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

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<SPAN name="Page_059" id="Page_059"></SPAN>[059]</div> <h2>CHAPTER VI</h2> <h4>MAY</h4> <blockquote><p>Cowslips &mdash; Morells &mdash; Woodruff &mdash; Felling oak timber &mdash; Trillium and other wood-plants &mdash; Lily of the Valley naturalised &mdash; Rock-wall flowers &mdash; Two good wall-shrubs &mdash; Queen wasps &mdash; Rhododendrons &mdash; Arrangement for colour &mdash; Separate colour-groups &mdash; Difficulty of choosing &mdash; Hardy Azaleas &mdash; Grouping flowers that bloom together &mdash; Guelder-rose as climber &mdash; The garden-wall door &mdash; The P�ony garden &mdash; Moutans &mdash; P�ony varieties &mdash; Species desirable for garden.</p></blockquote> <p><br />While May is still young, Cowslips are in beauty on the chalk lands a few miles distant, but yet within pleasant reach. They are finest of all in orchards, where the grass grows tall and strong under the half-shade of the old apple-trees, some of the later kinds being still loaded with bloom. The blooming of the Cowslip is the signal for a search for the Morell, one of the very best of the edible fungi. It grows in open woods or where the undergrowth has not yet grown high, and frequently in old parks and pastures near or under elms. It is quite unlike any other fungus; shaped like a tall egg, with the pointed end upwards, on a short, hollow stalk, and looking something like a sponge. It has a delicate and excellent flavour, and is perfectly wholesome.</p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_060" id="Page_060"></SPAN>[060]</span>The pretty little Woodruff is in flower; what scent is so delicate as that of its leaves? They are almost sweeter when dried, each little whorl by itself, with the stalk cut closely away above and below. It is a pleasant surprise to come upon these fragrant little stars between the leaves of a book. The whole plant revives memories of rambles in Bavarian woodlands, and of Mai-trank, that best of the "cup" tribe of pleasant drinks, whose flavour is borrowed from its flowering tips.</p> <p>In the first week in May oak-timber is being felled. The wood is handsomer, from showing the grain better, when it is felled in the winter, but it is delayed till now because of the value of the bark for tanning, and just now the fast-rising sap makes the bark strip easily. A heavy fall is taking place in the fringes of a large wood of old Scotch fir. Where the oaks grow there is a blue carpet of wild Hyacinth; the pathway is a slightly hollowed lane, so that the whole sheet of flower right and left is nearly on a level with the eye, and looks like solid pools of blue. The oaks not yet felled are putting forth their leaves of golden bronze. The song of the nightingale and the ring of the woodman's axe gain a rich musical quality from the great fir wood. Why a wood of Scotch fir has this wonderful property of a kind of musical reverberation I do not know; but so it is. Any sound that occurs within it is, on a lesser scale, like a sound in a cathedral. The tree itself when struck gives a musical note. Strike an oak or an elm on the trunk with a stick, and the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_061" id="Page_061"></SPAN>[061]</span>sound is mute; strike a Scotch fir, and it is a note of music.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 267px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/61_a.jpg" width="267" height="397" alt="Trillium in the Wild Garden." title="" /> <span class="caption">Trillium in the Wild Garden.</span> </div> <p>In the copse are some prosperous patches of the beautiful North American Wood-lily (<i>Trillium grandiflorum</i>). It likes a bed of deep leaf-soil on levels or cool slopes in woodland, where its large white flowers and whorls of handsome leaves look quite at home. Beyond it are widely spreading patches of Solomon's Seal and tufts of the Wood-rush (<i>Luzula sylvatica</i>), showing by their happy vigour how well they like their places, while the natural woodland carpet of moss and dead leaves puts the whole together. Higher in the copse the path runs through stretches of the pretty little <i>Smilacina bifolia</i>, and the ground beyond this is a thick bed of Whortleberry, filling all the upper part of the copse under oak and birch and Scotch fir. The little flower-bells of the Whortleberry have already given place to the just-formed fruit, which will ripen in July, and be a fine feast for the blackbirds.</p> <p>Other parts of the copse, where there was no Heath or Whortleberry, were planted thinly with the large Lily of the Valley. It has spread and increased and become broad sheets of leaf and bloom, from which thousands of flowers can be gathered without making gaps, or showing that any have been removed; when the bloom is over the leaves still stand in handsome masses till they are hidden by the fast-growing bracken. They do not hurt each other, as it seems that the Lily of the Valley, having the roots running just underground, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_062" id="Page_062"></SPAN>[062]</span>while the fern-roots are much deeper, the two occupy their respective <i>strata</i> in perfect good fellowship. The neat little <i>Smilacina</i> is a near relation of the Lily of the Valley; its leaves are of an even more vivid green, and its little modest spikes of white flower are charming. It loves the poor, sandy soil, and increases in it fast, but will have nothing to say to clay. A very delicate and beautiful North American fern (<i>Dicksonia punctilobulata</i>) proves a good colonist in the copse. It spreads rapidly by creeping roots, and looks much like our native <i>Thelipteris</i>, but is of a paler green colour. In the rock-garden the brightest patches of bloom are shown by the tufts of dwarf Wallflowers; of these, <i>Cheiranthus alpinus</i> has a strong lemon colour that is of great brilliancy in the mass, and <i>C. Marshalli</i> is of a dark orange colour, equally powerful. The curiously-tinted <i>C. mutabilis</i>, as its name implies, changes from a light mahogany colour when just open, first to crimson and then to purple. In length of life <i>C. alpinus</i> and <i>C. Marshalli</i> are rather more than biennials, and yet too short-lived to be called true perennials; cuttings of one year flower the next, and are handsome tufts the year after, but are scarcely worth keeping longer. <i>C. mutabilis</i> is longer lived, especially if the older growths are cut right away, when the tuft will generally spring into vigorous new life.</p> <p><i>Orobus aurantiacus</i> is a beautiful plant not enough grown, one of the handsomest of the Pea family, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_063" id="Page_063"></SPAN>[063]</span>with flowers of a fine orange colour, and foliage of a healthy-looking golden-green. A striking and handsome plant in the upper part of the rockery is <i>Othonna cheirifolia</i>; its aspect is unusual and interesting, with its bunches of thick, blunt-edged leaves of blue-grey colouring, and large yellow daisy flowers. There is a pretty group of the large white Thrift, and near it a spreading carpet of blue Veronica and some of the splendid gentian-blue <i>Phacelia campanularia</i>, a valuable annual for filling any bare patches of rockery where its brilliant colouring will suit the neighbouring plants, or, best of all, in patches among dwarf ferns, where its vivid blue would be seen to great advantage.</p> <p>Two wall-shrubs have been conspicuously beautiful during May; the Mexican Orange-flower (<i>Choisya ternata</i>) has been smothered in its white bloom, so closely resembling orange-blossom. With a slight winter protection of fir boughs it seems quite at home in our hot, dry soil, grows fast, and is very easy to propagate by layers. When cut, it lasts for more than a week in water. <i>Piptanthus nepalensis</i> has also made a handsome show, with its abundant yellow, pea-shaped bloom and deep-green trefoil leaves. The dark-green stems have a slight bloom on a half-polished surface, and a pale ring at each joint gives them somewhat the look of bamboos.</p> <p>Now is the time to look out for the big queen wasps and to destroy as many as possible. They seem to be specially fond of the flowers of two plants, the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_064" id="Page_064"></SPAN>[064]</span>large perennial Cornflower (<i>Centaurea montana</i>) and the common Cotoneaster. I have often secured a dozen in a few minutes on one or other of these plants, first knocking them down with a battledore.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"><SPAN name="image65" id="image65"></SPAN> <ANTIMG src="images/65top_a.jpg" width="400" height="298" alt="Rhododendrons where the Copse and Garden meet." title="" /> </div> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/65bottom_a.jpg" width="400" height="298" alt="Rhododendrons where the Copse and Garden meet." title="" /> <span class="caption">Rhododendrons where the Copse and Garden meet.</span> </div> <p>Now, in the third week of May, Rhododendrons are in full bloom on the edge of the copse. The plantation was made about nine years ago, in one of the regions where lawn and garden were to join the wood. During the previous blooming season the best nurseries were visited and careful observations made of colouring, habit, and time of blooming. The space they were to fill demanded about seventy bushes, allowing an average of eight feet from plant to plant&mdash;not seventy different kinds, but, perhaps, ten of one kind, and two or three fives, and some threes, and a few single plants, always bearing in mind the ultimate intention of pictorial aspect as a whole. In choosing the plants and in arranging and disposing the groups these ideas were kept in mind: to make pleasant ways from lawn to copse; to group only in beautiful colour harmonies; to choose varieties beautiful in themselves; to plant thoroughly well, and to avoid overcrowding. Plantations of these grand shrubs are generally spoilt or ineffective, if not absolutely jarring, for want of attention to these simple rules. The choice of kinds is now so large, and the variety of colouring so extensive, that nothing can be easier than to make beautiful combinations, if intending planters will only take the small amount of preliminary trouble that is needful. <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_065" id="Page_065"></SPAN>[065]</span>Some of the clumps are of brilliant scarlet-crimson, rose and white, but out of the great choice of colours that might be so named only those are chosen that make just the colour-harmony that was intended. A large group, quite detached from this one, and more in the shade of the copse, is of the best of the lilacs, purples, and whites. When some clumps of young hollies have grown, those two groups will not be seen at the same time, except from a distance. The purple and white group is at present rather the handsomest, from the free-growing habit of the fine old kind <i>Album elegans</i>, which forms towering masses at the back. A detail of pictorial effect that was aimed at, and that has come out well, was devised in the expectation that the purple groups would look richer in the shade, and the crimson ones in the sun. This arrangement has answered admirably. Before planting, the ground, of the poorest quality possible, was deeply trenched, and the Rhododendrons were planted in wide holes filled with peat, and finished with a comfortable "mulch," or surface-covering of farmyard manure. From this a supply of grateful nutriment was gradually washed in to the roots. This beneficial surface-dressing was renewed every year for two years after planting, and even longer in the case of the slower growing kinds. No plant better repays care during its early years. Broad grass paths leading from the lawn at several points pass among the clumps, and are continued through the upper parts of the copse, passing through <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_066" id="Page_066"></SPAN>[066]</span>zones of different trees; first a good stretch of birch and holly, then of Spanish chestnut, next of oak, and finally of Scotch fir, with a sprinkling of birch and mountain ash, all with an undergrowth of heath and whortleberry and bracken. Thirty years ago it was all a wood of old Scotch fir. This was cut at its best marketable maturity, and the present young wood is made of what came up self-sown. This natural wild growth was thick enough to allow of vigorous cutting out, and the preponderance of firs in the upper part and of birch in the lower suggested that these were the kinds that should predominate in their respective places.</p> <div class="floatleftnew" style="width: 260px"> <ANTIMG src="images/66left_a.jpg" width="260" height="350" alt="Grass Walks through the Copse." title=""/> </div> <div class="floatrightnew" style="width: 264px"> <ANTIMG src="images/66right_a.jpg" width="264" height="350" alt="Grass Walks through the Copse." title=""/> </div> <div class="nofloat" style="text-align: center; margin-bottom: 25px"><span class="caption">Grass Walks through the Copse.</span></div> <p>It may be useful to describe a little more in detail the plan I followed in grouping Rhododendrons, for I feel sure that any one with a feeling for harmonious colouring, having once seen or tried some such plan, will never again approve of the haphazard mixtures. There may be better varieties representing the colourings aimed at in the several groups, but those named are ones that I know, and they will serve as well as any others to show what is meant.</p> <p>The colourings seem to group themselves into six classes of easy harmonies, which I venture to describe thus:&mdash;</p> <p>1. Crimsons inclining to scarlet or blood-colour grouped with dark claret-colour and true pink.</p> <p>In this group I have planted Nigrescens, dark claret-colour; John Waterer and James Marshall Brook, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_067" id="Page_067"></SPAN>[067]</span>both fine red-crimsons; Alexander Adie and Atrosanguineum, good crimsons, inclining to blood-colour; Alarm, rosy-scarlet; and Bianchi, pure pink.</p> <p>2. Light scarlet rose colours inclining to salmon, a most desirable range of colour, but of which the only ones I know well are Mrs. R. S. Holford, and a much older kind, Lady Eleanor Cathcart. These I put by themselves, only allowing rather near them the good pink Bianchi.</p> <p>3. Rose colours inclining to amaranth.</p> <p>4. Amaranths or magenta-crimsons.</p> <p>5. Crimson or amaranth-purples.</p> <p>6. Cool clear purples of the typical <i>ponticum</i> class, both dark and light, grouped with lilac-whites, such as <i>Album elegans</i> and <i>Album grandiflorum</i>. The beautiful partly-double <i>Everestianum</i> comes into this group, but nothing redder among purples. <i>Fastuosum florepleno</i> is also admitted, and <i>Luciferum</i> and <i>Reine Hortense</i>, both good lilac-whites. But the purples that are most effective are merely <i>ponticum</i> seedlings, chosen when in bloom in the nursery for their depth and richness of cool purple colour.</p> <p>My own space being limited, I chose three of the above groups only, leaving out, as of colouring less pleasing to my personal liking, groups 3, 4, and 5. The remaining ones gave me examples of colouring the most widely different, and at the same time the most agreeable to my individual taste. It would have been easier, if that had been the object, to have made groups <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_068" id="Page_068"></SPAN>[068]</span>of the three other classes of colouring, which comprise by far the largest number of the splendid varieties now grown. There are a great many beautiful whites; of these, two that I most admire are Madame Carvalho and Sappho; the latter is an immense flower, with a conspicuous purple blotch. There is also a grand old kind called Minnie, a very large-growing one, with fine white trusses; and a dwarf-growing white that comes early into bloom is Cunningham's White, also useful for forcing, as it is a small plant, and a free bloomer.</p> <p>Nothing is more perplexing than to judge of the relative merits of colours in a Rhododendron nursery, where they are all mixed up. I have twice been specially to look for varieties of a true pink colour, but the quantity of untrue pinks is so great that anything approaching a clear pink looks much better than it is. In this way I chose Kate Waterer and Sylph, both splendid varieties; but when I grew them with my true pink Bianchi they would not do, the colour having the suspicion of rank quality that I wished to keep out of that group. This same Bianchi, with its mongrel-sounding name, I found was not grown in the larger nurseries. I had it from Messrs. Maurice Young, of the Milford Nurseries, near Godalming. I regretted to hear lately from some one to whom I recommended it that it could not be supplied. It is to be hoped that so good a thing has not been lost.</p> <p>A little way from the main Rhododendron clumps, and among bushy Andromedas, I have the splendid <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_069" id="Page_069"></SPAN>[069]</span>hybrid of <i>R. Aucklandi</i>, raised by Mr. A. Waterer. The trusses are astoundingly large, and the individual blooms large and delicately beautiful, like small richly-modelled lilies of a tender, warm, white colour. It is quite hardy south of London, and unquestionably desirable. Its only fault is leggy growth; one year's growth measures twenty-three inches, but this only means that it should be planted among other bushes.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/68_a.jpg" width="400" height="271" alt="Rhododendrons at the Edge of the Copse." title="" /> <span class="caption">Rhododendrons at the Edge of the Copse.</span> </div> <p>
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