WHEN the raw recruit was given a hatful of flour and a live sheep for his weeks rations, he could not have felt more bewildered than the new house-owner does sometimes when he looks at the garden. To tackle the problem of making a garden from a plot of virgin soil needs the same pioneer spirit of adventure that the Norsemen required to cross the uncharted seas.
Clearing the Plot
GENERALLY, the builder has left sundry heaps of brickbats, clay, and other debris round the house, or if they are not at once visible, turning over the surface-layer of the levelled borders will reveal the true state of affairs. Sometimes the best soil is buried, and must be recovered by deep digging for the garden to be successful.
The best soil is the darkest, formerly the top soil of the plot. The plan of the garden is, of course, the first consideration. Here is shown a design which illustrates how the particular problems of a long, narrow garden on a sloping site have been tackled. The drive entrance is convenient, and is brightened considerably by the use of shrubby potentillas and dwarf ericas, with standard ornamental cherries, and a conifer on the semi-circular lawn.
A FEATURE of special interest is the winter garden outside the drawing-room windows. In midwinter and through the cheerless days of very early spring, winter flowering shrubs, arranged to shelter this garden on the north and west, will be in flower. Some will continue to open their blooms through the later spring days.
Christmas roses are followed by early spring bulbs in the beds set in crazy paving. Fully exposed to the south, these beds will be colourful while many in exposed gardens are still wearing the sombre tones of winter.
The first practical work in a new garden is to erect fences and plant hedges. If the jardcn is exposed to view, the fence should be unobtrusive. A simple wire strand, or two wires, on oak posts is sufficient to meet legal requirements of a fence, except where there are special clauses hi the agreement.
If it is necessary to erect a close-boarded fence, oak – which is always beautiful and lasts indefinitely – or some good artistic fence in close boards can be used. But regard the fence, in any case, as a necessary evil, and proceed immediately to beautify it by planting climbers, or thick hedge plants, alongside.
A selection of climbing roses for clothing fences would include: Pauls Scarlet climber; Albertine (coppery chamois and salmon); Allen Chandler (vivid scarlet); American Pillar (clear rose, pink centre); Emily Gray (golden yellow); Excelsa (bright rosy crimson).
Internal boundaries come next, and an effort should be made to give privacy without losing the sense of distance in the garden. This point is well illustrated in one of the designs, where a view is obtained from the terrace through the curved pergola, down the grassy path between fruit trees, to open countryside beyond.
The modern tendency to specialize is present even in gardens, and owners of large plots usually want to set a portion aside for their special favourites in the floral world – roses, carnations or dahlias. A rose garden has to be built on definite lines. For instance, the beds must not be too large or there is difficulty in reaching the bushes for pruning and cutting flowers. Also, roses like plenty of air, and will not tolerate the crowding of a mixed border. And they display best in a setting of green grass.
This makes the rose garden design one that must be approached rather differently from the rest of the garden. It is the successful division of a plot into sections, and the discovery of artistic methods of linking the sections so that they make a complete and harmonious whole, which indicate the real garden artist.
Twelve of the best bedding roses for the garden are: Betty Uprichard (orange-pink); Emma Wright (pure orange);
Rev. Butterfly (pink, shaded apricot);
C. P. Kilham (brilliant nasturtium red): Mrs. G. A. van Rossem (orange-apricot on dark yellow ground); Mrs. Henry Bowles (glowing rose); Mrs. A. It. Barraclough (carmine-pink); Los Angeles (salmon-rose, shaded apricot); Ophelia (salmon flesh). It is sometimes even more difficult to deal effectively with a small space than to Loganberries, morelle cherries, and culti-vated blackberries can be used very effec-tively on fences of wood, if utility is desired as well as beauty. Roses, honeysuckles, variegated ivies and vines are available for the purely ornamental garden. If a hedge is used, never plant privet if you want a good garden. Privet is hungry, and sends out masses of fibrous roots far away into the flower borders in search of nourish- plan a large garden. To design a garden of interest throughout the seasons, flowering shrubs should be used wisely to convert an odd corner of the site into a garden which makes one forget the nearness of the house. Bulbs and perennials provide successional interest and beauty, and the simple treatment proves entirely successful and satisfying to the artist.
As with all gardens, the treatment of boundaries is very important. There are so many good ways of covering fences, and so many lovely hedge plants, that this part of the problem should not prove the stum-bling-block that it does in many cases.
However, if you really want privet, fix a board or row of slates on edge, into the soil close to the hedge, to prevent the roots from wandering too far into the border.
Less greedy hedges can be made of sweet briar, the Penzance briars being extremely useful where cattle are to be kept out. Or the use of flowering shrubs, such as berberis, will bring the hedge into closer relationship with the flower border, and its greediness will be compensated for by its floral beauty.
Evergreen hedges are a godsend in windy districts. Laurel is very warm, and holly and yew are both ideal, though rather slow growing. An occasional dusting with sulphate of ammonia on the soil round the roots will greatly encourage these slow-growing hedges, and make a difference of several inches in the seasons growth.
The small garden depends for its interest on the mixed or herbaceous border, and though this is one of the most common features of a garden, it is rarely a complete success. There is no black magic in its arrangement and cultivation, but it has all the interest of a jigsaw puzzle.
First there must be a collection of flowers to bloom in succession all through the spring, summer and autumn, with a few winter-flowering subjects if possible. Then there must be a variation in height, so that tall flowers can, for the most part, form a background for dwarf ones. Then colour has to be considered, foliage as well as flower, and only those that harmonize grouped together. Finally some thought must be given to the soil requirements, the habit of growth of each plant – that is, whether it is bushy or straggly, erect or spreading – and to the appearance of each after it has flowered. The arrangement of a border so that all these points receive duo consideration means sure success.
There are some trees which can be intro-duced with good effect in the small garden, especially if the site is perfectly level. One small tree well placed amongst the shrubs or herbaceous plants, or even on the lawn, makes a world of difference to the charm of the garden. Six trees suitable for small gardens are:
Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree); Parrotia Persica (golden foliage in autumn); Primus Amygdalus (flowering almond); Prunus Pissardii (flowering plum); Pyrus Mains Jolin Downie (flowering crab); Robinia hispida (rose acacia).
The conventional rectangular plot allotted to 90 per cent, of small modern houses, especially in towns, constitutes a special problem. Every garden-owner likes his garden to be a little unlike every other garden. He usually dislikes the insistent straight lines that indicate immediately to the visitor the size of the plot.
In many of these small gardens shrubs have been skilfully used to break the for-mality of the boundaries. The extensive use of lawn gives a feeling of spaciousness in the garden, and the planting of climbers and dwarf shrubs, such as lavender, against the house walls softens the rectangular severity of the plot.
Here it is not so much the herbaceous border which gives the character to the garden, as the wise use of shrubs. A garden in a small space, of conventional pattern, can be made quite distinctive, and at the same time colourful, by making a skeleton of shrubs and using bulbs in the springtime, and annuals or bedding plants or summer and autumn flowering.
It is not always desirable to use the larger types of shrubs extensively in a small garden. Rhododendrons quickly become too large for their site. Buddlcia, lilacs and laurustinus are delightful where there is space for their full development, but thejr quickly become a nuisance in a restricted space.
On the other hand, dwarf shrubs such as Daphne me.ercum, which flowers freely in February, and scents the air most delightfully, never become too large for accommodation in an ordinary border. In most cases these slow-growing shrubs do not need pruning, so that their use also saves labour in the garden.
A short list which could be recommended for the borders of a small garden is as follows: Berber is gagnepainii;
Cotoneastcr horizontals (spreading); Hypericum calycinum (St. Johns wort); Hypericum patulum;
It will be noticed that some of the shrubs recommended have silver-grey foliage, and if these are used here and there along a border, between the dark evergreens, even in winter the border will be furnished. A few groups of spring bulbs – daffodils, hyacinths or tulips in batches of a dozen of one variety – and patches of annuals sown where they are to flower, will give enough colour to such borders, with or without the use of herbaceous perennials.
The same list of shrubs can be used for the borders against house walls, but here one could also add the Firethorn (Pyracanthus), or Cydonia (.Japanese quince), to train on to the walls, for beauty in winter and early spring. If it is preferred to use self-clinging climbers, variegated ivy (the golden ivy is delightful on redbrick walls) or self-clinging Virginian creeper could be used.
It cannot be too much stressed that the business of the garden-maker is to plan the skeleton first. A garden divided into useful sections, boundaries well clothed, paths useful as well as beautiful, shelter pro-vided – these are the essentials, and if these are kept in mind from the outset, the garden will be more and more charming as it develops.