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

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<SPAN name="Page_171" id="Page_171"></SPAN>[171]</div> <h2>CHAPTER XIV</h2> <h4>LARGE AND SMALL GARDENS</h4> <blockquote><p>A well done villa garden &mdash; A small town garden &mdash; Two delightful gardens of small size &mdash; Twenty acres within the walls &mdash; A large country house and its garden &mdash; Terrace &mdash; Lawn &mdash; Parterre &mdash; Free garden &mdash; Kitchen garden &mdash; Buildings &mdash; Ornamental orchard &mdash; Instructive mixed gardens &mdash; Mr. Wilson's at Wisley &mdash; A window garden.</p></blockquote> <p><br />The size of a garden has very little to do with its merit. It is merely an accident relating to the circumstances of the owner. It is the size of his heart and brain and goodwill that will make his garden either delightful or dull, as the case may be, and either leave it at the usual monotonous dead-level, or raise it, in whatever degree may be, towards that of a work of fine art. If a man knows much, it is more difficult for him to deal with a small space than a larger, for he will have to make the more sacrifice; but if he is wise he will at once make up his mind about what he will let go, and how he may best treat the restricted space. Some years ago I visited a small garden attached to a villa on the outskirts of a watering-place on the south coast. In ordinary hands it would have been a perfectly commonplace thing, with the usual <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_172" id="Page_172"></SPAN>[172]</span>weary mixture, and exhibiting the usual distressing symptoms that come in the train of the ministrations of the jobbing-gardener. In size it may have been a third of an acre, and it was one of the most interesting and enjoyable gardens I have ever seen, its master and mistress giving it daily care and devotion, and enjoying to the full its glad response of grateful growth. The master had built with his own hands, on one side where more privacy was wanted, high rugged walls, with spaces for many rock-loving plants, and had made the wall die away so cleverly into the rock-garden, that the whole thing looked like a garden founded on some ancient ruined structure. And it was all done with so much taste that there was nothing jarring or strained-looking, still less anything cockneyfied, but all easy and pleasant and pretty, while the happy look of the plants at once proclaimed his sympathy with them, and his comprehensive knowledge of their wants. In the same garden was a walled enclosure where Tree P�onies and some of the hardier of the oriental Rhododendrons were thriving, and there were pretty spaces of lawn, and flower border, and shrub clump, alike beautiful and enjoyable, all within a small space, and yet not crowded&mdash;the garden of one who was a keen flower lover, as well as a world-known botanist.</p> <p>I am always thankful to have seen this garden, because it showed me, in a way that had never been so clearly brought home to me, how much may be done in a small space.</p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_173" id="Page_173"></SPAN>[173]</span>Another and much smaller garden that I remember with pleasure was in a sort of yard among houses, in a country town. The house it belonged to, a rather high one, was on its east side, and halfway along on the south; the rest was bounded by a wall about ten feet high. Opposite the house the owner had built of rough blocks of sandstone what served as a workshop, about twelve feet long along the wall, and six feet wide within. A low archway of the same rough stone was the entrance, and immediately above it a lean-to roof sloped up to the top of the wall, which just here had been carried a little higher. The roof was of large flat sandstones, only slightly lapping over each other, with spaces and chinks where grew luxuriant masses of Polypody Fern. It was contrived with a cement bed, so that it was quite weather-tight, and the room was lighted by a skylight at one end that did not show from the garden. A small surface of lead-flat, on a level with the top of the wall, in one of the opposite angles, carried an old oil-jar, from which fell masses of gorgeous Trop�olum, and the actual surface of the flat was a garden of Stonecrops. The rounded coping of the walls, and the joints in many places (for the wall was an old one), were gay with yellow Corydalis and Snapdragons and more Stonecrops. The little garden had a few pleasant flowering bushes, Ribes and Laurustinus, a Bay and an Almond tree. In the coolest and shadiest corner were a fern-grotto and a tiny tank. The rest of the garden, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_174" id="Page_174"></SPAN>[174]</span>only a few yards across, was laid out with a square bed in the middle, and a little path round, then a three-feet-wide border next the wall, all edged with rather tall-grown Box. The middle bed had garden Roses and Carnations, and Mignonette and Stocks. All round were well-chosen plants and shrubs, looking well and happy, though in a confined and rather airless space. Every square foot had been made the most of with the utmost ingenuity, but the ingenuity was always directed by good taste, so that nothing looked crowded or out of place.</p> <p>And I think of two other gardens of restricted space, both long strips of ground walled at the sides, whose owners I am thankful to count among my friends&mdash;one in the favoured climate of the Isle of Wight, a little garden where I suppose there are more rare and beautiful plants brought together within a small space than perhaps in any other garden of the same size in England; the other in a cathedral town, now a memory only, for the master of what was one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen now lives elsewhere. The garden was long in shape, and divided about midway by a wall. The division next the house was a quiet lawn, with a mulberry tree and a few mounded borders near the sides that were unobstrusive, and in no way spoilt the quiet feeling of the lawn space. Then a doorway in the dividing wall led to a straight path with a double flower border. I suppose there was a vegetable garden <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_175" id="Page_175"></SPAN>[175]</span>behind the borders, but of that I have no recollection, only a vivid remembrance of that brilliantly beautiful mass of flowers. The picture was good enough as one went along, especially as at the end one came first within sound and then within sight of a rushing river, one of those swift, clear, shallow streams with stony bottom that the trout love; but it was ten times more beautiful on turning to go back, for there was the mass of flowers, and towering high above it the noble mass of the giant structure&mdash;one of the greatest and yet most graceful buildings that has ever been raised by man to the glory of God.</p> <p>It is true that it is not every one that has the advantage of a garden bounded by a river and a noble church, but even these advantages might have been lost by vulgar or unsuitable treatment of the garden. But the mind of the master was so entirely in sympathy with the place, that no one that had the privilege of seeing it could feel that it was otherwise than right and beautiful.</p> <p>Both these were the gardens of clergymen; indeed, some of our greatest gardeners are, and have been, within the ranks of the Church. For have we not a brilliantly-gifted dignitary whose loving praise of the Queen of flowers has become a classic? and have we not among churchmen the greatest grower of seedling Daffodils the world has yet seen, and other names of clergymen honourably associated with Roses and Auriculas and Tulips and other good flowers, and all <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_176" id="Page_176"></SPAN>[176]</span>greatly to their bettering? The conditions of the life of a parish priest would tend to make him a good gardener, for, while other men roam about, he stays mostly at home, and to live with one's garden is one of the best ways to ensure its welfare. And then, among the many anxieties and vexations and disappointments that must needs grieve the heart of the pastor of his people, his garden, with its wholesome labour and all its lessons of patience and trust and hopefulness, and its comforting power of solace, must be one of the best of medicines for the healing of his often sorrowing soul.</p> <p>I do not envy the owners of very large gardens. The garden should fit its master or his tastes just as his clothes do; it should be neither too large nor too small, but just comfortable. If the garden is larger than he can individually govern and plan and look after, then he is no longer its master but its slave, just as surely as the much-too-rich man is the slave and not the master of his superfluous wealth. And when I hear of the great place with a kitchen garden of twenty acres within the walls, my heart sinks as I think of the uncomfortable disproportion between the man and those immediately around him, and his vast output of edible vegetation, and I fall to wondering how much of it goes as it should go, or whether the greater part of it does not go dribbling away, leaking into unholy back-channels; and of how the looking after it must needs be subdivided; and of how many <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_177" id="Page_177"></SPAN>[177]</span>side-interests are likely to steal in, and altogether how great a burden of anxiety or matter of temptation it must give rise to. A grand truth is in the old farmer's saying, "The master's eye makes the pig fat;" but how can any one master's eye fat that vast pig of twenty acres, with all its minute and costly cultivation, its two or three crops a year off all ground given to soft vegetables, its stoves, greenhouses, orchid and orchard houses, its vineries, pineries, figgeries, and all manner of glass structures?</p> <p>But happily these monstrous gardens are but few&mdash;I only know of or have seen two, but I hope never to see another.</p> <p>Nothing is more satisfactory than to see the well-designed and well-organised garden of the large country house, whose master loves his garden, and has good taste and a reasonable amount of leisure.</p> <p>I think that the first thing in such a place is to have large unbroken lawn spaces&mdash;all the better if they are continuous, passing round the south and west sides of the house. I am supposing a house of the best class, but not necessarily of the largest size. Immediately adjoining the house, except for the few feet needed for a border for climbing plants, is a broad walk, dry and smooth, and perfectly level from end to end. This, in the case of many houses, and nearly always with good effect, is raised two or three feet above the garden ground, and if the architecture of the house demands it, has a retaining wall surmounted by a balustrade of <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_178" id="Page_178"></SPAN>[178]</span>masonry and wrought stone. Broad and shallow stone steps lead down to the turf both at the end of the walk and in the middle of the front of the house, the wider and shallower the better, and at the foot of the wall may be a narrow border for a few climbing plants that will here and there rise above the coping of the parapet. I do not think it desirable where there are stone balusters or other distinct architectural features to let them be smothered with climbing plants, but that there should be, say, a <i>Pyrus japonica</i> or an Escallonia, and perhaps a white Jasmine, and on a larger space perhaps a cut-leaved or a Claret Vine. Some of the best effects of the kind I have seen were where the bush, being well established, rose straight out of the grass, the border being unnecessary except just at the beginning.</p> <p>The large lawn space I am supposing stretches away a good distance from the house, and is bounded on the south and west by fine trees; away beyond that is all wild wood. On summer afternoons the greater part of the lawn expanse is in cool shade, while winter sunsets show through the tree stems. Towards the south-east the wood would pass into shrub plantations, and farther still into garden and wild orchard (of which I shall have something to say presently). At this end of the lawn would be the brilliant parterre of bedded plants, seen both from the shaded lawn and from the terrace, which at this end forms part of its design. Beyond the parterre would be a distinct <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_179" id="Page_179"></SPAN>[179]</span>division from the farther garden, either of Yew or Box hedge, with bays for seats, or in the case of a change of level, of another terrace wall. The next space beyond would be the main garden for hardy plants, at its southern end leading into the wild orchard. This would be the place for the free garden or the reserve garden, or for any of the many delightful ways in which hardy flowers can be used; and if it happened by good fortune to have a stream or any means of having running water, the possibilities of beautiful gardening would be endless.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 266px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/178_a.jpg" width="266" height="400" alt="Garland-Rose wreathing the end of a Terrace Wall." title="" /> <span class="caption">Garland-Rose wreathing the end of a Terrace Wall.</span> </div> <p>Beyond this again would come the kitchen garden, and after that the stables and the home farm. If the kitchen garden had a high wall, and might be entered on this side by handsome wrought-iron gates, I would approach it from the parterre by a broad grass walk bounded by large Bay trees at equal intervals to right and left. Through these to the right would be seen the free garden of hardy flowers.</p> <p>For the kitchen garden a space of two acres would serve a large country house with all that is usually grown within walls, but there should always be a good space outside for the rougher vegetables, as well as a roomy yard for compost, pits and frames, and rubbish.</p> <p>And here I wish to plead on behalf of the gardener that he should have all reasonable comforts and conveniences. Nothing is more frequent, even in good places, than to find the potting and tool sheds screwed away into some awkward corner, badly lighted, much <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_180" id="Page_180"></SPAN>[180]</span>too small, and altogether inadequate, and the pits and frames scattered about and difficult to get at. Nothing is more wasteful of time, labour, or temper. The working parts of a large garden form a complicated organisation, and if the parts of the mechanism do not fit and work well, and are not properly eased and oiled, still more, if any are missing, there must be disastrous friction and damage and loss of power. In designing garden buildings, I always strongly urge in connection with the heating system a warmed potting shed and a comfortable messroom for the men, and over this a perfectly dry loft for drying and storing such matters as shading material, nets, mats, ropes, and sacks. If this can be warmed, so much the better. There must also be a convenient and quite frost-proof place for winter storing of vegetable roots and such plants as Dahlias, Cannas, and Gladiolus; and also a well-lighted and warmed workshop for all the innumerable jobs put aside for wet weather, of which the chief will be repainting and glazing of lights, repairing implements, and grinding and setting tools. This shop should have a carpenter's bench and screw, and a smith's anvil, and a proper assortment of tools. Such arrangements, well planned and thought out, will save much time and loss of produce, besides helping to make all the people employed more comfortable and happy.</p> <p>I think that a garden should never be large enough to be tiring, that if a large space has to be dealt <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_181" id="Page_181"></SPAN>[181]</span>with, a great part had better be laid out in wood. Woodland is always charming and restful and enduringly beautiful, and then there is an intermediate kind of woodland that should be made more of&mdash;woodland of the orchard type. Why is the orchard put out of the way, as it generally is, in some remote region beyond the kitchen garden and stables? I should like the lawn, or the hardy flower garden, or both, to pass directly into it on one side, and to plant a space of several acres, not necessarily in the usual way, with orchard standards twenty-five feet apart in straight rows (though in many places the straight rows might be best), but to have groups and even groves of such things as Medlars and Quinces, Siberian and Chinese Crabs, Damsons, Prunes, Service trees, and Mountain Ash, besides Apples, Pears, and Cherries, in both standard and bush forms. Then alleys of Filbert and Cob-nut, and in the opener spaces tangles or brakes of the many beautiful bushy things allied to the Apple and Plum tribe&mdash;<i>Cydonia</i> and <i>Prunus triloba</i> and <i>Crat�gus</i> of many kinds (some of them are tall bushes or small trees with beautiful fruits); and the wild Blackthorn, which, though a plum, is so nearly related to pear that pears may be grafted on it. And then brakes of Blackberries, especially of the Parsley-leaved kind, so free of growth and so generous of fruit. How is it that this fine native plant is almost invariably sold in nurseries as an American bramble? If I am mistaken in this I should be glad to be <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_182" id="Page_182"></SPAN>[182]</span>corrected, but I believe it to be only the cut-leaved variety of the native <i>Rubus affinis</i>.</p> <p>I have tried the best of the American kinds, and with the exception of one year, when I had a few fine fruits from Kittatinny, they had been a failure, whereas invariably when people have told me that their American Blackberries have fruited well, I have found them to be the Parsley-leaved.</p> <p>Some members of the large Rose-Apple-Plum tribe grow to be large forest trees, and in my wild orchard they would go in the farther parts. The Bird-cherry (<i>Prunus padus</i>) grows into a tree of the largest size. A Mountain Ash will sometimes have a trunk two feet in diameter, and a head of a size to suit. The American kind, its near relation, but with larger leaves and still grander masses of berries, is a noble small tree; and the native white Beam should not be forgotten, and choice places should be given to Amelanchier and the lovely double Japan Apple (<i>Pyrus malus floribunda</i>). To give due space and effect to all these good things my orchard garden would run into a good many acres, but every year it would be growing into beauty and profit. The grass should be left rough, and plentifully planted with Daffodils, and with Cowslips if the soil is strong. The grass would be mown and made into hay in June, and perhaps mown once more towards the end of September. Under the nut-trees would be Primroses and the garden kinds of wood Hyacinths and Dogtooth Violets and Lily of <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_183" id="Page_183"></SPAN>[183]</span>the Valley, and perhaps Snowdrops, or any of the smaller bulbs that most commended themselves to the taste of the master.</p> <p>Such an orchard garden, well-composed and beautifully grouped, always with that indispensable quality of good "drawing," would not only be a source of unending pleasure to those who lived in the place, but a valuable lesson to all who saw it; for it would show the value of the simple and sensible ways of using a certain class of related trees and bushes, and of using them with a deliberate intention of making the best of them, instead of the usual meaningless-nohow way of planting. This, in nine cases out of ten, means either ignorance or carelessness, the planter not caring enough about the matter to take the trouble to find out what is best to be done, and being quite satisfied with a mixed lot of shrubs, as offered in nursery sales, or with the choice of the nurseryman. I do not presume to condemn all mixed planting, only stupid and ignorant mixed planting. It is not given to all people to take their pleasures alike; and I have in my mind four gardens, all of the highest interest, in which the planting is all mixed; but then the mixture is of admirable ingredients, collected and placed on account of individual merit, and a ramble round any one of these in company with its owner is a pleasure and a privilege that one cannot prize too highly. Where the garden is of such large extent that experimental planting is made with a good number of one good thing <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_184" id="Page_184"></SPAN>[184]</span>at a time, even though there was no premeditated intention of planting for beautiful effect, the fact of there being enough plants to fall into large groups, and to cover some extent of ground, produces numbers of excellent results. I remember being struck with this on several occasions when I have had the happiness of visiting Mr. G. F. Wilson's garden at Wisley, a garden which I take to be about the most instructive it is possible to see. In one part, where the foot of the hill joined the copse, there were hosts of lovely things planted on a succession of rather narrow banks. Almost unthinkingly I expressed the regret I felt that so much individual beauty should be there without an attempt to arrange it for good effect. Mr. Wilson stopped, and looking at me straight with a kindly smile, said very quietly, "That is your business, not mine." In spite of its being a garden whose first object is trial and experiment, it has left in my memory two pictures, among several lesser ones, of plant-beauty that will stay with me as long as I can remember anything, one an autumn and one a spring picture&mdash;the hedge of <i>Rosa rugosa</i> in full fruit, and a plantation of <i>Primula denticulata</i>. The Primrose was on a bit of level ground, just at the outer and inner edges of the hazel copse. The plants were both grouped and thinly sprinkled, just as nature plants&mdash;possibly they grew directly there from seed. They were in superb and luxuriant beauty in the black peaty-looking half-boggy earth, the handsome leaves <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_185" id="Page_185"></SPAN>[185]</span>of the brilliant colour and large size that told of perfect health and vigour, and the large round heads of pure lilac flower carried on strong stalks that must have been fifteen inches high. I never saw it so happy and so beautiful. It is a plant I much admire, and I do the best I can for it on my dry hill; but the conditions of my garden do not allow of any approach to the success of the Wisley plants; still I have treasured that lesson among many others I have brought away from that good garden, and never fail to advise some such treatment when I see the likely home for it in other places.</p> <div class="figcenter" style="width: 400px;"> <ANTIMG src="images/185_a.jpg" width="400" height="266" alt="A Roadside Cottage Garden." title="" /> <span class="caption">A Roadside Cottage Garden.</span> </div> <p>Some of the most delightful of all gardens are the little strips in front of roadside cottages. They have a simple and tender charm that one may look for in vain in gardens of greater pretension. And the old garden flowers seem to know that there they are seen at their best; for where else can one see such Wallflowers, or Double Daisies, or White Rose bushes; such clustering masses of perennial Peas, or such well-kept flowery edgings of Pink, or Thrift, or London Pride?</p> <p>Among a good many calls for advice about laying out gardens, I remember an early one that was of special interest. It was the window-box of a factory lad in one of the great northern manufacturing towns. He had advertised in a mechanical paper that he wanted a tiny garden, as full of interest as might be, in a window-box; he knew nothing&mdash;would somebody <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_186" id="Page_186"></SPAN>[186]</span>help him with advice? So advice was sent and the box prepared. If I remember rightly the size was three feet by ten inches. A little later the post brought him little plants of mossy and silvery saxifrages, and a few small bulbs. Even some stones were sent, for it was to be a rock-garden, and there were to be two hills of different heights with rocky tops, and a longish valley with a sunny and a shady side.</p> <p>It was delightful to have the boy's letters, full of keen interest and eager questions, and only difficult to restrain him from killing his plants with kindness, in the way of liberal doses of artificial manure. The very smallness of the tiny garden made each of its small features the more precious. I could picture his feeling of delightful anticipation when he saw the first little bluish blade of the Snowdrop patch pierce its mossy carpet. Would it, could it really grow into a real Snowdrop, with the modest, milk-white flower and the pretty green hearts on the outside of the inner petals, and the clear green stripes within? and would it really nod him a glad good-morning when he opened his window to greet it? And those few blunt reddish horny-looking snouts just coming through the ground, would they really grow into the brilliant blue of the early Squill, that would be like a bit of midsummer sky among the grimy surroundings of the attic window, and under that grey, soot-laden northern sky? I thought with pleasure how he would watch them in spare minutes of the dinner-hour spent at home, and <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_187" id="Page_187"></SPAN>[187]</span>think of them as he went forward and back to his work, and how the remembrance of the tender beauty of the full-blown flower would make him glad, and lift up his heart while "minding his mule" in the busy restless mill.</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /><div class="pagenum">
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