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

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The last days of May see hardy Azaleas in beauty. Any of them may be planted in company, for all their colours harmonise. In this garden, where care is taken to group plants well for colour, the whites are planted at the lower and more shady end of the group; next come the pale yellows and pale pinks, and these are followed at a little distance by kinds whose flowers are of orange, copper, flame, and scarlet-crimson colourings; this strong-coloured group again softening off at the upper end by strong yellows, and dying away into the woodland by bushes of the common yellow <i>Azalea pontica</i>, and its variety with flowers of larger size and deeper colour. The plantation is long in shape, straggling over a space of about half an acre, the largest and strongest-coloured group being in an open clearing about midway in the length. The ground between them is covered with a natural growth of the wild Ling (<i>Calluna</i>) and Whortleberry, and the small, white-flowered Bed-straw, with the fine-bladed Sheep's-fescue grass, the kind most abundant in heathland. <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_070" id="Page_070"></SPAN>[070]</span>The surrounding ground is copse, of a wild, forest-like character, of birch and small oak. A wood-path of wild heath cut short winds through the planted group, which also comprises some of the beautiful white-flowered Californian <i>Azalea occidentalis</i>, and bushes of some of the North American Vacciniums.</p> <p>Azaleas should never be planted among or even within sight of Rhododendrons. Though both enjoy a moist peat soil, and have a near botanical relationship, they are incongruous in appearance, and impossible to group together for colour. This must be understood to apply to the two classes of plants of the hardy kinds, as commonly grown in gardens. There are tender kinds of the East Indian families that are quite harmonious, but those now in question are the ordinary varieties of so-called Ghent Azaleas, and the hardy hybrid Rhododendrons. In the case of small gardens, where there is only room for one bed or clump of peat plants, it would be better to have a group of either one or the other of these plants, rather than spoil the effect by the inharmonious mixture of both.</p> <p>I always think it desirable to group together flowers that bloom at the same time. It is impossible, and even undesirable, to have a garden in blossom all over, and groups of flower-beauty are all the more enjoyable for being more or less isolated by stretches of intervening greenery. As one lovely group for May I recommend Moutan P�ony and <i>Clematis montana</i>, the Clematis on a wall low enough to let its wreaths of <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_071" id="Page_071"></SPAN>[071]</span>bloom show near the P�ony. The old Guelder Rose or Snowball-tree is beautiful anywhere, but I think it best of all on the cold side of a wall. Of course it is perfectly hardy, and a bush of strong, sturdy growth, and has no need of the wall either for support or for shelter; but I am for clothing the garden walls with all the prettiest things they can wear, and no shrub I know makes a better show. Moreover, as there is necessarily less wood in a flat wall tree than in a round bush, and as the front shoots must be pruned close back, it follows that much more strength is thrown into the remaining wood, and the blooms are much larger.</p> <p>I have a north wall eleven feet high, with a Guelder Rose on each side of a doorway, and a <i>Clematis montana</i> that is trained on the top of the whole. The two flower at the same time, their growths mingling in friendly fashion, while their unlikeness of habit makes the companionship all the more interesting. The Guelder Rose is a stiff-wooded thing, the character of its main stems being a kind of stark uprightness, though the great white balls hang out with a certain freedom from the newly-grown shoots. The Clematis meets it with an exactly opposite way of growth, swinging down its great swags of many-flowered garland masses into the head of its companion, with here and there a single flowering streamer making a tiny wreath on its own account.</p> <p>On the southern sides of the same gateway are two large bushes of the Mexican Orange-flower (<i>Choisya</i> <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_072" id="Page_072"></SPAN>[072]</span><i>ternata</i>), loaded with its orange-like bloom. Buttresses flank the doorway on this side, dying away into the general thickness of the wall above the arch by a kind of roofing of broad flat stones that lay back at an easy pitch. In mossy hollows at their joints and angles, some tufts of Thrift and of little Rock Pinks have found a home, and show as tenderly-coloured tufts of rather dull pink bloom. Above all is the same white Clematis, some of its abundant growth having been trained over the south side, so that this one plant plays a somewhat important part in two garden-scenes.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/72top_a.jpg" width="400" height="295" alt="South side of Door, with Clematis Montana and Choisya." title="" /> <span class="caption">South side of Door, with Clematis Montana and Choisya.</span> </div> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"><SPAN name="image72" id="image72"></SPAN> <ANTIMG src="images/72bottom_a.jpg" width="400" height="299" alt="North side of the same Door, with Clematis Montana and Guelder-Rose." title="" /> <span class="caption">North side of the same Door, with Clematis Montana and Guelder-Rose.</span> </div> <p>Through the gateway again, beyond the wall northward and partly within its shade, is a portion of ground devoted to P�onies, in shape a long triangle, whose proportion in length is about thrice its breadth measured at the widest end. A low cross-wall, five feet high, divides it nearly in half near the Guelder Roses, and it is walled again on the other long side of the triangle by a rough structure of stone and earth, which, in compliment to its appearance, we call the Old Wall, of which I shall have something to say later. Thus the P�onies are protected all round, for they like a sheltered place, and the Moutans do best with even a little passing shade at some time of the day. Moutan is the Chinese name for Tree P�ony. For an immense hardy flower of beautiful colouring what can equal the salmon-rose Moutan Reine Elizabeth? Among the others that I have, those that give me most pleasure are Baronne d'Al�s <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_073" id="Page_073"></SPAN>[073]</span>and Comtesse de Tuder, both pinks of a delightful quality, and a lovely white called Bijou de Chusan. The Tree P�onies are also beautiful in leaf; the individual leaves are large and important, and so carried that they are well displayed. Their colour is peculiar, being bluish, but pervaded with a suspicion of pink or pinkish-bronze, sometimes of a metallic quality that faintly recalls some of the variously-coloured alloys of metal that the Japanese bronze-workers make and use with such consummate skill.</p> <p>It is a matter of regret that varieties of the better kinds of Moutans are not generally grown on their own roots, and still more so that the stock in common use should not even be the type Tree P�ony, but one of the herbaceous kinds, so that we have plants of a hard-wooded shrub worked on a thing as soft as a Dahlia root. This is probably the reason why they are so difficult to establish, and so slow to grow, especially on light soils, even when their beds have been made deep and liberally enriched with what one judges to be the most gratifying comfort. Every now and then, just before blooming time, a plant goes off all at once, smitten with sudden death. At the time of making my collection I was unable to visit the French nurseries where these plants are so admirably grown, and whence most of the best kinds have come. I had to choose them by the catalogue description&mdash;always an unsatisfactory way to any one with a keen eye for colour, although in this matter the compilers of foreign catalogues are <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_074" id="Page_074"></SPAN>[074]</span>certainly less vague than those of our own. Many of the plants therefore had to be shifted into better groups for colour after their first blooming, a matter the more to be regretted as P�onies dislike being moved.</p> <p>The other half of the triangular bit of P�ony ground&mdash;the pointed end&mdash;is given to the kinds I like best of the large June-flowered P�onies, the garden varieties of the Siberian <i>P. albiflora</i>, popularly known as Chinese P�onies. Though among these, as is the case with all the kinds, there is a preponderance of pink or rose-crimson colouring of a decidedly rank quality, yet the number of varieties is so great, that among the minority of really good colouring there are plenty to choose from, including a good number of beautiful whites and whites tinged with yellow. Of those I have, the kinds I like best are&mdash;</p> <div class="indent"> <p>Hypatia, pink.</p> <p>Madame Benare, salmon-rose.</p> <p>The Queen, pale salmon-rose.</p> <p>L�onie, salmon-rose.</p> <p>Virginie, warm white.</p> <p>Solfaterre, pale yellow.</p> <p>Edouard Andr�, deep claret.</p> <p>Madame Calot, flesh pink.</p> <p>Madame Br�on.</p> <p>Alba sulfurea.</p> <p>Triomphans gandavensis.</p> <p>Carnea elegans (Guerin).</p> <p>Curiosa, pink and blush.</p> <p>Prince Pierre Galitzin, blush.</p> <p>Eugenie Verdier, pale pink.</p> <p>Elegans superbissima, yellowish-white.</p> <p>Virgo Maria, white.</p> <p>Philom�le, blush.</p> <p>Madame Dhour, rose.</p> <p>Duchesse de Nemours, yellow-white.</p> <p>Faust.</p> <p>Belle Douaisienne.</p> <p>Jeanne d'Arc.</p> <p>Marie Lemoine.</p> </div> <p>Many of the lovely flowers in this class have a rather <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_075" id="Page_075"></SPAN>[075]</span>strong, sweet smell, something like a mixture of the scents of Rose and Tulip.</p> <p>Then there are the old garden P�onies, the double varieties of <i>P. officinalis</i>. They are in three distinct colourings&mdash;full rich crimson, crimson-rose, and pale pink changing to dull white. These are the earliest to flower, and with them it is convenient, from the garden point of view, to class some of the desirable species.</p> <p>Some years ago my friend Mr. Barr kindly gave me a set of the P�ony species as grown by him. I wished to have them, not for the sake of making a collection, but in order to see which were the ones I should like best to grow as garden flowers. In due time they grew into strong plants and flowered. A good many had to be condemned because of the raw magenta colour of the bloom, one or two only that had this defect being reprieved on account of their handsome foliage and habit. Prominent among these was <i>P. decora</i>, with bluish foliage handsomely displayed, the whole plant looking strong and neat and well-dressed. Others whose flower-colour I cannot commend, but that seemed worth growing on account of their rich masses of handsome foliage, are <i>P. triternata</i> and <i>P. Broteri</i>. Though small in size, the light red flower of <i>P. lobata</i> is of a beautiful colour. <i>P. tenuifolia</i>, in both single and double form, is an old garden favourite. <i>P. Wittmanniana</i>, with its yellow-green leaves and tender yellow flower, is a gem; but it is rather rare, and probably uncertain, for mine, alas! <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_076" id="Page_076"></SPAN>[076]</span>had no sooner grown into a fine clump than it suddenly died.</p> <p>All P�onies are strong feeders. Their beds should be deeply and richly prepared, and in later years they are grateful for liberal gifts of manure, both as surface dressings and waterings.</p> <p>Friends often ask me vaguely about P�onies, and when I say, "What kind of P�onies?" they have not the least idea.</p> <p>Broadly, and for garden purposes, one may put them into three classes&mdash;</p> <div class="indent"> <p>1. Tree P�onies (<i>P. moutan</i>), shrubby, flowering in May.</p> <p>2. Chinese P�onies (<i>P. albiflora</i>), herbaceous, flowering in June.</p> <p>3. Old garden P�onies (<i>P. officinalis</i>), herbaceous, including some other herbaceous species.</p></div> <p>I find it convenient to grow P�ony species and Caulescent (Lent) Hellebores together. They are in a wide border on the north side of the high wall and partly shaded by it. They are agreed in their liking for deeply-worked ground with an admixture of loam and lime, for shelter, and for rich feeding; and the P�ony clumps, set, as it were, in picture frames of the lower-growing Hellebores, are seen to all the more advantage.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /><div class="pagenum">
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