Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
The Well Considered Garden
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo

"Along the lawns the tulip lamps are lit."



I BELIEVE I shall always remember May, 1913, as the Darwinian May. As the mention of this adjective is doubtless music-to the ear of the scientist, so its sound is equally delectable to the possessor and lover of the Darwin tulips. In a bit of writing appearing some time ago in this journal, I set down a list of Darwins arranged for color combination, taken from a fine English source. These I tried for the first time this year; and I assure the reader when I saw them I fell down and worshipped. A pageant of color, a marvellous procession of flowery grandeur no words are mine in which to tell of my sensations on seeing this beauty for the first time; and the sensations were not mine alone. They were shared by all those who saw them, among them some sophisticated eyes, eyes which might not show delight without good cause.

The color arrangement proved not so good as I had hoped. And, thanks to an ingenious guest, we rearranged for next year in this fashion: One tulip of each variety was cut and labelled with a slip of paper. These cut tulips were then placed in the open spaces of the rattan or cane seat of a Chinese chair, the large flowers resting against the back and sides of the chair. The round openings in the woven cane exactly admitted the stiff stems of the Darwins; the background of basket-looking stuff was most becoming to the gay flowers, and at our leisure, seated in comfort before our tulip galaxy, we arranged and rearranged till the following plan evolved itself a plan of which I append a rather feebly drawn chart a plan, however, which I recommend with my whole heart, a Darwinian theory less abstruse if not more certain in its outcome than that of him in whose honor these noble spring flowers are named.




Another probably successful arrangement of spring flowers suggests itself. Why should not the tall lemon-colored blooms of Tulipa Vitellina show back of rather close groupings of Scilla campanulata's lavender bells, while the tender yellow of Alyssum saxatile, var. sulphureum, creates a charming foreground? The three flowers bloomed with me this year at the same time, and I cannot but advise a trial planting of them together say a dozen of the tulips, fifty scillas, and six or seven roots of the beautiful hardy alyssum, and you have a picture which a true "garden soul" will feel beneath the ground in winter. This could be done in a spot apart, a bit of ground sacred to adventures in flowers.

And while we are on adventures in flowers, may I impart a few impressions of some tulips seen this spring for the first time? Really revelations some of them unspeakably beautiful. Coming, for instance, unexpectedly upon Tulipa viridiflora was like coming upon a specially beautiful green-and-white trillium in a wood. This tulip has that precious look of not having been evolved. Yet it is a May-flowering or cottage tulip. What pleasure in a few bulbs of this unique flower, in its aspect of untouchedness! It cannot be possible, one thinks, that the delicate bands of green up and down its palest yellow-painted petals were not set there by the skilful eye and brush of perhaps the Japanese!

Tulip The Fawn, a Darwin this, was almost unbelievable in its beauty. No description of it in print satisfies me. May I here give my own? Pale amber to cream-color outside, suffused with soft pinkish lavender, the whole effect that of a tea-rose. Why not give it a subtitle the tea-rose tulip? And why not grow it with that deep, rich purple Darwin Faust? The contrast between these two is tremendously striking, yet there is a certain harmony of tone which allows of their dwelling together not only in peace but in beauty.

Gudin, a tall tulip of a pale-mauve hue, looking its best near a group of the stately Innocence, was another of the wonders of the spring. Orpheus was a charming flower turning to warm rose in its last days; Emerald Gem, oddly named when its richest of 'salmon blooms are considered, with Orange Globe should form a combination of brilliant color unsurpassed; and in Dom Pedro we have a Breeder tulip, a flower of wonderful mahogany tones which I should ever choose to see associated with Coridion, lovely "clear yellow with stripe of lilac through centre of petal."

About June 3 comes Ixiolirion macrantha, like a small lavender lily, with delicate tubular flowers, as many as a dozen up and down the graceful waving stem. The leafage of this flower is scanty; what there is, is of a grayish-green which makes the flower a fit companion for the dusty miller (Senecio cineraria). The ixiolirion is one of the bravest of bulbs, coming triumphantly through the bitter frosts of last winter. lxiolirion pallasi is named as a good one, and this I hope to try. The lasting quality of ixiolirion in water is one of its recommendations; and because it is so very perfect when cut, if used with sprays of Deutzia Lemoineii for daytime use on the table, that is, for I have yet to find the blue that can properly be used under artificial light I hope to let a quantity of these beautiful waving things blow near and before the low bushes of the deutzia next spring. These will follow the tiny Italian Tulipa clusiana, whose slender beauty grows dearer every year. Clusiana is neighbored by Puschkinia and the two are preceded by some species of crocus the Scotch, I think, var. C. InYlorus pusillus.

So we achieve an uncommon spring planting, delicate and lovely for weeks from the end of April to the first of June, always interesting whether the small flowers are coming or going and if planted with judgment and discrimination as to natural-looking arrangement, regard to height and color, we may without fear of disappointment think in December of the rare joys in store for us in that spot when it shall have been touched by the suns of spring.

A charming happening has just taken place in the borders. The bush honeysuckles of Michigan were never more gloriously covered with their veils of white and rose than this spring. It may have been the gradually warming season, the uninterrupted progress from leaf-bud to blossom; in any case, the tale is the same all about us the loniceras have been remarkably fine. Below a towering group of Lonicera, var. bells albida, whose flowers in early June are just passing, crowds of the swaying long-spurred hybrid aquilegias bloom and blow. Most of us now know the unusual delicacy and range of color in these charming flowers faint pinks, yellows, blues, and lavenders all pale and poised as they are.

But oh! to catch beyond, under the shadow of the honeysuckle boughs, as I did but now, the sight of masses of blooming pink scillas, Scilla campanulata, var. rosea, at precisely the moment and in precisely the place where its modest beauty was most perfectly displayed to have this as a surprise, not a special plan here was a pleasure of a quality all too seldom felt and known. Nothing could carry on and repeat the tones of the pink and lavender aquilegias as does this loveliest of late scillas. In appearance more like a tall lilyof-the-valley than any other flower I can call to mind, in tone so cool a pink that it is perfect in combination with the blue, lavender, or pink columbines. It is enchanting as their neighbor and far more interesting thus used than in the more commonplace proximity to its cousin or sister, the lavender Scilla campanulata, var. excelsior, blooming at the same time. To me it would be dull to see sheets of these two spring flowers near each other or intermingling. Dull, I mean, compared with such a possibility as the combination I have tried to describe and which was simply one of those heavenly accidents befalling all too rarely the ardent gardener.

On this June day the buds in my garden are almost as enchanting as the open flowers. Things in bud bring, in the heat of a June noontide, the recollection of the loveliest days of the year those days of May when all is suggested, nothing yet fulfilled. To-day I have been looking at something one of these photographs feebly tries to show tall spikes of pale-pink Canterbury bells, the flowers unusually large, standing against a softly rounding background of gypsophila in bud; to the left of the campanulas, leaves of Iris pallida Dalmatica, so tall that their presence is immediately felt; a little before, but still to the left of the pink spikes and the iris, perhaps a dozen tall silvery velvet stems of Stachys lanata, whose tiny flowers give but a hint of their pale lavender as yet, and are lost in the whiteness of the young leaflets, and and this is the thing which really creates the picture three or four spreading branches, a foot from the ground and directly below the campanulas, of Statice incana Silver Cloud, tiny points of white showing that the whole dense spray will soon be full of flowers.

Below and among the campanulas (which I keep in bloom a very long time by a careful daily taking off of every shrivelling bloom) stand 'salmon-pink balsams, these to replace with their two-foot masses of flowers the campanulas when the latter's day is over and to rise above the gray-white leaves of the stachys when its blooming time is also past. This stachys is a lovely adjunct to the garden. The texture of its leaves is a matter of surprise to every one who touches them. Most people would call stachys "woolly," but I do not like this word (is it because I live in the West?) and why apply an unpoetic word to any one of the lovely inhabitants of our gardens?

It came about that a space before the bush honeysuckles the pink flowering variety, Lonicera Tatarica, var. rosea in a border, needed filling with lower shrubs. The piece of ground to be furnished was perhaps fifteen feet long by three wide, though irregular in both width and outline. Last autumn Rosa nitida had been there set out, planted about three feet apart. Bare ground for this year and next was sure to spoil the look of things while these roses were yet young, and a covering for it was thus managed. Canterbury-bell plants were distributed in small groups among the roses, especially toward the back of the border; and English irises, Rossini and Mr. Veen, were tucked in in longish colonies before and among the campanulas. In ordinary seasons these irises might not have bloomed with the campanulas, but this year it was Monte Cristo-like the flower and the hour! with a resultant superb effect of color. Mr. Veen, a true violet iris, Rossini, a purplish-blue, were good together to me, who differ from Miss Jekyll in possessing a penchant for blue combined with purple or with lavender.



From The Garden Month by Month. By courtesy of Frederick .A. Stokes Company

To compare a bloom of one of these irises with a spray of the Dropmore anchusa is to get an extremely vivid and interesting idea of the effect of colors upon each other. Taken alone, Iris xiphiaides, var. Mr. Veen, is a blue without very much purple in its tone; beside the anchusa all the blue vanishes the iris is a distinct purple; place it beside Rossini, it becomes blue again; and grow masses of Rossini below the anchusa, especially the variety Opal, and there is one of the most beautiful juxtapositions possible in flowers so far as I know an original combination of color and one to charm an artist, I believe. Anchusa of a year's standing, a three-foot anchusa, might be best to use in this way. The two-foot iris would prove a good companion.

There follows, soon after the gray-and-pink combination in my garden of which I spoke a few paragraphs back, the combination of pink Campanula medium and Stachys lanata, a time when one of the loveliest of all double poppies lights up the little place with color. For this poppy an annual there is no registered name. It is double, extremely full, perhaps three feet in height, and of a delicious rosy-pink, exactly the pink of the best mallows;, or of the enchanting half-open rosebuds of the ever-lovely rambler Lady Gay. To see three or four of these poppies in full bloom among the white mist of gypsophila, either single or double, the oat-green of the poppy leaves below, is to see something more delicately beautiful than often occurs in gardens. Many packets of the seed of my poppy are always in readiness, as I have a superabundance of the same; and if ten people read these words, and if, peradventure, there be ten gardeners with vision to see through the veil of these sentences the rose-pink beauty of this flower, let them ask for a bit of this seed, for it is theirs for the asking!

The love of flowers brings surely with it the love of all the green world. For love of flowers every blooming square in cottage gardens seen from the flying windows of the train has its true and touching message for the traveller; every bush and tree in nearer field and farther wood becomes an object of delight and stirs delightful thought. When I see a rhubarb plant in a small rural garden, I respect the man, or more generally the woman, who placed it there. If my eye lights upon the carefully tended peony held up by a barrel hoop, the round group of an old dicentra, the fine upstanding single plant of iris, at once I experience the warmest feeling of friendliness for that householder, and wish to know and talk with them about their flowers. For at the bottom there is a bond which breaks down every other difference between us. We are "Garden Souls."

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.