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A sun-dial is calm time, old time, beautiful spacious time in a garden; it is slow waltz time, — time that flows like a shining twist of honey, sweet and slow. A sun-dial prods nobody, a sun-dial can trance and forget; it lets the green hours glide. And at the dose of day, when Evening leans upon the garden gate, your sun-dial ceases to suppose it knows the hour.
— "The Villa for Coslebs," J. H. Yoxszu
BALANCE IN THE FLOWER GARDEN
WHEN the chance to arrange the planting of a formal garden of my own fell into my hands, about eight years ago, I felt strongly the need of advice in what I was about to do. Advice, however, was not forthcoming, and at the outset I fell, of course, into the pit of absurdity. Without any reason for so doing, I decided to arrange the planting in this garden (a balanced design in four equal parts with eight beds in each section) as though the whole were a scrap of perennial border a few feet wide and a few feet long. The ridiculous idea occurred to me to have the garden a picture to be looked at from the house alone. The matter of garden design was to fade out of sight except with regard to the few beds immediately surrounding the small central pool. These were planted more or less formally, with heliotrope in the four parallelograms nearest the centre, and iris and lilies in four other spaces near the rest. I endeavored to produce irregular crosswise banks of color from the far end of the garden to the part nearest the house — scarlet, orange, and yellow, with a fair sprinkling of hollyhocks in yellow and white on the more distant edge; before these, crowds of white flowers, gray-leaved plants and blue-flowering things; and, nearest of all to the beholder, brighter and paler pinks.
The result was nothing but an ugly muddle — indescribably so when one happened to be in the midst of the garden itself. For two or three years I bore with this unhappy condition of things; indeed, nothing but the fact that the flowers conducted themselves in remarkably luxuriant and brilliant fashion, due to the freshness and richness of the soil, could have saved me from seeing sooner the silly mistake I had made; when, chancing to look down upon the garden from an upper window, the real state of things suddenly revealed itself, and from that day I set about to plan and plant in totally different fashion.
With Mr. Robinson, I feel against the wretched carpet-bedding system, while I quite agree, on the other hand, with the spokesman for the formalists, Reginald Blomfield, who declared that there is no such thing as the "wild garden," that the name is a contradiction of terms. The one thing I do maintain is that advice, the very best advice, is the prime necessity: for those who can afford it, the fine landscape architect; for those who cannot, the criticism or counsel of some friend or acquaintance whose experience has been wider than their own. The time is sure to come when experts in the art of proper flower-grouping alone will be in demand.
There is no doubt about it, our grandmothers were right when they preferred to see a vase on each side of the clock! With a given length of shelf and a central object on that shelf, one's instinct for equalizing calls for a second candlestick or bowl to balance the first. My meaning may be illustrated by a recent picture in "The Century Magazine" of Mrs. Tyson's beautiful garden at Berwick, Maine. Charming as is this lovely garden-vista, with its delightful posts in the foreground, repeating the lines of slim poplar in the middle distance, it would have given me much more pleasure could those heavy-headed white or pale-colored phloxes on the right have had a perfect repetition of their effective masses exactly opposite — directly across the grass walk. These phloxes cry aloud for balance, placed as they seem to be in a distinctly formal setting.
So it is in the formal flower garden. I have come to see quite plainly, through several years of lost time, that balanced planting throughout is the only planting for a garden that has any design worth the name. It is difficult to conceive of that formal garden in which the use of formal or clipped trees would be inappropriate; and these we must not fail to mention, not only because of the fine foil in color and rich background of dark tone which they bring into the garden, but because of their shadow masses as well and their value as accents. And that word "accents" brings me to the consideration of the first important placing of flowers in a garden which like my own is, unlike all Gaul, divided into four parts.
THE TIME OF GYPSOPHILA
Two cross-walks intersect my garden, causing four entrances. To flank each of these entrances, it can be at once seen, balanced planting must prevail. In the eight beds whose corners occur at these entrances, this planting is used: large masses of Thermopsis Caroliniana give an early and brightly conspicuous bloom. Around these the tall salmon-pink phlox, Aurore Boreale, much later; below this — filling out the angle of the corner to the very point — the blue lyme grass (Elymus arenarius), gladiolus William Falconer, and lowest, of all, Phlox Drummondii, var. Chamois Rose. None of these colors fight with each other at any time, and the large group of tall-growing things is well fronted by the intermediate heights of the lyme grass and the gladiolus when in growth or in bloom. The four far corners of my garden I also consider more effective when planted with tall-growing flowers; in these the Dropmore, Anchusa Italica, first shines bluely forth; this soon gives place to the white physostegia, with phlox Fernando Cortez blooming below the slim white spikes just mentioned; and last, to light up the corners, comes the mauve Physostegia Virginica, var. rosea, whose bloom here is far more profuse and effective than that of its white sisters. This grouping gives almost continuous bloom and very telling color from mid-June to mid-September; the periods of green, when they occur, are short, and the vigorous-looking plants are not at all objectionable before they blossom. The effect of balanced planting in these corners I consider good. The eye is carried expectantly from one angle to another and expectation is fulfilled.
In the centre of this garden are four rectangular beds, corresponding in proportion to the size of the rectangular pool. These, as forming part of the centre of the garden, are always planted exactly alike. Purple of a rich bluish cast is one of the colors which bind instead of separate, and purple it is which here becomes an excellent focal color for the garden. In the middle of each bed is a sturdy group of the hardy phlox Lord Rayleigh, surrounded on all sides by heliotrope of the darkest purple obtainable. This year, however, I expect to replace the heliotrope with even better effect by a tall blue ageratum, which I saw in one or two Connecticut gardens, as the paler color is more telling and quite as neutral for such a position. Speaking of this ageratum, I may perhaps digress for a moment to mention a charming effect I saw on an out-of-door dining-table last summer, obtained by the use of this flower. The color of the table was a pale cool green and most of its top was exposed; in the centre stood a bowl of French or Italian pottery, bearing a careless gay decoration, and at the four corners smaller bowls. These were filled, to quote the words of rthe knowing lady whose happy arrangement this was, "with zinnias which had yellows and copper-reds, with the variety which resulted from an order of salmon-pinks and whites. We really had almost everything but salmon-pink."
The zinnias, I who saw them can affirm, made a most brilliant mass of color not altogether harmonious; but all was set right by the introduction, sparingly managed, of the lovely ageratum, Dwarf Imperial Blue. The eye of her who arranged these flowers saw that a balm was needed in Gilead; the ageratum certainly brought the zinnia colors into harmony as nothing else could have done, and a charmingly gay and original decoration was the result. What a suggestion here, too, for the planting of a little garden of annuals!
We are apt to think of balance in the formal garden as obtained for the most part by the use of accents in the shape of formal trees, or by some architectural adjunct. I believe that color masses and plant forms should correspond as absolutely as the more severe features of such a garden. For example, in practically the same spot in all four quarters of my garden there are, for perhaps four to six weeks, similar masses of tall white hardy phloxes, the blooming period beginning with von Lassburg and closing with Jeanne d'Arc, the white repeated in the dwarf phlox Tapis Blanc in four places nearer the centre of the garden.
For accents in flowers, the mind flies naturally to the use, first, of the taller and more formal types of flowers. Delphiniums with their fine uprightness and glorious blues; hollyhocks where space is abundant and rust doth not corrupt; the magnificent mulleins, notably Verbaseum Olympicum, might surely emphasize points in design; and I read but now of a new pink one of fine color, which, though mentioned as a novelty in Miss Ellen Willmott's famous garden at Warley, England, will be sure to cross the water soon if invited by our enterprising nurserymen. Lilies of the cup-upholding kinds, standard roses, standard wistarias, standard heliotropes are all to be had. The use of the dwarf or pyramidal fruit-tree in the formal garden is very beautiful to me, recalling some of the earliest of the fine gardens of England, and (where the little tree is kept well trimmed) offering a rarely interesting medium for obtaining balanced effects.
HARDY ASTERS IN SEPTEMBER
But the tall plants are not the only available means for producing balanced effects. Lower masses of foliage or flowers have their place. They must be masses, however, unmistakable masses. Thus, in the illustration facing page 68, each of the large flower masses of baby's breath (Gypsophila elegans) — consisting of the bloom of but a single well-developed plant — is repeated in every instance in four corresponding positions in this garden. There was too much gypsophila in bloom at once when this picture was made, but because some was double the effect was not as monotonous as the photograph would make out. In a fine garden in Saginaw, Michigan, designed and planted by Mr. Charles A. Platt, balance is preserved and emphasized in striking fashion by the use of the plantain lily (Funkia Sieboldii, or grandiflora), with its shining yellow-green leaves. Masses of this formal plant are here used as an effective foreground for a single fine specimen bush, not very tall, of Japan snowball (Viburnum plicatum). The poker flower (Tritoma Pfitzeri) is also used in this garden to carry the eye from point to corresponding point; and speaking of tritoma, which Mr. Platt in this garden associates with iris, let me mention again that delightful ageratum, as I lately saw it, used below tritoma. The tritoma must have been one of the newer varieties, of an unusual tone of intense salmonyorange, and while the ageratum would seem too insignificant in height to neighbor the tall spike above it, the use of the lavender-blue in large masses added enormously to the effect of the torches.
In the second illustration, the rather thin-looking elms seem to flank the garden entrance rather fortunately. A certain pleasurable sensation is felt in the balance afforded by the doubly bordered walk with its blue and lavender Michaelmas daisies or hardy asters. It is surely the repetition of the twos which has something to do with this: two borders, two posts, two trees, the eye carried twice upward by higher and yet higher objects.