Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

and often also delicious fragrance added thereto. We find, also, subjects in flower at all seasons, the few but choice gems of winter rearing their humble blossoms laden with lessons of infinite love and encouragement to man, if he will but open his heart to receive them; the more numerous and varied gems of spring, that leap as it were into life and beauty in a day, under the first genial influences of relenting nature; and the numerous host of summer and autumn beauties, all preceding and ushering in each other as the weeks and months pass on, leave a rich floral memento and promise on the memory for each period of the year.

There probably never was a time when all this was more needed and rare in British flower-gardens than the present; and the question might fairly be asked, Having once possessed this wealth of beauty to some extent, why did we not keep it, and add to it, rather than cast it wholly from us? It could not be from want of skill to use it, nor incapacity to enjoy it; for it may be safely affirmed that there is as little limit to the one quality as to the other in flower-gardening. Nor could it be for want of space ; for in that matter, “ where there's a will there's a way," within certain limits. The introduction of the massing style, and the banishment of the old types of herbaceous and alpine plants, are coeval in the history of flower-gardening; and the former, it may be assumed, was the direct cause of the misfortunes of the other. Any unbiassed mind will, however, admit, that “bedding-out” was a step, and a long one, in the way of progress, and that it still continues to advance in that path in the hands of those who understand its value best, and keep its proper aims in view, notwith

standing loud asseverations to the contrary from many quarters. It is undeniable that it is the most artistio style of garden embellishment that we can practise in our climate; and that, had its adoption been limited in every case by considerations of fitness and harmony with contingent circumstances, we should have had little reason to complain of the vulgarity and sameness and deprivations that a too inconsiderate practice of it has entailed. Had it been better understood by all who have attempted to become professors in the art of massing, we should have heard fewer of the severe but not unmerited criticisms that have been directed against the system recently. It is of little consequence, however, that the attacks have been somewhat blindly directed against the system itself, rather than the errors that are inseparable from it under certain circumstances. But its warmest and most sensitive supporters need have little fear for the fate of their art, for it will survive every assault that is made on it from mere motives of prejudiced hostility. They will most effectively disarm and defeat the design of its assailants by casting away some of their own prejudices, and by adopting a considerable limitation of their views as to the universal fitness and adaptability of either their system itself or the materials used in it to all variety of tastes and circumstances in flower-gardening. To the credit of the leaders in the present daythose who, having the genius, and are otherwise favourably circumstanced for conceiving and developing the principles of the massing system to perfection—it may be affirmed that they cannot be accused of narrow and erroneous views respecting the fitness of that system to all cases and circumstances, and that they are ready to

admit that a large increase in the variety and hardiness of the materials capable of being used in it, or in ways subordinate to it, would be a boon to all.

The almost universal adoption of the massing system, to a degree exclusive of any other possible style, has been urged often by its too enthusiastic admirers and defenders as a proof of its general applicability to the circumstances of British flower-gardens, and to the taste and genius of British flower-gardeners. Experience has, however, taught many that the exclusive adoption of "bedding-out" in their case was a mistake; that it was never adapted to either their requirements, means, or tastes; and that along with its adoption came a limitation of enjoyments. Many have come to see that a fashion in flower-gardening, unless it is expansive, and adapted to gratify the craving for flowers at all times which is inherent in every mind, is an error, and ought to be curtailed. Most possessors of gardens have for many years been accustomed to look only for flowers in the mass in summer and autumn out of doors. That such a state of things may be tolerable in some cases where the

possessors, by the circumstances of society, are accustomed only to see their gardens in autumn, may be admittedit may even be necessary in many cases to adopt such a practice; but the desire of the employer, and the means allowed, will and should always determine this. There is a very large class of gardens, however, in which the exclusive adoption of summer and autumn blooming plants is tantamount to circumscribing the interest derivable from the culture of flowers. But, apart altogether from styles of planting, and the requirements of individual cases, it is evident that any concentration of the

disposable means, space, and attention, to the culture of the flowers of a season, will have the effect of decreasing the amount of enjoyment obtainable at other seasons correspondingly. This is felt in a dreary way, and to an oppressive extent, by many who devote the greater part of their resources to the culture of summer and autumn flowers. They are accustomed to a feast of flowers for a brief period, at a season when nature herself, anywhere beyond the garden boundary, is replete with varied floral attractions—the season of all seasons, if

any

there be, when the flower-garden may conveniently be dispensed with. And when nature fails to lure us to her haunts, when we begin to value most highly the comforts of home and its environs, then our flower-gardens begin to fail to yield pleasure; and two long seasons, winter and spring, the latter with all its bright loveliness and sweetness in flowers greatly surpassing in power to interest and yield enjoyment the best displays we can produce, even in summer and autumn, must come and go before the fashion we have too generally adopted can again safely appear in the garden. The only remedy for the shortcomings entailed by the too exclusive use of summer and autumn flowers of a constitution fitted only to endure our climate at those seasons, is in the adoption of the hardier subjects of all seasons. I have already alluded to the extent and variety of these; and as the principal object of this work is to make the hardy perennial flowers of all seasons more familiar and popular in all classes of gardens, it may somewhat serve this purpose if I devote some portion of the space at my disposal here to a brief consideration of their capabilities for ornamental gardening, and for enlarging the enjoyments derivable from flower

6

gardening. It will be convenient for clearness' sake to separate the hardy perennials, capable of being cultivated in borders without any special care or trouble, from the plants termed alpine; and the former, being the most numerous and important, may properly be first taken up.

To what extent are they capable of being used in Bedding-out"?_The first consideration that strikes one when he passes herbaceous plants in review, in order to ascertain to what extent they are capable of being used in the style of flower-gardening most fashionable at the present time, or in any modification of it in which its essential features of massiveness, precision, and brilliancy, may be preserved, is, that only a comparatively limited number of them are possessed of the requisite qualities in such a degree as to invest them with much importance as massing plants. A good many candidates for “bedding” honours from the ranks of herbaceous plants have been put forward within the past few years; but in those cases in which the claims urged were based on the continuousness, brilliancy, and profusion of the flowers, we have heard little about them after the preliminary flourish of trumpets that heralded their introduction died away. The truth is, the number of hardy herbaceous plants that may be used in the more showy styles of "bedding-out" for the sake of their flowers only is very limited ; and such as have the necessary brilliancy and duration of flowers are, by reason of incongruity of habit, unfit to mingle with the popular classes of flowering bedding plants generally. There is a large number, however, of hardy perennials, with peculiar grey, glaucous, bronze, or variegated leaves, and a considerable group of dwarf carpet-like subjects in various shades of green and other

« AnteriorContinuar »