignonette, scenting the
air—the mignonette sweetest when the sun is strongest, and the stocks
as evening falls. Broad walks and thick hedges of yew, or privet, or
the tree-box, divide the flower from the kitchen garden; and where
the walks intersect, there may perhaps be an old-fashioned pond with
aquatic plants or a fountain; and here let me say that the rarer
aquatic plants might be much more grown than they are at present, and
of all none is more charming than the _Aponogeton distachyon_, with
its little scent-laden boats of blossom. Every available garden wall
will be covered with fruit-trees, beautiful in spring time with the
pink flowers of peach and nectarine, or the white bloom of pear and
cherry. Near the vineries will probably be the flower garden, divided
into small beds by narrow gravel walks, and with long strips of garden
stretching down along the side of the vegetables or gooseberry bushes,
so that even here there will be something of fragrance and of beauty.
Even the kitchen-garden itself may be so arranged as to keep the more
homely kail-yard out of sight. The graceful plumes of asparagus, the
broad grey leaves of the globe artichoke, the trailing luxuriance of
the gourd, and above all the festoons of scarlet runners (especially
when trained along strings fastened to a centre pole so as to form
cones or tents) are anything but unsightly; then a corner should
be found for a small herb-garden, with little patches of sage and
marjoram, and thyme and mint and fennel. There should be rosemary too,
and tansy for Easter Sunday, and borage to supply a blue flowering
sprig for claret-cup.

When we come to the flower-beds themselves, we have an almost infinite
variety of flowers from which to choose for their adornment. In old
days, when the tulips were over, there were beds of anemones and
ranunculus—and a bed of ranunculus when the sun shines full upon the
scarlet petals is a glorious sight. Then came annuals and herbaceous
plants. Now, as each year brings something new, and the old plants, if
out of fashion, can yet generally be procured, our difficulty is the
difficulty of selection.

We have already quoted Harrison’s description of his Elizabethan
garden, but it is of course in the old English Herbals that we find
the fullest account of what was grown, whether for beauty or for use.
The most famous of these are the _Grete Herbal_, by Peter Treveris,
published in 1516, and Turner’s _Herbal_, with the date of 1568; but
better known than either are Gerard’s _Herbal_, of which the first
edition appeared in 1597, and Parkinson’s _Paradisus Terrestris_,
published in 1629, and dedicated to Henrietta Maria. An early chapter
in Parkinson is taken up with the various edgings for “knots and
trayles,” and he says, “the one are living herbes, and the others are
dead materials, as leade, boords, bones, tyles, &c.” Among “living
herbes” he mentions thrift as having been “most anciently received,”
lavender, cotton, and slips of juniper or yew; but on the whole he
recommends “French or Dutch boxe.” His flowers, he divides into English
and “outlandish” flowers, and his list is extensive enough for a good
garden of to-day. “Of daffodils,” he writes, “there are almost a
hundred sorts;” and his list of “tulipas,” as he calls them, extends
over several pages, and is at least as full as a modern nurseryman’s

Two hundred and fifty years have passed since this was written, and
innumerable new varieties and species have since been introduced. To
name no others, we have the annuals of California and the flowering
shrubs of Japan, the heliotrope of Peru, the fuchsia of Chili, and the
dahlia of Mexico. But the illustrated pages of Curtis, of Sweet, and
of Loudon, will help us in our choice of flowers, whether annuals or
herbaceous plants. It is impossible to do more than recall the names of
some of the oldest favourites: and first among the flowers of the year
is the Christmas rose. “I saw,” quaintly says old Sir Thomas Browne’s
son, writing in 1664, “I saw black hellebore in flower which is white;”
and certainly clusters of the large Christmas rose, especially when the
slight protection of a bell-glass has been given to them, are hardly
less beautiful than the Eucharis itself.[8] Then come the snowdrops,
which should be planted not only on the border, but on some bit of
grass, where they may remain undisturbed till the leaves have died
away. There is a delightful passage in Forbes Watson’s _Flowers and
Gardens_ (and Ruskin himself has hardly entered into the secret life of
plants more sympathetically), in which, speaking of the first snowdrop
of the year, he says:

 “In this solitary coming forth, which is far more beautiful when we
 chance to see it thus amidst the melting snow rather than on the
 dark bare earth, the kind little flower, however it may gladden us,
 seems itself to wear an aspect almost of sorrow. Yet wait another day
 or two till the clouds have broken and its brave hope is accomplished,
 and the solitary one has become a troop, and all down the garden
 amongst the shrubs the little white bunches are dancing gaily in
 the breeze. Few flowers undergo such striking change of aspect, so
 mournful in its early drooping, so gladsome when full blown and
 dancing in the sunshine.”

The crocus comes next, the same crocus that once “brake like fire”
at the feet of the three goddesses, whom poor Œnone saw on Ida. This
should always be planted, not in thin lines, but in thick clusters,
for only then can be seen the wonderful rich depths of colour, which
open out to the sun. Tufts of crocus, too, should spring up beneath
the branches of deciduous or weeping trees, where the grass is bare
in early spring, and when once planted the crocus seems to go on for
ever. A writer in the _Gardeners’ Chronicle_ says that it is known
that a particular patch of white crocus has been in the same spot for
above 120 years. It is sometimes said that in course of time the yellow
crocus will turn into the coarser and commoner purple crocus. This must
be a mere fallacy, but it sometimes appears as if it were true. The
fact, we take it, is that if the two varieties are placed together the
stronger one will gradually get possession of the ground, and supplant
the more delicate yellow, just as (as old Waterton used to say) the
Hanoverian rats turned out the old brown rat of the country.

Other Spring flowers are far less cultivated in great gardens than in
those of less pretension; but no flowers give more pleasure, both from
their own beauty, and as being among the first flowers of the year.
There are the auricula, or “Basier” (as it is called in Lancashire
ballads), with its velvet petals and its powdered leaves; the double
primrose, faint smelling of the spring; the hepatica, whose bright
little blossoms sparkle like unset gems; the pulmonaria, with blossoms
half blue, half red, and milk-stained leaves, for which sacred legends
can alone account. Then, above all, are the daffodils, most loved of
flowers by the poets, though, once again, in preference to any poet,
as less known yet admirable in their way, I will quote a few words
from Forbes Watson’s book. “The daffodil,” he says, “is a plant which
affords a most beautiful contrast, a cool watery sheet of leaves,
with bright warm flowers, yellow and orange, dancing over the leaves,
like meteors over a marsh.” But we cannot, of course, pass in review
all the flowers of the Spring, though we must urge a claim for such
old-fashioned plants as Solomon’s seal with its palm-like leaves, and
the crown-imperial with its circlet of orange-bells.

To beds of anemone, ranunculus, and tulips we have already referred,
and we need not again recur to ordinary Spring bedding.

But of course there should always be a bank of violets, over which
the soft winds will play, stealing and giving odour; and no less, of
course, a bed of lilies of the valley—planted alone, so that their
roots may spread to any distance—with their sweet white bells peering
here and there from “their pavilion of tender green.”

The herbaceous borders of early summer become gayer still, though the
individual plants are perhaps less interesting. We have now, with
numberless others, the snowflake, the hairy red poppy, the valerian,
mulleins of various sorts, the early gladiolus, the large flowering
lupin, and above all, lilies. The variety of lilies, all beautiful,
and nearly all easily grown, is quite remarkable, and we doubt whether
(comparatively at least) any flower is more neglected.

Then come roses, and we would strongly recommend that, in addition to
the newer “remontant” roses, the old roses and the old way of growing
them should not be quite forgotten. Standard roses are all very well,
but a rosebush covered over with blossom is very often much better.
“Madame Rothschild” is pre-eminent in beauty, but (if she will tolerate
the “odorous” comparison) the old cabbage rose or moss rose has a
charm of scent and of association of which their fashionable rival is
entirely devoid. The old pink china or monthly rose, which flowers
on from early summer to latest autumn, deserves a bed to itself. It
should be trained and pegged down, as is so constantly done in Belgium
and Holland, and the blue lobelia should be planted in between. A bed
of the yellow briar-rose is still more beautiful, but it lasts for
weeks only instead of months. Other beautiful old summer roses are
the maiden’s blush, the Portland rose, the rose unique, and the rose
Celeste. But no rose, taking all the good qualities of a rose together,
its hardiness, free blooming, beauty, and scent, will surpass the
Gloire de Dijon, though the golden cups of Marshal Niel may be richer
in colour, and the fragrance of La France recalls, as no other rose
does, the luscious fragrance of Oriental otto of roses.

And now, instead of ordinary bedding-out, let me suggest some
garden-beds which are far more effective. One is a bed of _Lilium
auratum_, with heliotrope to fill up the spaces. Another is _Agapanthus
umbellatus_, surrounded by _Lobelia cardinalis_. Then there should
be beds of cannas, of gladiolus, of _Clematis Jackmanni_ trained
over withies, of zinnias, of the new hybrid begonias, and of asters.
Somewhere room should be found for a border of everlastings, and
somewhere for a row of the large red linum. One border may be given
up to annuals, and it is no bad plan to mix the seeds of some twenty
varieties, and let them grow up together as they will. The blue
cornflower should have a piece of ground to itself, and so of course
should the carnations. The white pinks will already have perfumed the
herbaceous border with their aromatic scent, and the sweet-william
and antirrhinum will also have claimed a place. The convolvulus
major should have a chance of climbing upon a trellis, and the
large nasturtium of trailing over a bank; and where the _Tropæolum
speciosum_, which is one of the great ornaments of the gardens at Minto
and elsewhere in Scotland, can be made to flourish in our English
garden, it will be found as beautiful as either.

Above all, no garden should be without its hedge of sweet peas. If
the pods are diligently pulled off, new flowers will be as constantly
thrown out, and the “purfled scarf” of blossoms will remain in beauty
till the first killing frost. It is easy to get a dozen different
shades of colour, and nothing can look gayer, or give a more
delicious scent. Keats—than whom no poet ever described flowers more
accurately—speaks of the sweet pea’s “wings of gentle flush o’er
delicate white,” and of its “taper fingers catching at all things.”

Clumps of hollyhock, crusted over with bloom, should be planted near a
sundial, or (as says the author of the well-known essay on “The Poetry
of Gardening”), “in a long avenue, the double and the single, not too
straitly tied, backed by a dark thick hedge of old-fashioned yew.”

Sunflowers, also in clumps, should stand out here and there, and though
the modern sceptics may tell us that this American plant cannot be the
Clytie of Grecian story, it amply vindicates its name by its large
discs, surrounded by golden rays. Tritomas should hold up their scarlet
maces to the sun, among tufts of the _Arundo conspicua_, or (better
still, if possible) of Pampas grass. Lastly, we must not forget to
plant, for the sake of their delicious scent, as the summer evening
falls, the curious Schizopetalon, and the better known Mathiola, or
night-scented stock.

But, besides its flowers, the garden is alive with other happy forms of
life. The blackbird, as the Laureate tells us, will “warble, eat, and
dwell” among the espaliers; and the thrush, as Mr. Browning reminds us,
“sings each song twice over” from some blossoming pear-tree. Then the
bees are busy all summer long, rifling for themselves the flowers, and
setting for us the fruit. “The butterflies flutter from bush to bush,
and open their wings to the warm sun,” and a peacock or red admiral,
or better still, a humming-bird moth, is always a welcome guest. Only
the other day I heard a delightful story (I wish I were satisfied that
it was a fact) of a lady who got some chrysalises of butterflies from
Italy and elsewhere, and, planting in a corner of her garden the herbs
and flowers in which they most delighted, had hovering around, for many
weeks of summer, these beautiful strange visitors from the south.

One great charm of a garden lies in the certainty that it will never be
the same two years running. If we were only confident that each year
was to be precisely like the last, it may fairly be doubted whether
we could feel the same interest in our task. It is really no paradox
to say, that it is fortunate that gardening should be always more or
less of a struggle, for the very struggle, as should always happen,
has the element of pleasure about it. Each year there will be success
on one side, if something of failure on another. And there are always
difficulties enough. There are difficulties arising from bad seasons,
from climate, or from soil. There are weeds that worry, and seeds
that fail. There are garden pests of every variety. The mice nibble
away the tulip-bulbs: the canker gets into the rosebud, and the green
fly infests the rose. Wire-worms destroy the roots of tender annuals,
and slugs breakfast upon their sprouting leaves. Moles and birds and
caterpillars have each and all their peculiar plans for vexing the
gardener’s heart. Then again certain plants are attacked by special
diseases of their own. The gladiolus turns yellow and comes to nothing,
and a parasitic fungus destroys the hollyhock. And yet, if there were
no difficulties to contend against, no forethought to be exercised,
no ingenuity to be displayed, no enemies to conquer, it is surely
impossible that we could feel the same pleasure and personal triumph
in our success. Then, too, each year the intelligent gardener will
arrange new combinations, grow new varieties of plants, and aim after a
perfection which he can never hope to reach.

But the garden has no less also a scientific interest. Fresh species
of plants are continually enriching our flower-beds, and botanists
are constantly searching the wildest and most remote corners of the
world on behalf of the English stove-house, conservatory, and garden.
They endure untold hardships, and risk many dangers, if only they may
secure some new treasure. Often they have caught deadly fever or met
with fatal accidents in their search, and, true martyrs of science as
they are, they pass away forgotten, except perchance when some unwonted
designation of a plant may recall, not their memory indeed, but their
name. But as one drops off, another will succeed; and so, among far
coral islands of the Pacific, in the tropical recesses of a South
American forest, in the heart of Asiatic mountains, or the unexplored
mysteries of New Guinea, these lovers of nature are at work, labouring
for our pleasure and instruction, and procuring for us new forms of
vegetable life and beauty. And meanwhile science is working at home
in another and a happier way. Not content with finding new species of
plants, she is for ever developing fresh varieties. The art is no new
one, and in old days the simpler minds of men were not quite sure of
its propriety. It was unnatural, they used to say. It is in vain that
Polixenes tells Perdita that there is an art that does mend nature,
and, therefore, is nature. She evidently thinks it all sophistry, and
not a gillyflower will she have.

                                  “I’ll not put
  The dibble in the earth to set one slip of them.”

And so, too, Andrew Marvell’s mower complains of the gardener that

  “The pink grew then as double as his mind;
    The nutriment did change the kind;
  With strange perfumes he did the roses taint,
    And flowers themselves were taught to paint.”

He thinks it a wicked extravagance, as it certainly was, to sell a
meadow for the sake of a tulip root, and he thinks it an absurdity, as
it certainly was not, that we should have brought the “Marvel of Peru”
over so many miles of ocean; but all this might be forgiven, but not
the “forbidden mixtures” which grafting and hybridizing have brought
about. Meanwhile, as we are now untroubled by such scruples, we may
not only enjoy the results of the art of the skilful florist, but may
even take an intelligent interest in the art itself. It lets us into
many secrets of nature. It helps to explain problems of much higher
significance than the brief existence of a garden flower. It makes us
understand, in some small degree, how, in every form of life, a higher
type may be produced from one of inferior order.

And the results are really wonderful. It is difficult to know what
class of plants has in late years most profited by the artful nature,
or unnatural art, of the skilful gardener; but certainly, some of the
most striking successes have been among roses, clematis, begonias, and

But it is not the florist only who has been helping on the cause of
botanical science at home. Within the last few years the botanists,
or rather perhaps the naturalists, have been increasingly busy among
both the English field and garden flowers. The old botanists indeed
had examined with every minuteness the structure and economy of the
blossoms, had counted the stamens and the pistils, and known the origin
of the swelling of the seed-vessel. And what Linnæus had systematized,
Erasmus Darwin endeavoured to turn into a romance. Science was to be
made popular in a long didactic poem, and _The Loves of the Plants_ was
the curious result. But to treat the various organs of a plant as if
they were human beings and endowed with human passions, was obviously
too far-fetched a conceit to give real pleasure, and it was not
wonderful that Mathias, and many others, should have laughed at those,

  “In sweet tetrandrian monogynian strains
  Pant for a pistil in botanic pains.”

And then the illustrators took the matter up, and in Thornton’s _New
Illustrations of the Sexual System of Linnæus_, which is perhaps one
of the most beautiful botanical works ever published, we have pictures
of plants with Cupid aiming a shaft at them, and with a letterpress
of love-verses. Into the new system introduced by Jussieu, and now
generally adopted for purposes of classification, we need not enter.
The Natural system, as it is called, which is certainly the sensible
system, has now held its own for many years, though the more artificial
system of Linnæus has still its use and votaries.

The most recent investigators into botanical science are not
classifying plants, but they are examining into the meaning of their
structure. The mere task of description and enumeration has been done,
and so they have set themselves to find out why certain structures
exist, and why certain habits (if we may use the word) have been
formed. Why do the climbing plants climb at all? and why do some
twine, and others cling? Why do the fly-catching plants cause the
death of numbers of unlucky insects? Why are the stamens and pistils
in plants of such various lengths and sizes? Why have some flowers
a hairy fringe, and others drops of nectar in their calyces? What
is the meaning of the scent of flowers, and what is the object of
the night-opening flowers? The key to many of these questions is
in the relationship of flowers to insects; and Charles Darwin, Sir
John Lubbock, and others, have done very much to explore and then to
popularize the subject. Much that is most important has thus been
made known to us, but these eminent naturalists would be the first to
own that there is much more still to do. The secrets of nature open
out but slowly, and after long and patient wooing. It would sometimes
appear too as if there might be danger, not indeed of adapting facts
to theory, but of taking it too readily for granted that all facts
must eventually fit into some favourite theory. This tendency may not
be so apparent in the leaders as in their less cautious disciples in
these scientific researches. From some of their expressions they would
almost seem to imply that insects were made for the sake of fertilizing
flowers. They attribute the bright colour and beauty of flowers not
to the same good purpose that gives beauty elsewhere, but as if it
were merely that insects may be attracted, and do their duty among the
ripening pollen. They are contemptuous at the idea of a flower being
intended for the selfish pleasure of man and not for its own purposes,
and they point to plants of beauty that “blush unseen” where man
cannot admire them, forgetting, however, that man _has_ seen them, or
he would not know of their existence. They will learn nothing of the
affluence of nature, and nothing is quite accepted unless its use can
be established, though on this principle it is hard to explain why, as
Bishop Hall pointed out long ago, “there is many a rich stone laid up
in the bowels of the earth, many a faire pearle laid up in the bosome
of the sea, that never was seen, nor never shall be.”

It is curious how apparent extremes will meet. The very men who would
most readily throw over the old theological argument of “design,”
which believed that everything was done in the most perfect way for
the most perfect ends, will now in the interests of evolution show
the necessity for each curve of a flower-cup and for each marking on
a petal. We cannot be too thankful to them, if only they will make
their ground sure at every step; but it will not do to generalize too
rapidly. For instance, it has been stated that veins on a flower are
probably guides to lead insects down into the honey-cup below, and that
night-blowing flowers are without them because at night they would be
invisible and useless. Unfortunately, it has since been shown that the
_Œnothera taraxicifolia_, and probably other night-flowers, are deeply
marked with veins. Again, why in some cherry-blossoms is the pistil
longer than the stamens, so that the fertilization must be effected
differently to what it is in the more ordinary varieties, where the
stamens and pistil are of equal length? Why have blossoms gradually
developed properties to attract insects, when it is obvious that
those properties were not originally required for the perpetuation of
the species? Why should some flowers of magnificent size, like the
magnolia, require scent to attract insects, if we must indeed admit
that use and not pleasure is the end and aim of every attraction of the
garden? And if scent is necessary in this case, why is it not so where
the flower is small and insignificant? Why among roses has La France a
delicious perfume, and Baroness Rothschild none?

But such questionings are inevitable as yet: meanwhile facts are
accumulating, and the whole truth, thanks to the patient and laborious
workers of our time, may one day be known.

But quite apart from scientific interests, a real old garden, unaltered
and unspoiled, has a peculiar interest of its own. It is sure to be
haunted by associations, and nothing calls up associations so quickly
and certainly as a sudden scent of flowers coming and going upon the
summer air. Time and change may have been busy since some long-absent
member of the family has revisited his old home, but the flowers and
their fragrance, still the same as ever, will call up all the past.
There is the corner where the first violets were always found; there
is the rosebush from which a flower may once have been gathered of
which the poor faded petals still remain; there is the lavender, which
supplied the oaken presses where the house-linen was always kept.
And, apart from all such fond and foolish private memories, there are
all the associations with which literature has consecrated the old
garden-flowers. Pelargoniums, calceolarias, verbenas, and the rest
of the new-comers have but few friends, but not an old flower but is
“loaded with a thought,” as Emerson says of the asters on the slopes at
Concord. Roses, lilies, violets, primroses, and daffodils, have been
written about over and over again, and the words of great poets rise
unbidden to the memory at sight of them. And then certain flowers will
recall an entire scene, and Marguerite asks her fate from the large
white daisy whose name she bears, or Corisande, in her garden of every
perfume, gathers—but not for herself—her choicest rose.

While a garden owes so much to the poet’s pen, it is strange that it
should owe comparatively little to the artist’s brush. Who can recall
a single picture of gardens or of flowers that ever gave him any great
amount of pleasure! Is Watteau an exception? But it is the figures in
the foreground, not the garden, for which one really cares. And of
flower-painters, there are Van Huysum and the Dutchmen, with their
piles and masses of blossom, of large size, but generally of dull
colour, and without light or warmth about them. Then there are our
English flower-painters; with some the flowers are only subsidiary to
the picture, and they seem to have adopted Gilpin’s advice that

 “By a nice representation of such trifles, he [the painter] would be
 esteemed puerile and pedantic. Fern-leaves perhaps, or dock, if his
 piece be large, he might condescend to imitate; but if he wanted a few
 touches of red or blue or yellow, to enliven and enrich any particular
 spot on his foreground, instead of aiming at the exact representation
 of any natural plant, he will more judiciously give the tint he wants
 in a few random general touches of something like nature, and leave
 the spectator, if he please, to find out a resemblance. Botanical
 precision may please us in the flowerpieces of Van Huysum, but it
 would be paltry and affected in the landscapes of Claude or Salvator.”

But even when the flower or plant is something better than a “touch”
of colour, there is often some gross carelessness, or ignorance, which
gives a sense of annoyance rather than of pleasure. Each returning
year, the _Gardeners’ Chronicle_ reviews the Royal Academy from a
botanical point of view, and nothing can be droller than the blunders
it points out. Sometimes all sorts of flowers of various seasons are
growing together, or a wood, through which a knight is riding, is
adorned with agarics and fungi that belong to different periods of the
year. Sometimes places, no less than times, are set at nought, as in
an instance quoted by Mr. Rossetti from the Exhibition of 1868, where
a Greek maiden is gathering blossoms from a pot of (American) azaleas.
But, indeed, such instances are only too common. In how many modern
classical pictures, for example, has not the large sunflower of America
been introduced? But when the flower itself is one important part of
the picture, how curiously unsatisfactory is too often the result!
No one has tried more earnestly to set our painters right in these
matters than Mr. Ruskin, and how little even now have they profited by
his teaching! They catch hold of a suggestion, as when he once told
them (_showed_ them, we might say) that a spray of pink apple-blossom
against a blue sky was beautiful, and the next exhibition or two
abounded in blossoming apple-boughs: but they seem unable to grasp a
principle. It was in 1851, in his tract on “Pre-Raphaelitism,” that
he urged the painting of “the heather as it grows, and the foxglove
and the harebell as they nestle in the clefts of the rocks;” and this
last year, while speaking of the same artist, Mr. Hunt, he has had to
repeat the same lesson, that plants that grow are pleasanter objects
than flowers that are gathered. And, indeed, the reason is not far
to seek. A bunch of garden-roses thrown carelessly down upon a mossy
bank—and there is scarcely an exhibition without one—not only gives
one a feeling of incongruity (as though the fashionable flowers were
out at a picnic), but a stronger feeling still of coming death. We know
those roses must wither and die, almost, we fancy, as we look upon
them. No dew that falls can now keep them alive, as it will the humble
moss—so much better than they—on which they rest. And it is almost
worse when the poor gathered flowers are brought indoors and placed
in some blue jar or Salviati vase, and the artist shows how carefully
he can draw, not so much the petals of the flowers as the texture of
the porcelain or the iridescence of the glass. It is difficult enough
worthily to paint the light and glow of colour in any beautiful flower,
but, if it is to be painted, let it be when the plant is still growing,
and as it grows. Any garden will give subjects enough, if they are
only sought for. Here is a bank of daffodils; here the white narcissus
and the red anemone have formed a group; here a blue forget-me-not
looks up into the bell of the snake’s-head fritillary; here is a great
peony bowed down with its crimson globes; here a nasturtium trails its
bright yellow blossoms along a bit of grey old rock; here a cluster of
hollyhocks keep watch by a garden walk; here the purple clematis clings
to the orchard hedge. Pictures of flowers such as these, if only the
artist have some sense of colour and some refinement of taste, would
give a real and almost a new pleasure to us all.

But there must be no artistic grouping, or representing of things as
they should be rather than as they are. The work must be conscientious,
as in the case of a great living sculptor who, having to carve an ivy
plant upon a tablet, went himself to study the form of growing ivy, and
found how entirely different it is from the conventional wreaths of the
ordinary marble-mason.

There is one question in connection with English horticulture to which
at first sight it does not seem quite easy to give a satisfactory
answer. Are the flower-shows, the number of which is constantly
increasing, an advantage or not? They certainly stimulate the
production of magnificent fruit, of beautiful florist-flowers, and
of handsome stove and greenhouse plants. But how do they affect the
gardens in which these prize specimens are grown? It is mere matter of
fact that, when a gardener begins to think of exhibiting, he is very
apt to pay undue attention to the plants which will secure him prizes
and reputation. If his master is satisfied with the usual monotony of
garden-beds, why should the gardener give special attention to what can
be of no service to himself? So he throws his whole strength into some
bunches of grapes, some dozen roses, some trained chrysanthemums. And
this is not the worst of it. The “dressing” of particular blooms has
recently become an art, and little curling-irons are employed to get
petals into their proper shape, and other various devices are used for
various flowers. But there is after all a morality in these things. It
is allowable to cut away superfluous petals, but it is not allowable
to insert fragments of another blossom. This seems to be the limit.
Now we confess the whole system seems to us thoroughly bad, and we
recommend the managers of flower-shows to forbid “dressing” of every
kind. If not exactly dishonest in itself, it leads on, and very easily,
to the worst forms of dishonesty. But indeed, in almost every aspect,
nothing can be more spoiling to the gardener than these flower-shows so
constantly are. In the first place, the prize-ticket generally asserts
that the prize is adjudged to “Mr.——, gardener to——.” The owner
of the garden is nobody, and the gardener is everything. The prize
is in almost every case regarded as the unchallenged property of the
gardener, who has, nevertheless, won the prize by his master’s plant,
reared at his master’s expense, and at the cost of time which has made
him too frequently neglect much more important matters.

Is it any wonder if horticulture in its best sense—that is, the
culture of the garden as a whole—is not what it should be? No gardener
can get prizes for well-kept beds, for effects of harmonious colouring,
for arrangement of shrubberies, for the grouping of herbaceous plants.
He is tempted for the sake of a single specimen to sacrifice the beauty
of a whole plant, or the clusters of an entire fruit-tree. That it
is most important for nurserymen to be able to compare new species,
or new varieties of old species, is of course undeniable. That our
ordinary flower-show is for the ordinary spectator an extremely pretty
sight is no less certain. But we are satisfied that in the majority of
cases it is the wiser course for any one who really cares about his
garden, and would rather have a succession of well-cultured flowers
than some merely exceptional success, to discourage his gardener from

In conclusion, I can only repeat that “the English flower-garden” may
afford far greater pleasure than it does at present. We must learn
to look on plants, not as mere points of colour, but as old friends
on whose coming we can rely, and who, returning with the recurring
seasons, bring back with them pleasant memories of past years. And
if, as often happens, they are plants consecrated by song or legend,
the imagination is quickened as surely as the heart is stirred. We
must remember, too, that our personal delight in a garden is entirely
independent of its size or the perfection of its appliances. A child’s
garden, such as Mary Howitt once described, a few pots of musk or
mignonette on the window-ledge of a schoolboy’s study, will afford a
pleasure which acres of garden, left only to the gardener’s care, can
never give. “How _can_ I care for this garden? It is so much too large
to care about”—a lady, who owns one of the famous gardens in the north
of England, once said to me; and it was impossible not to appreciate
the difficulty.

Indeed, as with everything else, the garden will soon grow dull, and
the flowers lose their attraction, unless we take the management,
partly at least, into our own hands, and be masters not in name but
in reality. It is not necessary to understand every matter of detail,
though our interest will strengthen as our practical knowledge grows;
but at least we may make up our minds as to what we want to have done,
and then take care that the gardener carries out our orders. We are
too often the absolute slaves of our gardeners, and they in turn (of
course I am not speaking of exceptions) are too often the slaves of
an unintelligent routine. We have learnt, as Bacon said, “to _build
stately_ sooner than to _garden finely_, as if gardening were the
greater perfection.” It is really about time that we learnt the more
difficult lesson.




THIS curious bird was first described by Schlegel, and a coloured
illustration of its garden and bower will be found in Gould’s _Birds of
New Guinea_. The fullest account, however, seems to be that of Signor
Beccari, which first appeared in a scientific periodical of Genoa. It
was translated for the _Gardeners’ Chronicle_ of March 11, 1878, and I
am permitted to make use of the very interesting narrative:

“The _Amblyornis inornata_—or, as I propose to name it, the
Bird-gardener—is a Bird of Paradise of the dimensions of a
turtle-dove. The specific name ‘inornata’ well suggests its very simple
dress. It has none of the ornaments common to the members of its
family, its feathers being of several shades of brown, and showing no
sexual differences.

“It was shot some years ago by the hunters of Mynheer von Rosenberg.
The first descriptions of its powers of building (the constructions
were called ‘nests’) were given by the hunters of Mynheer Bruijn.
They endeavoured to bring one of the nests to Ternate, but it was
found impossible to do this, both by reason of its great size and the
difficulty of transporting it.

“I have fortunately been able to examine these constructions at remote
places where they are erected. On June 20, 1875, I left Andai for
Hatam, on Mount Arfak. I had been forced to stay a day at Warmendi
to give rest to my porters. At this time only five men were with me;
some were suffering from fever, and the remaining porters declined to
proceed. We had been on our way since early morning, and at one o’clock
we intended to proceed to the village of Hatam, the end of our journey.

“We were on a projecting spur of Mount Arfak. The virgin forest was
very beautiful. Scarcely a ray of sunshine penetrated the branches. The
ground was almost destitute of vegetation. A little trackway proved
that the inhabitants were at no great distance. A limpid fountain had
evidently been frequented. I found here a new Balanophora, like a small
orange or a small fungus. I was distracted by the songs and the screams
of new birds, and every turn in the path showed me something new and
surprising. I had just killed a small new marsupial (_Phascelogale
dorsalis_, Pet, and Doria), that balanced itself on the stem of a great
tree like a squirrel, and turning round, I suddenly stood before the
most remarkable specimen of the industry of an animal. It was a hut or
bower close to a small meadow enamelled with flowers. The whole was on
a diminutive scale. I immediately recognised the famous nests described
by the hunters of Bruijn. I did not suspect, however, then, that they
had anything to do with the constructions of the Chlamydodeæ. After
well observing the whole, I gave strict orders to my hunters not to
destroy the little building. That, however, was an unnecessary caution,
since the Papuans take great care never to disturb these nests or
bowers, even if they are in their way. The birds had evidently enjoyed
the greatest quiet until we happened, unfortunately for them, to come
near them. We had reached the height of about 4,800 feet, and after
half an hour’s walk we were at our journey’s end.”


“I had now full employment in the preparation of my treasure, and I
gave orders to my people not to shoot many of the birds. The nest I
had seen first was the nearest one to my halting-place. One morning I
took colours, brushes, pencils, and gun, and went to the spot. While I
was there neither host nor hostess were at home. I could not wait for
them. My hunters saw them entering and going out, when they watched
their movements to shoot them. I could not ascertain whether this bower
was occupied by one pair or by several pairs of birds, or whether the
sexes were in equal or unequal numbers—whether the male alone was the
builder, or whether the wife assisted in the construction. I believe,
however, that such a nest lasts for several seasons.

“The Amblyornis selects a flat even place around the trunk of a small
tree, that is as thick and as high as a walking-stick of middle size.
It begins by constructing at the base of the tree a kind of a cone,
chiefly of moss, of the size of a man’s hand. The trunk of the tree
becomes the central pillar, and the whole building is supported by it.
The height of the pillar is a little less than that of the whole of
the hut, not quite reaching two feet. On the top of the central pillar
twigs are then methodically placed in a radiating manner, resting on
the ground, leaving an aperture for the entrance. Thus is obtained a
conical and very regular hut. When the work is complete many other
branches are placed transversely in various ways, to make the whole
quite firm and impermeable. A circular gallery is left between the
walls and the central cone. The whole is nearly three feet in diameter.
All the stems used by the Amblyornis are the thin stems of an orchid
(Dendrobium), an epiphyte forming large tufts on the mossy branches of
great trees, easily bent like straw, and generally about twenty inches
long. The stalks had the leaves, which are small and straight, still
fresh and living on them; which leads me to conclude that this plant
was selected by the bird to prevent rotting and mould in the building,
since it keeps alive for a long time, as is so often the case with
epiphytical Orchids.

“The refined sense of the bird is not satisfied with building a hut.
It is wonderful to find that the bird has the same ideas as a man,
that is to say, what pleases the one gratifies the other. The passion
for flowers and gardens is a sign of good taste and refinement. I
discovered that the inhabitants of Arfak, however, did not follow the
example of the Amblyornis. Their houses are quite inaccessible from


“Now let me describe the garden of the Amblyornis. Before the cottage
there is a meadow of moss. This is brought to the spot and kept free
from grass, stones, or anything which would offend the eye. On this
green turf, flowers and fruits of pretty colour are placed so as to
form an elegant little garden.

“The greater part of the decoration is collected round the entrance to
the nest, and it would appear that the husband offers there his daily
gifts to his wife. The objects are very various, but always of vivid
colour. There were some fruits of a Garcinia like a small-sized apple.
Others were the fruits of Gardenias of a deep yellow colour in the
interior. I saw also small rosy fruits, probably of a Scitaminaceous
plant, and beautiful rosy flowers of a splendid new Vaccinium
(_Agapetes Amblyorninis_). There were also fungi and mottled insects
placed on the turf. As soon as the objects are faded they are moved to
the back of the hut.

“The good taste of the Amblyornis is not only proved by the nice
home it builds. It is a clever bird, called by the inhabitants Buruk
Gurea—(master bird),—since it imitates the songs and screamings of
numerous birds so well that it brought my hunters to despair, who were
but too often misled by the bird. Another name of the bird is Tukan
Robon, which means a gardener.”



THE Romans used the word _Topiarius_ for their ornamental gardener,
and one of his chief duties—the _Ars topiaria_ in fact—was to cut
the shrubs, and especially box-trees, into figures of ships, animals,
and names. There is a well-known passage in one of the letters of the
younger Pliny, in which, while speaking of his garden, he describes “a
sort of terrace, embellished with various figures, and bounded with a
box-hedge, from which you descend by an easy slope, adorned with the
representation of divers animals in box answering alternately to each
other, into a lawn overspread with the soft, I had almost said the
liquid, acanthus: this is surrounded by a walk, enclosed with tonsile
evergreens, shaped into a variety of forms. Beyond it is the _gestatio_
[a sort of avenue in which to take exercise] laid out in the form of a
circus, ornamented in the middle with box cut in numberless different
figures, together with a plantation of shrubs prevented by the shears
from running up too high; the whole is fenced in with a wall, covered
by box, rising by different ranges to the top.” Further on he says,
“Having passed through these several winding alleys, you enter a
straight walk, which breaks out into a variety of others, divided off
by box-hedges. In one place you have a little meadow; in another the
box is cut into a thousand different forms, sometimes into letters
expressing the name of the master, sometimes that of the artificer,
whilst here and there little obelisks rise intermixed alternately
with fruit-trees.”[9] Martial too gives a curious illustration of the
_Ars topiaria_. A grove of Plane trees was adorned with _topiarian_
wild beasts,—among them a bear; a young boy thrust his hand into
the bear’s wide mouth, and a viper hiding there stung him to death.
What a misfortune, adds Martial, that the bear had not been a real
one. This _Ars topiaria_ had been for some time in fashion in England
when Addison first attacked it in the _Spectator_ of June 25th, 1712:
“Our British gardeners, on the contrary, instead of humouring nature,
love to deviate from it as much as possible. Our trees rise in cones,
globes, and pyramids. We see the marks of the scissors upon every plant
and bush. I do not know whether I am singular in my opinion, but, for
my own part, I would rather look upon a tree in all its luxuriancy and
diffusion of boughs and branches than when it is thus cut and trimmed
into a mathematical figure.”

But this is nothing to the denunciation by Pope, which may be found in
the _Guardian_ of September 29th, 1713. It is extremely humorous. He
declares that

“A citizen is no sooner proprietor of a couple of yews, but he
entertains the thought of erecting them into giants, like those of
Guildhall. I know an eminent cook, who beautified his country-seat with
a coronation dinner in greens, where you see the champion flourishing
on horseback at one end of the table, and the queen in perpetual
youth at the other. For the benefit of all my loving countrymen of
this curious taste, I shall here publish a catalogue of greens to be
disposed of by an eminent town gardener, who has lately applied to me
on this head. He represents, that for the advancement of a politer sort
of ornament in the villas and gardens adjacent to this great city, and
in order to distinguish those places from the more barbarous countries
of gross nature, the world stands much in need of a virtuoso gardener,
who has a turn for sculpture, and is thereby capable of improving upon
the ancients in his imagery of evergreens. I proceed to his catalogue:

“Adam and Eve in Yew; Adam a little shattered by the fall of the Tree
of Knowledge in the great storm; Eve and the Serpent very flourishing.

“Noah’s Ark in Holly, the ribs a little damaged for want of water.

“The Tower of Babel, not yet finished.

“St. George in Box, his arm scarce long enough, but will be in a
condition to stick the Dragon by next April.

“A green Dragon of the same, with a tail of ground-ivy for the present.
N.B. These two not to be sold separately.

“Edward the Black Prince in Cypress.

“A Laurustine Bear in blossom, with a Juniper Hunter in berrie.

“A pair of Giants stunted; to be sold cheap.”

And there are various other lots equally remarkable and interesting.

But the _topiarian_ art has never been either scolded or laughed
entirely out of existence, and we all remember how many years later
when Lovel first visits “The Antiquary” he found the house of Monkbarns
“surrounded by tall clipped hedges of yew and holly, some of which
still exhibited the skill of the _topiarian_ artist, and presented
curious arm-chairs, towers, and the figures of St. George and the
Dragon. The taste of Mr. Oldbuck did not disturb these monuments of
an art now unknown, and he was the less tempted so to do, as it must
necessarily have broken the heart of his old gardener.”



THE quaintest of all devices in flower-beds was the one which Mrs.
Browning—then Elizabeth Barrett—made for herself when a child. In
after years she told the story of it in a poem, and I venture to
extract some stanzas, as they may not be known to all my readers, and
as they illustrate my subject rather curiously. Hope End, where Miss
Barrett lived, and where this “Hector” flowered, was once well known to
me. Crossing the Malvern Hills on the Herefordshire side, and passing
the Colwall valley, you find the ground sloping up again into a little
ridge. Here, hidden away in a side valley, was the strange-looking
house, with Moorish pinnacles. Here was the pond where “little Ellie”
found the “swan’s nest among the reeds.” And here the young girl of
nine years old, who had already drunken so deeply of “the wine of
Cyprus” formed her garden-bed in the shape of her hero Hector, while
a laurel stood on a mound close by, and the birds sung in an old
pear-tree which cast soft shadows on the ground:

  “In the garden, lay supinely
    A huge giant, wrought of spade!
    Arms and legs were stretched at length,
    In a passive giant strength,—
  And the meadow turf, cut finely,
    Round them laid and interlaid.

  “Call him Hector, son of Priam!
    Such his title and degree.
    With my rake I smoothed his brow;
    Both his cheeks I weeded through:
  But a rhymer such as I am
    Scarce can sing his dignity.

  “Eyes of gentianellas azure,
    Staring, winking at the skies;
    Nose of gillyflowers and box;
    Scented grasses, put for locks—
  Which a little breeze, at pleasure,
    Set a-waving round his eyes.

  “Brazen helm of daffodillies,
    With a glitter toward the light;
    Purple violets, for the mouth,
    Breathing perfumes west and south;
  And a sword of flashing lilies,
    Holden ready for the fight.

  “And a breastplate, made of daisies,
    Closely fitting, leaf by leaf;
    Periwinkles interlaced,
    Drawn for belt about the waist;
  While the brown bees, humming praises,
    Shot their arrows round the chief.”



I WONDER whether the Evening Primrose is as much grown and cared for as
it deserves to be. It is an American plant, but is now found wild in
several parts of England, notably at Formby, among the Lancashire sand
hills, where tradition says it originally came from a vessel wrecked
on that barren coast. It is mentioned little, if at all, by our old
botanists, and our more modern poets have for the most part passed it
carelessly by. Southey, however, alludes to it in his well-remembered
lines to the bee, that was still at work, after the Cistus flowers
had fallen and “the Primrose of Evening was ready to burst.” Keats,
too, has a striking passage about the Evening Primrose, which I quote
a little further on, for I may perhaps make a few extracts from an
article I lately wrote in the _Pall Mall Gazette_ on “The Garden at
Nightfall,” as I have no better words in which to describe the beauty
and charm of these Œnotheras. The question arising from the veins of
flowers I have already mentioned in _The English Flower Garden_.

“I have two varieties of Œnotheras or Evening Primroses, and they
are in their full glory to-night. One is the large flowering yellow
Œnothera, which grows from five to six feet high, and which opens its
yellow blossoms night after night from early summer to late autumn. It
is a curious sight to see the blossoms begin to open. I had been in
the garden shortly after six, and the yellow buds were still folded
within the calyx. Watching closely, you saw the petals give a sudden
start—they half release themselves—and by degrees open out fully into
the blossom, which will last till morning, but begins to fade after the
sun has dried up the dews of night. Keats, whose accurate observation
of flowers is often very remarkable, speaks of

                  ‘A tuft of evening primroses
  O’er which the mind may hover till it dozes;
  O’er which it well might take a pleasant sleep
  But that ’tis _ever startled by the leap
  Of buds into ripe flowers_.’

But more beautiful still than the yellow Œnotheras is the white
_Œnothera taraxicifolia_, the evening primrose of the dandelion leaf.
I have a bed of standard roses which I have carpeted entirely with
this Œnothera. It grows low to the ground, and its leaves, which are
deeply serrated, cover the bed. In the daytime there are the relics
of the last night’s harvest of blossom, but the flowers look faded,
and soon get a pink flush over the white—after which they wither
away. But to-night the fresh blooms are out, and I count from sixty
to seventy of them, like stars, some in clusters and some gleaming
singly from the mass of deep foliage. There is, it almost seems to me,
a positive light about them which no other white flower has, not even
the Eucharis or the Christmas rose. And then the blossoms are so large
when fully open—at least three inches across the petals. This Œnothera
is from Chili, but the yellow one comes from North America; and a
smaller yellow one, also from North America, may be found naturalized
and now quite wild in one or two places in England. The name Œnothera
(properly, I suppose, Œnothēra) is said to have been given because the
root smelt of wine; but if it is uncertain what the Greek Œnothera
really was, certainly no old Greek could know anything of these
beautiful blossoms of our Western night.

“Sir John Lubbock says that the evening primrose is probably fertilized
by moths, and it would seem at first sight most likely that this should
be the case. To-night—for the air, as I have said, is quite still and
warm—is just the night that I should expect the moths to be at work;
but after long waiting near a large yellow Œnothera (the one plant had
forty blooms), I did not see one single moth. I returned to the bed of
_Œnothera taraxicifolia_, and again I could see no moth of any kind.
Meanwhile, a little further off, among a bed of white Mediterranean
heath, which is just as much in flower by day as it is now, there are
several of these wanderers of the night—little brown moths of (I
think) two different varieties. There and there alone, and not among
the large open blossoms of the Œnotheras, or among the delicate tufts
of night-scented stock, were the moths busily engaged. Why, then, do
these night-flowers—if it be not to attract night insects, and so get
fertilized—expand their petals as evening falls? We have, I suspect,
a good deal yet to learn on these matters. Even the two Œnotheras are
very unlike in several respects. The seed-vessel of the _Œnothera
taraxicifolia_ is at the end of a long tube, some seven inches in
length, down which runs the stalk or style of the pistil, and within
this tube I have constantly found little black flies and grains of
pollen. Moreover, the pistil and the stamens of this Œnothera are as
nearly as possible the same length; so that even before the flower has
opened, a stigma or head of the pistil has got well dusted over with
the pollen of the stamens.

“In the case of the large yellow Œnothera the pistil stands out
above the stamens, and I suppose it could not be fertilized except
by the wind or (more probably) by insects. The tube that leads to
the seed-vessel is here only about two inches long, and is not
smooth but hairy, so that insects would hardly pass down. Somehow or
other, however, the yellow Œnothera bears seed much more certainly
and abundantly than the white one. I must add that the veins in both
Œnotheras, and especially in the white one, are very strongly marked;
so that a theory which carries the high sanction of Sir John Lubbock,
that veins are guides to the honey of a flower, and that they do not
exist in night-opening flowers, as they would be unseen by night and
therefore useless, can hardly, I imagine, be maintained.”

I believe it is now pretty well ascertained that the Œnothēra of the
ancients was the small Willow-herb (_Epilobium roseum_), which in my
own garden is the most familiar of weeds.

Pliny describes it as having exhilarating properties in wine, as having
leaves like those of the Almond-tree, a rose-coloured flower, many
branches, and a long root, which, when dried, has a vinous smell, and
an infusion of which has a soothing effect on wild beasts.

In Baptista Porta’s curious _Phytognomonica_ (published at the end
of the sixteenth century) he says,—speaking no doubt of this same
Epilobium,—that the dried root of the Œnothēra smells of wine; given
as a drink it soothes wild beasts and makes them tame, and rubbed on
the worst wounds it serves to heal them.



THE Christmas Rose is certainly one of the most valuable of flowers,
but it is a little capricious, growing luxuriantly in one place, and
in another gradually dwindling off. With me it is always successful,
and one secret may be that the roots are never allowed to be disturbed.
This beautiful flower has rather weird associations. It is the Black
Hellebore of Pliny, and was used as a poison and in incantations.
Spenser plants it with the “dead sleeping poppy” and all other sad
and poisonous herbs in the garden of Proserpina. Often, however, it
was valued for its medicinal qualities, and was occasionally, we are
told, made use of by literary people for the purpose of sharpening up
their intellects. Gerard says that “Black Hellebore is good for mad and
furious men, for melancholike, dull, and heavie persons, for those that
are troubled with the falling sickness, for lepers, for them that are
sicke of quartaine ague, and briefly for all those that are troubled
with blacke choler, and molested with melancholie.” Cowley, too, has a
curious poem, in which the Christmas-flower (as he calls it) speaks,
and boasts that, alone of flowers, Winter “still finds me on my
guard,” though the ground is “covered thick in beds of snow,” and then
it sounds its triumphs over all sorts of ills, physical and mental:

  “I do compose the mind’s distracted frame,
  A gift the gods and I alone can claim.”

Old Dr. Darwin, in his _Loves of the Plants_, has a scientific interest
of quite another kind in the Christmas Rose:

  “Bright as the silvery plume, or pearly shell,
  The snow-white rose, or lily virgin bell,
  The fair Helleboras attractive shone,
  Warmed every Sage, and every Shepherd won,”

but, when the seed-vessel begins to swell,

  “Each roseate feature fades to livid green.”

He adds, in a note, that “The _Helleborus niger_, or Christmas Rose,
has a large beautiful white flower, adorned with a circle of tubular
two-lipp’d nectaries. After impregnation the flower undergoes a
remarkable change, the nectaries drop off, but the white corol remains,
and gradually becomes quite green. This curious metamorphose of the
corol, when the nectaries fall off, seems to show that the white juice
of the corol were before carried to the nectaries for the purpose of
producing honey, because, when these nectaries fall off, no more of
the white juice is secreted in the corol, but it becomes green, and
degenerates into a calyx.”

Dr. Darwin’s theory may or may not be strictly accurate, but his
observation of facts is certainly undoubted.

In one of Keats’s early poems he notices the Hellebore’s curving leaf,

  “As the leaves of Hellebore
  Turn to whence they sprung before,
  And beneath each ample curl
  Peeps the richness of a pearl!”

But if poets know how to describe a Christmas Rose, there are
others who do not. A horticultural book just published, says—and
the description is a curiosity—that in the month of January, “in
our garden, on the hillside, the Christmas Rose is the sweetest and
prettiest thing to show. Its petals are weak and pale; its perfume is
very faint; if you gather it, the leaves presently fall off, and the
flower is destroyed. Leave it in the hedge, when it is almost the only
thing to gladden the eye:

  “The Christmas Rose, the last flower of the year,
  Comes when the holly berries glow and cheer—
  When the pale snowdrops rise from the earth,
  So white and spirit-like ’mid Christmas mirth.”

I wish the writer would show me this curious Christmas Rose, which
grows in a hedge, and has weak petals and a faint perfume, and is
spirit-like! What can it be? and who _could_ have written these very
unmelodious lines?



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[1] See Note I., on the Gardener Bower-bird.

[2] See Note II., on Ars Topiaria.

[3] Horace Walpole says that Bridgeman invented the sunk fence, “and
the common people called them ‘Ha! ha’s!’ to express their surprise at
finding a sudden and unperceived check to their walks.” He adds that
Kent “leaped the fence, and saw that all Nature was a garden.”

[4] See Note III., on a Poet’s Flower-bed.

[5] In _Gleanings from French Gardens_, and _Alpine Flowers for English

[6] I have just seen the following hopeful advertisement:

“_Rockery Ornaments._—To be sold, 500 barrels of Conch Shells, in lots
of one or more barrels, at extremely low prices. Apply to——,” &c. &c.

[7] See Note IV., on the Evening Primrose.

[8] See Note V., on the Christmas Rose.

[9] I have adopted Professor Amos’s translation.

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