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

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<SPAN name="Page_089" id="Page_089"></SPAN>[089]</div> <h2>CHAPTER VIII</h2> <h4>JULY</h4> <blockquote><p>Scarcity of flowers &mdash; Delphiniums &mdash; Yuccas &mdash; Cottager's way of protecting tender plants &mdash; Alstr�merias &mdash; Carnations &mdash; Gypsophila &mdash; <i>Lilium giganteum</i> &mdash; Cutting fern-pegs.</p></blockquote> <p><br />After the wealth of bloom of June, there appear to be but few flowers in the garden; there seems to be a time of comparative emptiness between the earlier flowers and those of autumn. It is true that in the early days of July we have Delphiniums, the grandest blues of the flower year. They are in two main groups in the flower border, one of them nearly all of the palest kind&mdash;not a solid clump, but with a thicker nucleus, thinning away for several yards right and left. Only white and pale-yellow flowers are grouped with this, and pale, fresh-looking foliage of maize and Funkia. The other group is at some distance, at the extreme western end. This is of the full and deeper blues, following a clump of Yuccas, and grouped about with things of important silvery foliage, such <ins title="Transcriber's Note: original reads 'at'">as</ins> Globe Artichoke and Silver Thistle (<i>Eryngium</i>). I have found it satisfactory to grow Delphiniums from seed, choosing the fine strong "Cantab" as the seed-parent, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_090" id="Page_090"></SPAN>[090]</span>because the flowers were of a medium colour&mdash;scarcely so light as the name would imply&mdash;and because of its vigorous habit and well-shaped spike. It produced flowers of all shades of blue, and from these were derived nearly all I have in the border. I found them better for the purpose in many cases than the named kinds of which I had a fair collection.</p> <p>The seedlings were well grown for two years in nursery lines, worthless ones being taken out as soon as they showed their character. There is one common defect that I cannot endure&mdash;an interrupted spike, when the flowers, having filled a good bit of the spike, leave off, leaving a space of bare stem, and then go on again. If this habit proves to be persistent after the two years' trial, the plant is condemned. For my liking the spike must be well filled, but not overcrowded. Many of the show kinds are too full for beauty; the shape of the individual flower is lost. Some of the double ones are handsome, but in these the flower takes another shape, becoming more rosette-like, and thereby loses its original character. Some are of mixed colouring, a shade of lilac-pink sliding through pale blue. It is very beautiful in some cases, the respective tints remaining as clear as in an opal, but in many it only muddles the flower and makes it ineffective.</p> <p>Delphiniums are greedy feeders, and pay for rich cultivation and for liberal manurial mulches and waterings. In a hot summer, if not well cared for, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_091" id="Page_091"></SPAN>[091]</span>they get stunted and are miserable objects, the flower distorted and cramped into a clumsy-looking, elongated mop-head.</p> <p>Though weak in growth the old <i>Delphinium Belladonna</i> has so lovely a quality of colour that it is quite indispensable; the feeble stem should be carefully and unobtrusively staked for the better display of its incomparable blue.</p> <p>Some of the Yuccas will bloom before the end of the month. I have them in bold patches the whole fifteen-feet depth of the border at the extreme ends, and on each side of the pathway, where, passing from the lawn to the P�ony ground, it cuts across the border to go through the arched gateway. The kinds of Yucca are <i>gloriosa</i>, <i>recurva</i>, <i>flaccida</i>, and <i>filamentosa</i>. They are good to look at at all times of the year because of their grand strong foliage, and are the glory of the garden when in flower. One of the <i>gloriosa</i> threw up a stout flower-spike in January. I had thought of protecting and roofing the spike, in the hope of carrying it safely through till spring, but meanwhile there came a damp day and a frosty night, and when I saw it again it was spoilt. The <i>Yucca filamentosa</i> that I have I was told by a trusty botanist was the true plant, but rather tender, the one commonly called by that name being something else. I found it in a cottage garden, where I learnt a useful lesson in protecting plants, namely, the use of thickly-cut peaty sods. The goodwife had noticed that the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_092" id="Page_092"></SPAN>[092]</span>peaty ground of the adjoining common, covered with heath and gorse and mossy grass, resisted frost much better than the garden or meadow, and it had been her practice for many years to get some thick dry sods with the heath left on and to pack them close round to protect tender plants. In this way she had preserved her Fuchsias of greenhouse kinds, and Calceolarias, and the Yucca in question.</p> <p>The most brilliant mass of flower in early July is given by the beds of <i>Alstr�meria aurantiaca</i>; of this we have three distinct varieties, all desirable. There is a four feet wide bed, some forty feet long, of the kind most common in gardens, and at a distance from it a group grown from selected seed of a paler colour; seedlings of this remain true to colour, or, as gardeners say, the variety is "fixed." The third sort is from a good old garden in Ireland, larger in every way than the type, with petals of great width, and extremely rich in colour. <i>Alstr�meria chilense</i> is an equally good plant, and beds of it are beautiful in their varied colourings, all beautifully harmonious, and ranging through nearly the same tints as hardy Azaleas. These are the best of the Alstr�merias for ordinary garden culture; they do well in warm, sheltered places in the poorest soil, but the soil must be deep, for the bunches of tender, fleshy roots go far down. The roots are extremely brittle, and must be carefully handled. Alstr�merias are easily raised from seed, but when the seedlings are planted out the crowns should be <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_093" id="Page_093"></SPAN>[093]</span>quite four inches under the surface, and have a thick bed of leaves or some other mild mulching material over them in winter to protect them from frost, for they are Chilian plants, and demand and deserve a little surface comfort to carry them safely through the average English winter.</p> <p>Sea-holly (<i>Eryngium</i>) is another family of July-flowering plants that does well on poor, sandy soils that have been deeply stirred. Of these the more generally useful is <i>E. <ins title="Transcriber's Note: original reads 'Olivieranum'">Oliverianum</ins></i>, the <i>E. amethystinum</i> of nurserymen, but so named in error, the true plant being rare and scarcely known in gardens. The whole plant has an admirable structure of a dry and nervous quality, with a metallic colouring and dull lustre that are in strong contrast to softer types of vegetation. The black-coated roots go down straight and deep, and enable it to withstand almost any drought. Equalling it in beauty is <i>E. giganteum</i>, the Silver Thistle, of the same metallic texture, but whitish and almost silvery. This is a biennial, and should be sown every year. A more lowly plant, but hardly less beautiful, is the wild Sea-holly of our coasts (<i>E. maritimum</i>), with leaves almost blue, and a handsome tuft of flower nearly matching them in colour. It occurs on wind-blown sandhills, but is worth a place in any garden. It comes up rather late, but endures, apparently unchanged, except for the bloom, throughout the late summer and autumn.</p> <p>But the flower of this month that has the firmest <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_094" id="Page_094"></SPAN>[094]</span>hold of the gardener's heart is the Carnation&mdash;the Clove Gilliflower of our ancestors. Why the good old name "Gilliflower" has gone out of use it is impossible to say, for certainly the popularity of the flower has never waned. Indeed, in the seventeenth century it seems that it was the best-loved flower of all in England; for John Parkinson, perhaps our earliest writer on garden plants, devotes to it a whole chapter in his "Paradisus Terrestris," a distinction shared by no other flower. He describes no less than fifty kinds, a few of which are still to be recognised, though some are lost. For instance, what has become of the "<i>great gray Hulo</i>" which he describes as a plant of the largest and strongest habit? The "gray" in this must refer to the colour of the leaf, as he says the flower is red; but there is also a variety called the "<i>blew Hulo</i>," with flowers of a "purplish murrey" colouring, answering to the slate colour that we know as of not unfrequent occurrence. The branch of the family that we still cultivate as "Painted Lady" is named by him "Dainty Lady," the present name being no doubt an accidental and regrettable corruption. But though some of the older sorts may be lost, we have such a wealth of good known kinds that this need hardly be a matter of regret. The old red Clove always holds its own for hardiness, beauty, and perfume; its newer and dwarfer variety, Paul Engleheart, is quite indispensable, while the beautiful salmon-coloured Raby is perhaps the most useful of all, with its hardy constitution and great <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_095" id="Page_095"></SPAN>[095]</span>quantity of bloom. But it is difficult to grow Carnations on our very poor soil; even when it is carefully prepared they still feel its starving and drying influence, and show their distaste by unusual shortness of life.</p> <p><i>Gypsophila paniculata</i> is one of the most useful plants of this time of year; its delicate masses of bloom are like clouds of flowery mist settled down upon the flower borders. Shooting up behind and among it is a tall, salmon-coloured Gladiolus, a telling contrast both in form and manner of inflorescence. Nothing in the garden has been more satisfactory and useful than a hedge of the white everlasting Pea. The thick, black roots that go down straight and deep have been undisturbed for some years, and the plants yield a harvest of strong white bloom for cutting that always seems inexhaustible. They are staked with stiff, branching spray, thrust into the ground diagonally, and not reaching up too high. This supports the heavy mass of growth without encumbering the upper blooming part.</p> <p>Hydrangeas are well in flower at the foot of a warm wall, and in the same position are spreading masses of the beautiful <i>Clematis Davidiana</i>, a herbaceous kind, with large, somewhat vine-like leaves, and flowers of a pale-blue colour of a delicate and uncommon quality.</p> <p>The blooming of the <i>Lilium giganteum</i> is one of the great flower events of the year. It is planted in rather large straggling groups just within the fringe of the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_096" id="Page_096"></SPAN>[096]</span>copse. In March the bulbs, which are only just underground, thrust their sharply-pointed bottle-green tips out of the earth. These soon expand into heart-shaped leaves, looking much like Arum foliage of the largest size, and of a bright-green colour and glistening surface. The groups are so placed that they never see the morning sun. They require a slight sheltering of fir-bough, or anything suitable, till the third week of May, to protect the young leaves from the late frosts. In June the flower-stem shoots up straight and tall, like a vigorous young green-stemmed tree. If the bulb is strong and the conditions suitable, it will attain a height of over eleven feet, but among the flowering bulbs of a group there are sure to be some of various heights from differently sized bulbs; those whose stature is about ten feet are perhaps the handsomest. The upper part of the stem bears the gracefully drooping great white Lily flowers, each bloom some ten inches long, greenish when in bud, but changing to white when fully developed. Inside each petal is a purplish-red stripe. In the evening the scent seems to pour out of the great white trumpets, and is almost overpowering, but gains a delicate quality by passing through the air, and at fifty yards away is like a faint waft of incense. In the evening light, when the sun is down, the great heads of white flower have a mysterious and impressive effect when seen at some distance through the wood, and by moonlight have a strangely weird dignity. The flowers only last a few days, but <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_097" id="Page_097"></SPAN>[097]</span>when they are over the beauty of the plant is by no means gone, for the handsome leaves remain in perfection till the autumn, while the growing seed-pods, rising into an erect position, become large and rather handsome objects. The rapidity and vigour of the four months' growth from bulb to giant flowering plant is very remarkable. The stem is a hollow, fleshy tube, three inches in diameter at the base, and the large radiating roots are like those of a tree. The original bulb is, of course, gone, but when the plants that have flowered are taken up at the end of November, offsets are found clustered round the root; these are carefully detached and replanted. The great growth of these Lilies could not be expected to come to perfection in our very poor, shallow soil, for doubtless in their mountain home in the Eastern Himalayas they grow in deep beds of cool vegetable earth. Here, therefore, their beds are deeply excavated, and filled to within a foot of the top with any of the vegetable rubbish of which only too much accumulates in the late autumn. Holes twelve feet across and three feet deep are convenient graves for frozen Dahlia-tops and half-hardy Annuals; a quantity of such material chopped up and tramped down close forms a cool subsoil that will comfort the Lily bulbs for many a year. The upper foot of soil is of good compost, and when the young bulbs are planted, the whole is covered with some inches of dead leaves that join in with the natural woodland carpet.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 265px;"><SPAN name="image96" id="image96"></SPAN> <ANTIMG src="images/96_a.jpg" width="265" height="400" alt="The Giant Lily." title="" /> <span class="caption">The Giant Lily.</span> </div> <p>In the end of July we have some of the hottest of <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_098" id="Page_098"></SPAN>[098]</span>the summer days, only beginning to cool between six and seven in the evening. One or two evenings I go to the upper part of the wood to cut some fern-pegs for pegging Carnation layers, armed with fag-hook and knife and rubber, and a low rush-bottomed stool to sit on. The rubber is the stone for sharpening the knife&mdash;a long stone of coarse sandstone grit, such as is used for scythes. Whenever I am at work with a knife there is sure to be a rubber not far off, for a blunt knife I cannot endure, so there is a stone in each department of the garden sheds, and a whole series in the workshop, and one or two to spare to take on outside jobs. The Bracken has to be cut with a light hand, as the side-shoots that will make the hook of the peg are easily broken just at the important joint. The fronds are of all sizes, from two to eight feet long; but the best for pegs are the moderate-sized, that have not been weakened by growing too close together. Where they are crowded the main stalk is thick, but the side ones are thin and weak; whereas, where they get light and air the side branches are carried on stouter ribs, and make stronger and better-balanced pegs. The cut fern is lightly laid in a long ridge with the ends all one way, and the operator sits at the stalk end of the ridge, a nice cool shady place having been chosen. Four cuts with the knife make a peg, and each frond makes three pegs in about fifteen seconds. With the fronds laid straight and handy it goes almost rhythmically, then each group of three pegs is thrown into <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_099" id="Page_099"></SPAN>[099]</span>the basket, where they clash on to the others with a hard ringing sound. In about four days the pegs dry to a surprising hardness; they are better than wooden ones, and easier and quicker to make.</p> <p>People who are not used to handling Bracken should be careful how they cut a frond with a knife; they are almost sure to get a nasty little cut on the second joint of the first finger of the right hand&mdash;not from the knife, but from the cut edge of the fern. The stalk has a silicious coating, that leaves a sharp edge like a thin flake of glass when cut diagonally with a sharp knife; they should also beware how they pick or pull off a mature frond, for even if the part of the stalk laid hold of is bruised and twisted, some of the glassy structure holds together and is likely to wound the hand.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /><div class="pagenum">
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