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Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur

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<SPAN name="Page_032" id="Page_032"></SPAN>[032]</div> <h2>CHAPTER IV</h2> <h4>MARCH</h4> <blockquote><p>Flowering bulbs &mdash; Dog-tooth Violet &mdash; Rock-garden &mdash; Variety of Rhododendron foliage &mdash; A beautiful old kind &mdash; Suckers on grafted plants &mdash; Plants for filling up the beds &mdash; Heaths &mdash; Andromedas &mdash; Lady Fern &mdash; <i>Lilium auratum</i> &mdash; Pruning Roses &mdash; Training and tying climbing plants &mdash; Climbing and free-growing Roses &mdash; The Vine the best wall-covering &mdash; Other climbers &mdash; Wild Clematis &mdash; Wild Rose.</p></blockquote> <p><br />In early March many and lovely are the flowering bulbs, and among them a wealth of blue, the more precious that it is the colour least frequent among flowers. The blue of <i>Scilla sibirica</i>, like all blues that have in them a suspicion of green, has a curiously penetrating quality; the blue of <i>Scilla bifolia</i> does not attack the eye so smartly. <i>Chionodoxa sardensis</i> is of a full and satisfying colour, that is enhanced by the small space of clear white throat. A bed of it shows very little variation in colour. <i>Chionodoxa Lucilli�</i>, on the other hand, varies greatly; one may pick out light and dark blue, and light and dark of almost lilac colour. The variety <i>C. gigantea</i> is a fine plant. There are some pretty kinds of <i>Scilla bifolia</i> that were raised by the Rev. J. G. Nelson of Aldborough, among them a tender <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_033" id="Page_033"></SPAN>[033]</span>flesh-colour and a good pink. <i>Leucojum vernum</i>, with its clear white flowers and polished dark-green leaves, is one of the gems of early March; and, flowering at the same time, no flower of the whole year can show a more splendid and sumptuous colour than the purple of <i>Iris reticulata</i>. Varieties have been raised, some larger, some nearer blue, and some reddish purple, but the type remains the best garden flower. <i>Iris stylosa</i>, in sheltered nooks open to the sun, when well established, gives flower from November till April, the strongest rush of bloom being about the third week in March. It is a precious plant in our southern counties, delicately scented, of a tender and yet full lilac-blue. The long ribbon-like leaves make handsome tufts, and the sheltered place it needs in our climate saves the flowers from the injury they receive on their native windy Algerian hills, where they are nearly always torn into tatters.</p> <p>What a charm there is about the common Dogtooth Violet; it is pretty everywhere, in borders, in the rock-garden, in all sorts of corners. But where it looks best with me is in a grassy place strewn with dead leaves, under young oaks, where the garden joins the copse. This is a part of the pleasure-ground that has been treated with some care, and has rewarded thought and labour with some success, so that it looks less as if it had been planned than as if it might have come naturally. At one point the lawn, trending gently upward, runs by grass paths into a rock-garden, planted <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_034" id="Page_034"></SPAN>[034]</span>mainly with dwarf shrubs. Here are Andromedas, Pernettyas, Gaultherias, and Alpine Rhododendron, and with them three favourites whose crushed leaves give a grateful fragrance, Sweet Gale, <i>Ledum palustre</i>, and <i>Rhododendron myrtifolium</i>. The rock part is unobtrusive; where the ground rises rather quickly are a couple of ridges made of large, long lumps of sandstone, half buried, and so laid as to give a look of natural stratification. Hardy Ferns are grateful for the coolness of their northern flanks, and Cyclamens are happy on the ledges. Beyond and above is the copse, or thin wood of young silver Birch and Holly, in summer clothed below with bracken, but now bristling with the bluish spears of Daffodils and the buds that will soon burst into bloom. The early Pyrenean Daffodil is already out, gleaming through the low-toned copse like lamps of pale yellow light. Where the rough path enters the birch copse is a cheerfully twinkling throng of the Dwarf Daffodil (<i>N. nanus</i>), looking quite at its best on its carpet of moss and fine grass and dead leaves. The light wind gives it a graceful, dancing movement, with an active spring about the upper part of the stalk. Some of the heavier trumpets not far off answer to the same wind with only a ponderous, leaden sort of movement.</p> <p>Farther along the garden joins the wood by a plantation of Rhododendrons and broad grassy paths, and farther still by a thicket of the free-growing Roses, some forming fountain-like clumps nine paces in diameter, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_035" id="Page_035"></SPAN>[035]</span>and then again by masses of flowering shrubs, gradating by means of Sweetbriar, Water-elder, Dogwood, Medlar, and Thorn from garden to wild wood.</p> <p>Now that the Rhododendrons, planted nine years ago, have grown to a state and size of young maturity, it is interesting to observe how much they vary in foliage, and how clearly the leaves show the relative degree of relationship to their original parents, the wild mountain plants of Asia Minor and the United States. These, being two of the hardiest kinds, were the ones first chosen by hybridisers, and to these kinds we owe nearly all of the large numbers of beautiful garden Rhododendrons now in cultivation. The ones more nearly related to the wild <i>R. ponticum</i> have long, narrow, shining dark-green leaves, while the varieties that incline more to the American <i>R. catawbiense</i> have the leaves twice as broad, and almost rounded at the shoulder where they join the stalk; moreover, the surface of the leaf has a different texture, less polished, and showing a grain like morocco leather. The colour also is a lighter and more yellowish green, and the bush is not so densely branched. The leaves of all the kinds are inclined to hang down in cold weather, and this habit is more clearly marked in the <i>catawbiense</i> varieties.</p> <p>There is one old kind called <i>Multum maculatum</i>&mdash;I dare say one of the earliest hybrids&mdash;for which I have a special liking. It is now despised by florists, because the flower is thin in texture and the petal <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_036" id="Page_036"></SPAN>[036]</span>narrow, and the truss not tightly filled. Nevertheless I find it quite the most beautiful Rhododendron as a cut flower, perhaps just because of these unorthodox qualities. And much as I admire the great bouncing beauties that are most justly the pride of their raisers, I hold that this most refined and delicate class of beauty equally deserves faithful championship. The flowers of this pretty old kind are of a delicate milk-white, and the lower petals are generously spotted with a rosy-scarlet of the loveliest quality. The leaves are the longest and narrowest and darkest green of any kind I know, making the bush conspicuously handsome in winter. I have to confess that it is a shy bloomer, and that it seems unwilling to flower in a young state, but I think of it as a thing so beautiful and desirable as to be worth waiting for.</p> <p>Within March, and before the busier season comes upon us, it is well to look out for the suckers that are likely to come on grafted plants. They may generally be detected by the typical <i>ponticum</i> leaf, but if the foliage of a branch should be suspicious and yet doubtful, if on following the shoot down it is seen to come straight from the root and to have a redder bark than the rest, it may safely be taken for a robber. Of course the invading stock may be easily seen when in flower, but the good gardener takes it away before it has this chance of reproaching him. A lady visitor last year told me with some pride that she had a most wonderful Rhododendron in bloom; all the flower in the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_037" id="Page_037"></SPAN>[037]</span>middle was crimson, with a ring of purple-flowered branches outside. I am afraid she was disappointed when I offered condolence instead of congratulation, and had to tell her that the phenomenon was not uncommon among neglected bushes.</p> <p>When my Rhododendron beds were first planted, I followed the usual practice of filling the outer empty spaces of the clumps with hardy Heaths. Perhaps it is still the best or one of the best ways to begin when the bushes are quite young; for if planted the right distance apart&mdash;seven to nine feet&mdash;there must be large bare spaces between; but now that they have filled the greater part of the beds, I find that the other plants I tried are more to my liking. These are, foremost of all, <i>Andromeda Catesb�i</i>, then Lady Fern, and then the dwarf <i>Rhododendron myrtifolium</i>. The main spaces between the young bushes I plant with <i>Cistus laurifolius</i>, a perfectly hardy kind; this grows much faster than the Rhododendrons, and soon fills the middle spaces; by the time that the best of its life is over&mdash;for it is a short-lived bush&mdash;the Rhododendrons will be wanting all the space. Here and there in the inner spaces I put groups of <i>Lilium auratum</i>, a Lily that thrives in a peaty bed, and that looks its best when growing through other plants; moreover, when the Rhododendrons are out of flower, the Lily, whose blooming season is throughout the late summer and autumn, gives a new beauty and interest to that part of the garden.</p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_038" id="Page_038"></SPAN>[038]</span>The time has come for pruning Roses, and for tying up and training the plants that clothe wall and fence and pergola. And this sets one thinking about climbing and rambling plants, and all their various ways and wants, and of how best to use them. One of my boundaries to a road is a fence about nine feet high, wall below and close oak paling above. It is planted with free-growing Roses of several types&mdash;Aim�e Vibert, Madame Alfred Carri�re, Reine Olga de Wurtemburg, and Bouquet d'Or, the strongest of the Dijon teas. Then comes a space of <i>Clematis Montana</i> and <i>Clematis flammula</i>, and then more Roses&mdash;Madame Plantier, Em�lie Plantier (a delightful Rose to cut), and some of the grand Sweetbriars raised by Lord Penzance.</p> <p>From midsummer onward these Roses are continually cut for flower, and yield an abundance of quite the most ornamental class of bloom. For I like to have cut Roses arranged in a large, free way, with whole branches three feet or four feet long, easy to have from these free-growing kinds, that throw out branches fifteen feet long in one season, even on our poor, sandy soil, that contains no particle of that rich loam that Roses love. I think this same Reine Olga, the grand grower from which have come our longest and largest prunings, must be quite the best evergreen Rose, for it holds its full clothing of handsome dark-green leaves right through the winter. It seems to like hard pruning. I have one on a part of the pergola, but have no pleasure from it, as it has rushed <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_039" id="Page_039"></SPAN>[039]</span>up to the top, and nothing shows but a few naked stems.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/39top_a.jpg" width="400" height="301" alt="Garden Door-way wreathed with Clematis Graveolens." title=""/> <span class="caption">Garden Door-way wreathed with Clematis Graveolens.</span> </div> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"><SPAN name="image39" id="image39"></SPAN> <ANTIMG src="images/39bottom_a.jpg" width="400" height="317" alt="Cottage Porch wreathed with the Double White Rose (R. alba)" title=""/> <span class="caption">Cottage Porch wreathed with the Double White Rose (R. alba)</span> </div> <p class="nofloat">One has to find out how to use all these different Roses. How often one sees the wrong Roses used as climbers on the walls of a house. I have seen a Gloire de Dijon covering the side of a house with a profitless reticulation of bare stem, and a few leaves and flowers looking into the gutter just under the edge of the roof. What are generally recommended as climbing Roses are too ready to ramp away, leaving bare, leggy growth where wall-clothing is desired. One of the best is climbing Aim�e Vibert, for with very little pruning it keeps well furnished nearly to the ground, and with its graceful clusters of white bloom and healthy-looking, polished leaves is always one of the prettiest of Roses. Its only fault is that it does not shed its dead petals, but retains the whole bloom in dead brown clusters.</p> <p>But if a Rose wishes to climb, it should be accommodated with a suitable place. That excellent old Rose, the Dundee Rambler, or the still prettier Garland Rose, will find a way up a Holly-tree, and fling out its long wreaths of tenderly-tinted bloom; and there can be no better way of using the lovely Himalayan <i>R. Brunonis</i>, with its long, almost blue leaves and wealth of milk-white flower. A common Sweetbriar will also push up among the branches of some dark evergreen, Yew or Holly, and throw out aloft its scented branches and rosy bloom, and look its very best.</p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_040" id="Page_040"></SPAN>[040]</span>But some of these same free Roses are best of all if left in a clear space to grow exactly as they will without any kind of support or training. So placed, they grow into large rounded groups. Every year, just after the young laterals on the last year's branches have flowered, they throw out vigorous young rods that arch over as they complete their growth, and will be the flower-bearers of the year to come.</p> <p>Two kinds of Roses of rambling growth that are rather tender, but indispensable for beauty, are Fortune's Yellow and the Banksias. Pruning the free Roses is always rough work for the hands and clothes, but of all Roses I know, the worst to handle is Fortune's Yellow. The prickles are hooked back in a way that no care or ingenuity can escape; and whether it is their shape and power of cruel grip, or whether they have anything of a poisonous quality, I do not know; but whereas hands scratched and torn by Roses in general heal quickly, the wounds made by Fortune's Yellow are much more painful and much slower to get well. I knew an old labourer who died of a rose-prick. He used to work about the roads, and at cleaning the ditches and mending the hedges. For some time I did not see him, and when I asked another old countryman, "What's gone o' Master Trussler?" the answer was, "He's dead&mdash;died of a canker-bush." The wild Dog-rose is still the "canker" in the speech of the old people, and a thorn or prickle is still a "bush." A Dog-rose prickle had gone deep into the old hedger's <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_041" id="Page_041"></SPAN>[041]</span>hand&mdash;a "bush" more or less was nothing to him, but the neglected little wound had become tainted with some impurity, blood-poisoning had set in, and my poor old friend had truly enough "died of a canker-bush."</p> <p>The flowering season of Fortune's Yellow is a very short one, but it comes so early, and the flowers have such incomparable beauty, and are so little like those of any other Rose, that its value is quite without doubt. Some of the Tea Roses approach it in its pink and copper colouring, but the loose, open, rather flaunting form of the flower, and the twisted set of the petals, display the colour better than is possible in any of the more regular-shaped Roses. It is a good plan to grow it through some other wall shrub, as it soon gets bare below, and the early maturing flowering tips are glad to be a little sheltered by the near neighbourhood of other foliage.</p> <p>I do not think that there is any other Rose that has just the same rich butter colour as the Yellow Banksian, and this unusual colouring is the more distinct because each little Rose in the cluster is nearly evenly coloured all over, besides being in such dense bunches. The season of bloom is very short, but the neat, polished foliage is always pleasant to see throughout the year. The white kind and the larger white are both lovely as to the individual bloom, but they flower so much more shyly that the yellow is much the better garden plant.</p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_042" id="Page_042"></SPAN>[042]</span>But the best of all climbing or rambling plants, whether for wall or arbour or pergola, is undoubtedly the Grape-Vine. Even when trimly pruned and trained for fruit-bearing on an outer wall it is an admirable picture of leafage and fruit-cluster; but to have it in fullest beauty it must ramp at will, for it is only when the fast-growing branches are thrown out far and wide that it fairly displays its graceful vigour and the generous magnificence of its incomparable foliage.</p> <p>The hardy Chasselas, known in England by the rather misleading name Royal Muscadine, is one of the best, both for fruit and foliage. The leaves are of moderate size, with clearly serrated edges and that strongly waved outline that gives the impression of powerful build, and is, in fact, a mechanical contrivance intended to stiffen the structure. The colour of the leaves is a fresh, lively green, and in autumn they are prettily marbled with yellow. Where a very large-leaved Vine is wanted nothing is handsomer than the North American <i>Vitis Labrusca</i> or the Asiatic <i>Vitis Coignettii</i>, whose autumn leaves are gorgeously coloured. For a place that demands more delicate foliage there is the Parsley-Vine, that has a delightful look of refinement, and another that should not be forgotten is the Claret-Vine, with autumnal colouring of almost scarlet and purple, and abundance of tightly clustered black fruit, nearly blue with a heavy bloom.</p> <p>Many an old house and garden can show the far-rambling <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_043" id="Page_043"></SPAN>[043]</span>power of the beautiful <i>Wistaria Chinensis</i>, and of the large-leaved <i>Aristolochia Sipho</i>, one of the best plants for covering a pergola, and of the varieties of <i>Ampelopsis</i>, near relations of the Grape-Vine. The limit of these notes only admits of mention of some of the more important climbers; but among these the ever-delightful white Jasmine must have a place. It will ramble far and fast if it has its own way, but then gives little flower; but by close winter pruning it can be kept full of bloom and leaf nearly to the ground.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 268px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/43_a.jpg" width="268" height="400" alt="Wild Hop, entwining Wormwood and Cow-Parsnip." title="" /> <span class="caption">Wild Hop, entwining Wormwood and Cow-Parsnip.</span> </div> <p>The woods and hedges have also their beautiful climbing plants. Honeysuckle in suitable conditions will ramble to great heights&mdash;in this district most noticeable in tall Hollies and Junipers as well as in high hedges. The wild Clematis is most frequent on the chalk, where it laces together whole hedges and rushes up trees, clothing them in July with long wreaths of delicate bloom, and in September with still more conspicuous feathery seed. For rapid growth perhaps no English plant outstrips the Hop, growing afresh from the root every year, and almost equalling the Vine in beauty of leaf. The two kinds of wild Bryony are also herbaceous climbers of rapid growth, and among the most beautiful of our hedge plants.</p> <p>The wild Roses run up to great heights in hedge and thicket, and never look so well as when among the tangles of mixed growth of wild forest land or clambering through some old gnarled thorn-tree. The common <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_044" id="Page_044"></SPAN>[044]</span>Brambles are also best seen in these forest groups; these again in form of leaf show somewhat of a vine-like beauty.</p> <p>In the end of March, or at any time during the month when the wind is in the east or north-east, all increase and development of vegetation appears to cease. As things are, so they remain. Plants that are in flower retain their bloom, but, as it were, under protest. A kind of sullen dulness pervades all plant life. Sweet-scented shrubs do not give off their fragrance; even the woodland moss and earth and dead leaves withhold their sweet, nutty scent. The surface of the earth has an arid, infertile look; a slight haze of an ugly grey takes the colour out of objects in middle distance, and seems to rob the flowers of theirs, or to put them out of harmony with all things around. But a day comes, or, perhaps, a warmer night, when the wind, now breathing gently from the south-west, puts new life into all growing things. A marvellous change is wrought in a few hours. A little warm rain has fallen, and plants, invisible before, and doubtless still underground, spring into glad life.</p> <p>What an innocent charm there is about many of the true spring flowers. Primroses of many colours are now in bloom, but the prettiest, this year, is a patch of an early blooming white one, grouped with a delicate lilac. Then comes <i>Omphalodes verna</i>, with its flowers of brilliant blue and foliage of brightest green, better described by its pretty north-country name, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_045" id="Page_045"></SPAN>[045]</span>Blue-eyed Mary. There are Violets of many colours, but daintiest of all is the pale-blue St. Helena; whether it is the effect of its delicate colouring, or whether it has really a better scent than other varieties of the common Violet, I cannot say, but it always seems to have a more refined fragrance.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /><div class="pagenum">
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