William Robinson, The English Flower Garden

Chapter I & Chapter V

Gertrude Jekyll, Colour In The Flower Garden

Chapter XXIV

William Robinson was an influential garden writer of the late Victorian age whose books (and articles in his own magazine publication, The Garden) contributed greatly to the demise of the “carpet bedding” style of gardening that was prevalent at that time. He was very opinionated and none too diplomatic in his denunciation of Victorian taste, but there is no denying that he was successful, at least in private gardens. It is often considered that municipal planting in parks and other public places continues the “bedding out” style and any nurseryman can tell you that annuals sell like hotcakes every spring but Robinson’s vision of shrubs, bulbs and perennials (both native and those brought by the plant collectors) growing in a natural condition became the accepted style for English gardens. It is a style that prevails to this day.

Gertrude Jekyll was writing articles for The Garden and also contributing chapters to The English Flower Garden and she reflected Robinson’s taste in garden style, and in a much more diplomatic and persuasive manner than he did. Jekyll went on to publish many garden design books of her own and has been hailed as the greatest influence on modern British gardens – an accolade that could likely be shared by both.

Excerpted here are a few of the early chapters from Robinson’s influential book and a later chapter, written by Jekyll, outlining some of her principles for colour in the garden.

Jim Thorleifson



THERE is no reason why we should not have true art in the garden, but much why we should have it, and no reason why a garden should be ugly, bare, or conventional. The word “art”  being used in its highest sense here, it may perhaps be well to justify its use, and as good a definition of the word as any perhaps is “power to see and give form to beautiful things”, which we see shown in some of its finest forms in Greek sculpture and in the works of the great masters of painting.

But art is of many kinds, and owing to the loose, “critical” talk of the day, it is not easy to see that true art is based on clear- eyed study of and love for Nature, rather than invention and the bringing of the “personality” of the artist into the work, of which we hear so much. The work of the artist is always marked by its fidelity to Nature, and proof of this may be seen in the greatest art galleries now open to all, so that there is little to hide evidence as to what is said here about art in its highest expression. But as a number of people write much about art in the magazines and papers, while blind as bats to its simple law, there is infinite confusion in many minds about it, and we may read essay after essay about art without being brought a bit nearer to the simple truth, but on the other hand get the false idea that it is not by observing, but by inventing and supplementing, that good work is done. The strong man must be there, but his work is to see the whole beauty of the subject, and to help us to see it, not to distort it in any way for the sake of making it “original.” This is often a way to popularity, but in the end it means bad work. It may be the fashion for a season, owing to some one quality; but it is soon found out, and we have to return to the great masters of all ages, who are always distinguished for truth to Nature, and who show their strength by getting nearer to her.

The actual beauty of a thing in all its fulness and subtlety is almost the whole of the question, but the critics of the day will not take the trouble to see this, and write essays on art in which many long words occur, but in which we do not once meet with the word truth. “Realism” and “idealism” are words freely used, and bad pictures are shown us as examples of “realism” which leave out all the refinement, subtlety, truth of tone, and perhaps even the very light and shade in which all the real things we see are set.

There are men so blind to the beauty of the things set before their eyes in sky, sea, or earth, that they would seek to idealise the eyes of a beautiful child or the clouds of heaven; while all who see natural beauty in landscape know that no imagining can come near to the beauty of things seen, art being often powerless to seize their full beauty, and the artist has often to let the brush fall in despair. There are more pictures round the year in many a parish in England than all the landscape painters of Europe could paint in a century. Only a little, indeed, of the beauty that concerns us most that of the landscape can be seized for us except by the very greatest masters. Of things visible flower, tree, landscape, sky, or sea to see the full and every varied beauty is to be saved for ever from any will-o’-the-wisp of the imaginary.

But many people do not judge pictures by Nature, but by pictures, and therefore they miss her subtleties and delicate realities on which all true work depends. Some sneer at those who copy Nature, but the answer to such critics is for ever there in the work of the great men, be they Greeks, Dutchmen, Italians, French, or English.

It is part of the work of the artist to select beautiful or memorable things, not the first that come in his way. The Venus of Milo is from a noble type of woman not a mean Greek. The horses of the Parthenon show the best of Eastern breed, full of life and beauty. Great landscape painters like Crome, Corot, and Turner seek not things only because they are natural, but also beautiful; selecting views and waiting for the light that suits the chosen subject best, they give us pictures, working always from faithful study of Nature and from stores of knowledge gathered from her, and that is the only true path for the gardener, all true art being based on her eternal laws. All deviation from the truth of Nature, whether it be at the hands of Greek, Italian, or other artist, though it may pass for a time, is in the end it may be ages after the artist is dead classed as debased art.

Why say so much here about art? Because when we see the meaning of true “art” we cannot endure what is ugly and false in art, and we cannot have the foregrounds of beautiful English scenery daubed with flower gardens like coloured advertisements. Many see the right way from their own sense being true, but others may wish for proof of what is urged here as to the true source of lasting work in art in the work of the great artists of all time. And we may be as true artists in the garden and home landscape as anywhere else.

There is no good picture which does not image for us the beauty of natural things, and why not begin with these and be artists in their growth and grouping? For one reason among others that we are privileged to have the living things about us, and not merely representations of them.

So far we have spoken of the work of the true artist, which is always marked by respect for Nature and by keen study of her. But apart from this we have a great many men who do what is called “decorative” work, useful, but still not art in the sense of delight in, and study of, things as they are the whole class of decorators, who make our carpets, tiles, curtains, and who adapt conventional or geometric forms mostly to flat surfaces. Skill in this way may be considerable without any attention whatever being paid to the greater art that is concerned with life in all its fulness.

This it is well to see clearly; as for the flower gardener it matters much on which side he stands. Unhappily, our gardeners for ages have suffered at the hands of the decorative artist, when applying his “designs” to the garden, and designs which may be quite right on a surface like a carpet or panel have been applied a thousand times to the surface of the much enduring earth. It is this adapting of absurd “knots“ and patterns from old books to any surface where a flower garden has to be made that leads to bad and frivolous design wrong in plan and hopeless for the life of plants. It is so easy for any one asked for a plan to furnish one of this sort without the slightest knowledge of the life of a garden.

For ages the flower-garden has been marred by absurdities of this kind of work as regards plan, though the flowers were in simple and natural ways. But in our own time the same “decorative” idea has come to be carried out in the planting of the flowers under the name of “bedding out”, “carpet bedding”, or “mosaic culture”. In this the beautiful forms of flowers are degraded to the level of crude colour to make a design, and without reference to the natural form or beauty of the plants, clipping being freely done to get the carpets or patterns “true”. When these tracery gardens were made, often by people without any knowledge of the plants of a garden, they were found to be difficult to plant; hence attempts to do without the gardener altogether, and get colour by the use of broken brick, white sand, and painted stone. All such work is wrong and degrading to the art of gardening, and in its extreme expressions is ridiculous.

As I use the word “artistic”, in a book on the flower-garden, it may be well to say that as it is used it means right and true in relation to all the conditions of the case, and the necessary limitations of our art and all other human arts. A lovely Greek coin, a bit of canvas painted by Corot with the morning light on it, a block of stone hewn into the shape of the dying gladiator, the white mountain rocks built into a Parthenon these are all examples of human art, every one of which can be only fairly judged in due regard to what is possible in the material of each knowledge which it is part of the artist’s essential task to possess. Often a garden may be wrong in various ways, as shown by the conifers spread in front of many a house ugly in form, not in harmony with our native or best garden vegetation; mountain trees set out on dry plains and not even hardy; so that the word inartistic may help us to describe many errors. And again, if we are happy enough to find a garden so true and right in its results as to form a picture that an artist would be charmed to study, we may call it an artistic garden, as a short way of saying that it is about as good as it may be, taking everything into account.

LANDSCAPE PAINTING AND GARDENS, There are few pictures of gardens, because the garden beautiful is rare. Gardens around country houses, instead of forming, as they might, graceful foregrounds to the good landscape views, disfigure all, and drive the artist away in despair. Yet there may be real pictures in gardens; it is not a mere question of patterns of a very poor sort, but one of light and shade, beauty of form, and colour. In times when gardens were made by men who did not know one tree from another, the matter was settled by the shears it was a question of green walls only. Now we are beginning to see that there is a wholly different and higher order of beauty to be found in gardens, and we are at the beginning of a period when we may hope to get much more pleasure and instruction out of this art than ever before.

We have seen in Bond-street a variety of picture exhibitions devoted to gardens, generally of the trifling stippled water-colour order. The painters of these pictures, for the most part ten-minute sketches, have one main idea that the only garden worth picturing is the shorn one, and pictures of such places are repeated time after time; a clipped line of Arbor-vitae, with a stuffed peacock stuck by the side of it, is considered good enough for a garden picture. Work of this kind, which is almost mechanical, is so much easier than the drawing of a garden with the elements of varied beauty in it. In the work of Alfred Parsons and a few others we see the beginning of things of beauty in the painting of gardens, but it is for us gardeners to commence by first being artists ourselves, and opening our eyes to see the ugly things about us.

Artists of real power would paint gardens and home landscapes if there were real pictures to draw; but generally they are so rare that the work does not come into the artist’s view at all. Through all the rage of the “bedding-out” fever, it was impossible for an artist to paint in a garden like those which disfigured the land from Blair Athol to the Crystal Palace. It is difficult to imagine Corot sitting down to paint the Grande Trianon, or the terrace patterns at Versailles, though a poor hamlet in the North of France, with a few willows near, gave him a lovely picture. Once, when trying to persuade Mr. Mark Fisher, the landscape painter, to come into a district remarkable for its natural beauty, he replied : “There are too many gentlemen’s places there to suit my work”, referring to the hardness and ugliness of the effects around most country seats, owing to the iron-bound pudding-clumps of trees, railings, capricious clippings and shearings, bad colours, and absence of fine and true form, with, almost certainly, an ugly house in the midst of all. But we ought to be able to do better than be makers of garden scarecrows to the very men who would enjoy our work most, and delight in painting it, rich as we are in the sources of beauty of tree or flower.



WE now come to the flowers that are worthy of a place in gardens, and to consider ways of arranging them. Their number and variety being almost without limit, the question is, how the garden lover is to enjoy as many of these treasures as his conditions allow of. As during all time a simple border has been the first expression of flower gardening, and as there is no arrangement of flowers more graceful, varied, or capable of giving more delight, and none so easily adapted to almost every kind of garden, some ideas of the various kinds of borders of hardy flowers mainly deserve our first consideration.

COST AND ENDURANCE. The difference in cost of growing hardy flowers or tender should be thought of. The sacrifice of flower gardens to plants that perish every year has often left them poor of all the nobler plants. We must take into account the hothouses, the propagation of plants by thousands at certain seasons, the planting out at the busiest and fairest time of the year in June, the digging up and storing in autumn, the care in the winter.

Perhaps the most striking effects from individual plants ever seen in England were Japanese Lilies grown for years in the open air by Mr. McIntosh among his Rhododendrons at Weybridge Heath. And not only Lilies; but many noble flowers may be grown in the same simple way. A few years ago we saw only dense masses of Rhododendrons; now the idea of growing this shrub with the finer hardy plants has spread. It means more room to show the form of the shrubs, and more light and shade; mutual relief of shrub and plant; colonies and groups of lovely plants among the shrubs. Good preparation and some knowledge of plants are needed, but no necessity whatever for any system that may not be called permanent.

There are a number of things which, given thorough preparation at first, it would be wise to leave alone for some years at a time as, for example, groups or beds of the various Tritomas, Irises, Lilies, Paeonies, the free-flowering Yuccas, Narcissi these and many more, either grouped with others or in families. When all these exhaust the ground or become too crowded, by all means move them and replant, but this is a very different thing from moving all the plants in the flower garden twice a year.

It would be better every way if, so far as the flower garden is concerned, gardeners were to see what could be done unaided by the hothouse; but meanwhile the wise man will reduce the expense of glass, labour, fire, repairs, paint, pipes, and boilers to something like reasonable proportions. In presence of the wealth of our hardy garden flora, the promise of which is now such as men never expected a few years ago no one need doubt of making a fair flower garden from hardy plants alone.

THE TRUE WAY to make gardens yield a return of beauty for the labour and skill given them is the permanent one. Choose some beautiful class of plants and select a place that will suit them, even as to their effect in the garden landscape. Let the beds be planted as permanently and as well as possible, so that there will remain little to do for years. All plants may not lend themselves to this permanent plan, but such as do not may be grown apart for instance, the Poppy, Anemones, Turban and Persian Ranunculuses, Carnations, Stocks, Asters, and the finer annuals. But a great many delightful plants can be planted permanently, and be either allowed to arrange themselves, to group with others, or to grow among peat-loving shrubs which, in many places, are jammed into pudding-shaped masses void of form or grace, or light and shade.

One of the best reforms will be to avoid the conventional pattern plans, and adopt simple beds and borders, in positions suited to the plants they are to grow. These can best be filled permanently, because the planter is free to deal with them in a bolder and more artistic way than if he has to consider their relation to a number of small beds. In this way, also, the delight of flowers is much more keenly felt as one sees them relieved, sees them at different times, and to more advantage than the flowers stereotyped under the window. Roses favourites with everybody grouped well together, and not trained as standards, would lend themselves admirably to culture with other things moss Roses growing out of a carpet of double Primroses, and Tea Roses with Carnations. Then there are many groups made by the aid of the finer perennials them- selves, such as the Delphiniums and Phloxes, by choosing things that would go well together. Other plants, such as Yuccas, of which there are now various beautiful kinds, are often best by themselves; and noble groups they form, whether in flower or not. The kinds of Yucca that flower very freely, such as Y. recurva and Y. flaccida, lend themselves to grouping with Flame Flowers (Tritoma) and the bolder autumn plants.

No plan which involves expensive yearly efforts on the same piece of ground can ever be satisfactory. All garden plants require attention, but not annual attention. The true way is quite different the devotion of the skill and effort to fresh beds and effects each year. It does not exclude summer “bedding”, but includes lovely and varied aspects of vegetation far beyond that attainable in summer “bedding,” and attempts to make the garden artistically beautiful. It also helps to make the skill of the gardener effective for lasting good, and prevents its being thrown away in annual fireworks. There can be no gardening without care; but is there not a vast difference between some of these beds and borders and those with flowers which disappear with the frosts of October, and leave us nothing but bare earth?

The main charm of bedding plants that of lasting in bloom a long time is really a drawback. It is the stereotyped kind of garden which we have to fight against; we want beautiful and changeful gardens, and should therefore have the flowers of each season. Too short a bloom is a misfortune; but so is too long a bloom, and numbers of hardy plants bloom quite as long as can be desired.

There is nothing whatever used in bedding out to be compared in colour, form, or fragrance with many families of hardy plants. There is no beauty among bedding plants at all comparable with that of Irises, Lilies, Delphiniums, Evening Primroses, Paeonies, Carnations, Narcissi, and a host of others. Are we to put aside or into the back- ground all this glorious beauty for the sake of a few things that merely give us flat colour? No one who knows even to a slight extent what the plants of the northern and temperate world are can admit that this sort of gardening should have the first place. There is nothing among “carpet” plants equal to Windflowers in many kinds, flowering in spring, summer, and autumn; Torch Lilies, superb in autumn : Columbines; Harebells; Delphiniums; Day Lilies; Everlasting Peas; Evening Primroses; Paeonies; Phloxes; Ranunculus, double and single, and the many fine species; all the noble autumn-blooming, Daisy- like flowers; Scabious; plumy Spiraeas; Globe Flowers; Lilies, in noble variety; Polyanthus; Primroses; Auriculas; Wallflowers; Meadow Saffrons; Crocuses, of the spring and autumn; Scillas; Gladioli; Snowflakes; Grape Hyacinths; Narcissi, in lovely variety; Tulips, the old florists’ kinds, and many wild species; Yuccas; Carnations and Pinks; Dielytras; Cornflowers; Foxgloves; Stocks; Star-worts; great Scarlet and other Poppies; Christmas Roses, both of the winter and spring; Forget-me-nots; Pansies and many of the rock plants of the mountains of Europe from the Alps to the hills of Greece, cushioned with Aubrietia, and skyblue Wind-flowers all hardy as the Docks by the frozen brooks.

FLOWER BORDERS FRINGING SHRUBBERIES. A frequent way in which people attempt to cultivate hardy flowers is in what is called the “mixed border” often made on the edge of a shrubbery, the roots of which leave little food or even light for the flowers. The face of a shrubbery should be broken and varied; the shrubs should not form a hard line, but here and there they should come full to the edge and finish it. The variety of positions and places afforded by the front of a shrubbery so arranged is tempting, but it is generally best to use plants which do not depend for their beauty on high culture which, in fact, fight their way near shrubs and there are a great many of them, such as the evergreen Candy-tufts, the large-leaved Rockfoils, Acanthus, Day Lilies, Solomon’s Seal, Starworts, Leopard’s Banes, Moon Daisies, and hardy native Ferns.

A scattered, dotty mixed border along the face of a shrubbery gives a poor effect, but a good one may be secured by grouping the plants in the open spaces between the shrubs, making a careful selection of plants, each occupying a bold space. Nothing can be more delightful than a border made thus; but it requires knowledge of plants, and that desire to consider plants in relation to their surroundings which is never shown by those who make a “dotty” mixed border, which is the same all the way along and in no place pretty. The presence of tree and shrub life is a great advantage to those who know how to use it. Here is a group of shrubs over which we can throw a delicate veil of some pretty creeper that would look stiff and wretched against a wall; there a shady recess beneath a flowering tree : instead of planting it up with shrubs in the common way, cover the ground with Woodruff, which will form a pretty carpet and flower very early in the year, and through the Woodruff a few British Ferns; in front of this use only low plants, and we shall thus get a pretty little vista, with shade and a pleasant relief. Next we come to a bare patch on the margin. Cover it with a strong evergreen Candytuft, and let this form the edge. Then allow a group of Japan Quince to come right into the grass edge and break the margin; then a large group of broad-leaved Saxifrage, receding under the near bushes and trees; and so proceed making groups and colonies, considering every aid from shrub or tree, and never using a plant of which we do not know and enjoy the effect.

This plan is capable of much variety, whether we are dealing with an established and grown shrubbery, or a choice plantation of flowering Evergreens. In the last case, owing to the soil and the neat habit of the bushes, we have excellent conditions in which good culture is possible. One can have the finest things among them if the bushes are not jammed together. The ordinary way of planting shrubs is such that they grow together, and then it is not possible to have flowers between them, nor to see the true form of the bushes, which are lost in one solid leafy mass. In growing fine things Lilies or Cardinal Flowers, or tall Evening Primroses among open bushes we may form a delightful garden, we secure sufficient space for the bushes to show their forms, and we get light and shade among them. In such plantations one might have in the back parts “secret” colonies of lovely things which it might not be well to show in the front of the border, or which required shade and shelter that the front did not afford.

BORDERS BY GRASS WALKS IN SHADE OR SUN. It is not only in the flower garden where we may have much beauty of flower, but away from it there are many places better fitted for growing the more beautiful things which do not require continual attention. Unhappily, the common way of planting shrubberies has robbed many Grass walks of all charm. The great trees, which take care of themselves, are often fine, but the common mixed plantation of Evergreens means death to the variety and beauty of flower we may have by Grass walks in sun or shade. The shrubs are frequently planted in mixtures, in which the most free-growing are so thickly set as soon to cover the whole ground, Cherry Laurel, Portugal Laurel, Privet, and such common things frequently killing all the choicer shrubs and forming dark heavy walls of leaves. Some of these Evergreens, being very hungry things, overrun the ground, rob the trees, and frequently, as in the case of the Portugal Laurels, give a dark monotonous effect while keeping the walks wet, airless, and lifeless.

Light and shade and the charm of colour are impossible in such cases with these heavy, dank Evergreens, often cut back, but once one is free of their slavery what delightful places there are for growing all hardy flowers in broad masses, from the handsome Oriental Hellebores of the early spring to the delicate lavenders of the Starworts in October. Not only hardy flowers, but graceful climbers like the wild Clematis, and lovely corners of light and shade may be made instead of the walls of sombre Evergreens. If we want the ground green with dwarf plants, we have no end of delightful plants at hand in the Ivies and Evergreens like Cotoneaster. There is no need for the labour and ugliness of clipping. I have seen places with acres of detestable clipped Laurels, weary and so ‘ugly ! With all these grubbed and burnt, what places, too, for such beautiful things as the giant Fennels with their more than Fern-like grace, and all our strong, hardy Ferns which want no rocks, with Solomon’s Seal and Foxgloves among them. Such walks may pass from open spaces into half-shady ones or through groves of old Fir or other trees and so give us picturesque variety apart from their planting with flowers.

FLOWER BORDERS AGAINST WALLS AND HOUSES. In many situations near houses, and especially old houses, there are delightful opportunities for a very beautiful kind of flower border. The stone forms fine background, and there are no thieving tree roots. Here we have conditions exactly opposite to those in the shrubbery; here we can have the best soil, and keep it for our favourites; we can have Delphiniums, Lilies, Paeonies, Irises, and all choice plants well grown. Walls may be adorned with climbers of graceful growth, climbing Rose, Wistaria, Vine, or Clematis, which will help out our beautiful mixed border. Those must to some extent be trained, although they may be allowed a certain degree of abandoned grace even on a wall. In this kind of border we have, as a rule, no background of shrubs, and therefore we must get the choicest variety of plant life into the border itself and we must try to have a constant succession of interest. In winter this kind of border may have a bare look when seen from the windows, but the variety of good hardy plants is so great, that we can make it almost evergreen by using evergreen rock-plants. Where walls are broken with pillars, a still better effect may be obtained by training Vines and Wistaria along the top and over the pillars or the buttresses.

THE FLOWER BORDER IN THE FRUIT OR KITCHEN GARDEN. We have here a frequent kind of mixed border often badly made, but which may be excellent. A good plan is to secure from about eight to ten feet of rich soil on each side of the walk, and cut the borders off from the main garden by a trellis of some kind from seven feet to nine feet high. This trellis may be of strong iron wire, or, better still, of simple rough wooden branches. Any kind of rough permanent . trellis will do, on which we may grow Climbing Roses and Clematis and all the choicer but not rampant climbers. Moreover, we can grow them in their natural grace along the wires or rough branches, or up and across a rough wooden trellis Rose and Jasmine showing their grace uncontrolled. We fix the main branches to the supports, and leave the rest to the winds, and form a fine type of flower border in this way, as we have the graceful climbing plants in contrast with the flowers in the border.

General borders may be made in various ways; but it may be well to bear in mind the following points : Select only good plants; throw away weedy kinds, there is no scarcity of the best. See good collections. Put, at first, rare kinds in lines across four-feet nursery beds, so that a stock of plants may be at hand. Make the choicest borders where they cannot be robbed by the roots of trees; see that the ground is good and rich, and that it is at least two and a half feet deep, so deep that, in a dry season, the roots can seek their supplies far below the surface. In planting, plant in naturally disposed groups, never repeating the same plant along the border at intervals, as is so often done with favourites. Do not graduate the plants in height from the front to the back, as is generally done, but sometimes let a bold plant come to the edge; and, on the other hand, let a little carpet of a dwarf plant pass in here and there to the back, so as to give a varied instead of a monotonous surface. Have no patience with bare ground, and cover the border with dwarf plants; do not put them along the front of the border only. Let Hepaticas and double and other Primroses, and Saxifrages, and Golden Moneywort and Stonecrops, and Forget-me-nots, and dwarf Phloxes, and many similar plants cover the ground among the tall plants betimes at the back as well as the front. Let the little ground plants form broad patches and colonies by themselves occasionally, and let them pass into and under other plants. A white Lily will be all the better for having a colony of creeping Forget-me-nots over it in the winter, and the variety that may be thus obtained is infinite.

Thoroughly prepared at first, the border might remain for years without any digging in the usual sense. When a plant is old and rather too thick, never hesitate to replant it on a wet day in the middle of August any more than in the middle of winter. Take it up and put a fresh bold group in fresh ground; the young plants will have plenty of roots by the winter, and in the following spring will flower much stronger than if they had been transplanted in spring or in winter. Do not pay much attention to labelling; if a plant is not worth knowing, it is not worth growing; let each good thing be so bold and so well grown as to make its presence felt.

MR. FRANK MILES ON THE FLOWER BORDER. Among the first to see the merits of effectively carpeting borders, and who made the border suggested in my Hardy Flowers, was the late Frank Miles, the artist, and an excellent flower gardener. His own account of his work I give here.

If we are to have mixed borders of herbaceous plants, one thing is quite certain we can never go back to the borders of our ancestors in which every plant had a bare space of ground round it. In the spot where once a plant had bloomed, there was an end for the year of any flowers. Now a yard of ground should have bloom on it at least eight months in the year, and this applies to every yard of ground in a really good mixed border. I am certain that, once a border is well made, it need not be dug up at all. But the question is what is a well-made border? I think a border is not well made, or suitable for growing the most beautiful plants to perfection, unless it is as well made as a Vine border in a vinery. Why we should not take as much trouble with the garden border as the border of a conservatory I cannot imagine, seeing that Lilies will grow 11 feet high in the open air, not less than 10 inches across the flower, and Irises little less than that. The more I garden the deeper I get my drainage, and the fuller of sand and fibre my soil. I consider, first, that a border must have a bed of broken bricks or other drainage, with ashes over that, to .prevent the drainage from filling up; secondly, that that bed of drainage must have 2 feet of light soil over it; thirdly, that that soil must have equal parts of sand, soil, and vegetable matter. A soil of these constituents and depth is never wet in winter and never dry in summer. During the dry weather I found soil like this, in which quantities of auratum Lilies were growing, to be quite moist an inch below the surface, and I know in winter it always appears dry compared with the natural garden soil.

But, for all practical intents and purposes, every 6 inches of ground could contain its plant, so that no 6 inches of bare ground need obtrude on the eye. Almost any kind of bare rock has a certain beauty, but I cannot say bare ground is ever beautiful. Well, supposing the back of the border filled with Delphiniums, Phloxes, and Roses, pegged down, and other summer and autumn-blooming plants, and supposing the border to be made as I have described it, I should carpet the ground at the back with spring-blooming flowers, so that when the Roses are bare and the Delphiniums and Phloxes have not pushed above ground, the border should even then be a blaze of beauty. Crocuses, Snowdrops, Aconites, and Primroses are quite enough for that purpose. The whole space under the Roses I should cover with the Common Wood Anemone, and the golden Wood Anemone, and early Cyclamens, and the earliest Dwarf Daffodils. And among the Roses and Pasonies and other medium-sized shrubs I would put all the taller Lilies, such as require continual shade on their roots; and such as pardalinum and the Californian Lilies generally, the Japanese, Chinese, and finer American Lilies. Now we come more to the front of the border, and here I would have combinations, such as the great St. Bruno’s Lily and the delicate hybrid Columbines, Primroses planted over hardy autumn Gladioli, so that when the Primroses are at rest the Gladioli should catch the eye : Carnations and Daffodils, planted so that the Carnations form a maze of blue-green for the delicate creams and oranges of the Daffodils. When the Daffodils are gone there are the Carnations in the autumn. A mass of Iberis corfeaefolia happens to have been the very best thing possible for some Lilium Browni to grow through, for the Iberis flowered early and then made a protection for the young growth of the Browni, and then a lovely dark green setting for the infinite beauty of the Lily flowers. As for saying that this cannot be done, I say that it is nonsense, for the Iberis flowered beautifully under such circumstances, and the Lilies too. If once you get it into your head that no bit of ground ought ever to be seen without flowers or immediate prospect of flowers, heaps of combinations will immediately occur to those con- versant with plants and the deep-rooting habits of most bulbs and the surface rooting of many herbaceous plants for instance, Colchicums and Daffodils, with a surface of Campanula pusilla alba. The big leaves of the Colchicum grow in spring, and there would be nothing but leaves were it not for the masses of Daffodils. By and by the leaves of the Colchicums and Daffodils are dry enough to pull away, and then the Campanula, be it pusilla, pusilla alba, or turbinata alba, comes into a sheet of bloom. Before the bloom has passed away the Colchicum blooms begin to push up, and as some of my Colchicums are 5 inches across, of the richest rose colour, I do not exactly feel that this is a colourless kind of gardening, and as I have a hundred different kinds of Daffodils, this little arrangement will not be without interest in spring.

THE DAFFODILS and Colchicums root deeply and grow mostly in winter, requiring water then, and not in summer, when the Campanula carpet is taking it all. There are some, however, which one must be careful about the common white Lily, for instance, which wants exposing to the sun in the autumn. I do not mind the exquisite French Poppies among these candidum Lilies, because the Poppies die about August, and then the Lilies get their baking and refuse to show the bare earth, soon covering it all with their leaves. For the extreme front of the border hundreds of combinations will occur Pansies over Daffodils, Portulacas over Central Asian bulbs, Christmas Roses and Hellebores over the taller Daffodils, with Gladioli, Tritomas, and giant Daffodils, Hepaticas, and autumn- blooming and spring-blooming Cyclamens, with Scillas and Snowdrops. When Anemone japonica is low, up come the taller Tulips, sylvestris for instance, and higher still out of the dark green leaves come the bejewelled Crown Imperials.

As for the cultural advantages, I can imagine this system in the hands of a skilful gardener to be the best of all. In the first place, the plants suffer much less from drought, because there is so much less surface exposed to sun and wind. Examine, not right under the root, but under the spreading part of a Mignonette, and see if, on a broiling hot day, the ground is not much cooler and moister than on the bare ground. Irises are almost the only plants I know of that do require the soil bare about their rootstocks, but then Irises are a carpet of green always, and a few clumps of Tiger Lilies or Tiger Irises will not seriously injure their flowering prospects. And what cannot be done with an herbaceous border edge when that edge is the green Grass? Crocuses and Crocuses all the autumn and winter and spring in the Grass. The tiniest Scillas and Hyacinths, and Daffodils, and Snowdrops are leading into the border without any break. So I believe, and I think many others will believe by and by, that every bulbous plant ought to be grown in combination with something else, as Amaryllis Belladonna, for instance, which I plant with Arum italicum pictum. In spring the Arum comes up extremely early and its leaves protect the far more delicate leaves of the Amaryllis till they are growing freely and the Arum dies down. The ground is surfaced with Violets, so that the Belladonnas are now coming into bloom, not with the bare ground but with a setting of Violet leaves in beautiful contrast with their pink blossoms. Christmas Roses of all kinds would probably be a more beautiful setting still, but the Belladonnas want a good deal of summer drying up, which the Hellebores could not stand so well.

WE CAN NEVER GO BACK to the mixed border of our ancestors; we have been spoilt for such blank, flowerless spaces as they had by the gorgeousness of bedding out. But we have now a wealth of hardy plants, especially bulbs, which they never had, and this combination of bulbous plants and herbaceous plants will certainly lead to a preparation of the borders which has been hardly dreamt of by people who do not care what they spend on tropical flowers; for it seems to be forgotten that we have Irises as big as a plate and Lilies as tall as a tree, all hardy and requiring little attention when once they have been properly planted. The time that used to be spent year after year in digging acres of borders might now be spent in properly making or re-making a few yards of border, till the whole outdoor borders are as exactly suited for the growth of plants to the utter- most perfection as many as possible being put in the given space as the borders of a large conservatory. It is in such a border as this that we attain the utmost variety, unceasingly beautiful, every yard different, every week varying, holding on its surface at least three times the value of plant life and successional plant beauty of any ordinary garden. The chief enemy to the system is the slug; but while the Belladonna Delphinium, which is usually half eaten by slugs in most gardens, grows 6 feet high with me, I am not going to give up my system.

The way so well described by Mr. F. Miles, and which he carried out admirably in his father’s garden at Bingham one of the few really lovely mixed borders I have seen is to some extent that carried out in many pretty cottage gardens, owing to the plots being stored with all sorts of hardy flowers; those are the cottage gardens where one often sees a charming succession of flowers and no bare ground.

One of the prettiest garden borders I know is against a small house. Instead of the walk coming near the windows, a bed of choice shrubs, varying from 9 feet to 1 5 feet in width, is against the house. Nothing in this border grows high enough to intercept the view out of the windows on the ground floor, from which were seen the flowers of the border and a green lawn beyond. Among the shrubs were tall Evening Primroses, and Lilies, and Meadow Sweets, and tall blue Larkspurs, which after the early shrubs have flowered bloom above them. The ground is always furnished, and the effect is good, even in winter.

EVERGREEN BORDERS OF HARDY FLOWERS. The plants of the older kind of mixed border were like the Grasses of the meadows of the northern world stricken to the earth by winter, and the border was not nearly so pretty then as the withered Grass of the plain or copse. But since the revival of interest in hardy and Alpine flowers, and the many introductions of recent years, we have a great number of beautiful plants that are evergreen in winter and that enable us to make evergreen borders. The great white blanket that covers the north and many mountain ranges in winter protects also for months many Alpine plants which do not lose their leaves in winter, such as Rockfoils, Stonecrops, Primroses, Gentians, and Christmas Roses. The most delicate of Alpine plants suffer, when exposed to our winter, from excitement of growth, to which they are not subject in their own home, but many others do not mind our winters much, and it is easy by good choice of plants to make excellent borders wholly or in greater part evergreen.

These are not only good as evergreens, but they are delightful in colour, many being beautiful in flower in spring, and having also the charm of assuming their most refreshing green just when other plants are dying in autumn. Along with these rock and herbaceous plants we may group a great many shrublets that come almost between the true shrub and the Alpine flower little woody evergreen creeping things like the dwarf Partridge Berry, Canadian Cornel, hardy Heaths, and Sand Myrtles, often good in colour when grouped.

Among these various plants we have plenty for evergreen borders, and this is important, as, while many might object to the bare earth of the ordinary border of herbaceous plants near the house or in other favourite spots, it is different with borders of evergreen plants, which may be charming and natural in effect throughout the year.

Of garden pictures, there are few prettier than Crocus, Snowdrops, or Scilla coming through the green, moss-like carpets in these ever- green borders, far prettier to those who love quiet and natural colour than more showy effects. Often narrow evergreen borders are the best things that can be placed at the foot of important walls, as the way of allowing Grass to go right up to the walls is a foolish one, and often leads to injury to the wall trees. A narrow border (18 inches will do), cut off with a natural stone edging from the Grass or walk, is best : even a border of this size may have many lovely things, from early Cyclamen to the rarer Meadow Saffrons in the autumn. Besides the flowers already named, we have Violets, Periwinkles, Yuccas, Carnations, Pinks, white Rock Cress, Barren- worts, charming in foliage, purple Rock Cresses, Omphalodes, Iris, Acanthus, Indian and other Strawberries, Houseleeks, Thymes, Forget-me-nots, Sandworts, Gentianella, Lavender, Rosemary, hardy Rock Roses, and many native and other hardy evergreen Ferns in all their fine variety; Bamboos, Ruscus and Dwarf Savin, these are an essential aid in the making of evergreen borders.


From this list all families not pretty hardy in Britain are excluded : whatever we may do with flower beds, mixed borders should be mainly of hardy plants, and we ought to be able to plant or refresh them at any time through the autumn or winter months. Well planned mixed borders, covered as they mostly should be with rock plants forming green carpets, should have few gaps in early summer, but where these occur they may be filled up with half-hardy plants as the stock of plants may permit, or with good annuals. It is important in making borders to use the finest species in each genus.










Alstroemeria in var.



Anemone Anthericum














Brodiaea in var.





Caltha in var.


Carnations Catananche






















Dryas Echinops







































































































Sweet Pea

Sweet William























ONE of the first things which all who care for gardens should learn, is the difference between true and delicate and ugly colour between the showy dyes and much glaring colour seen in gardens and the beauties and harmonies of natural colour. There are, apart from beautiful flowers, many lessons and no fees : Oak woods in winter, even the roads and paths and rocks and hedgerows; leaves in many hues of life and death, the stems of trees : many birds are lovely studies in harmony and delicate gradation of colour; the clouds (eternal mine of divinest colour) in many aspects of light, and the varied and infinite beauty of colour of the air itself as it comes between us and the distant view.

Nature is a good colourist, and if we trust to her guidance we never find wrong colour in wood, meadow, or on mountain. ” Laws ” have been laid down by chemists and decorators about colours which artists laugh at, and to consider them is a waste of time. If we have to make coloured cottons, or to ” garden ” in coloured gravels, then it is well to think what ugly things will shock us least; but dealing with living plants in their infinitely varied hues, and with their beautiful flowers, is a different thing ! If we grow well plants of good colour, all will be right in the end, but often raisers of flowers work against us by the raising of flowers of bad colour. The complicated pattern beds so often seen in flower gardens should be given up in favour of simpler beds, of the shapes best suiting the ground, and among various reasons for this is to get true colour. When we have little pincushion-beds where the whole ” pattern ” is seen at once through the use of dwarf plants, the desire comes to bring in colour in patterns and in ugly ways. For this purpose the wretched Alternanthera and other pinched plant rubbish are grown plants not worth growing at all.

When dwarf flowers are associated with bushes like Roses, and with plants like Carnations and tall Irises, having pointed and graceful foliage, the colours are relieved against the delicate foliage of  the plants and by having the beds large enough we relieve the dwarfer flowers with taller plants behind. In a shrubbery, too, groups of flowers are nearly always right, and we can follow our desire in flowers without much thought of arranging for colour. But as the roots of the shrubs rob the flowers; the best way is to put near and around shrubberies free-running plants that do not want much cultivation, like Solomon’s Seal and Woodruff, and other plants that grow naturally in woods and copses, while with flowers like Pansies, Carnations, Roses, that depend for their beauty on good soil, the best way is to keep them in the open garden, away from hungry tree-roots.

By having large simple beds we relieve the flowers, and enjoy their beauty of colour and the forms of the plants without ” pattern ” of any kind. Instead of ” dotting” the plants, it is better to group them naturally, letting the groups run into each other, and varying them here and there with taller plants. A flower garden of any size could be planted in this way, without the geometry of the ordinary flower garden, and the poor effect of the ” botanical ” ” dotty ” mixed border. As, however, all may not be ready to follow this plan, the following notes on colour, by a flower gardener who has given much thought to the subject, will be useful :

One of the most important points in the arrangement of a garden is the placing of the flowers with regard to their colour-effect. Too often a garden is an assemblage of plants placed together hap- hazard, or if any intention be perceptible, as is commonly the case in the bedding system, it is to obtain as great a number as possible of the most violent contrasts; and the result is a hard, garish vulgarity. Then, in mixed borders, one usually sees lines or evenly distributed spots of colour, wearying and annoying to the eye, and proving how poor an effect can be got by the misuse of the best materials. Should it not be remembered that in setting a garden we are painting a picture, a picture of hundreds of feet or yards instead of so many inches, painted with living flowers and seen by open daylight so that to paint it rightly is a debt we owe to the beauty of the flowers and to the light of the sun; that the colours should be placed with careful forethought and deliberation, as a painter employs them on his picture, and not dropped down in lifeless dabs.

HARMONY RATHER THAN CONTRAST. Splendid harmonies of rich and brilliant colour, and proper sequences of such harmonies, should be the rule; there should be large effects, each well studied and well placed, varying in different portions of the garden scheme. One very common fault is a want of simplicity of intention; another, an absence of any definite plan of colouring. Many people have not given any attention to colour-harmony, or have not by nature the gift of perceiving it. Let them learn it by observing some natural examples of happily related colouring, taking separate families of plants whose members are variously coloured. Some of the best to study would be American Azaleas, Wallflowers, German and Spanish Iris, Alpine Auriculas, Polyanthus, and Alstrcemerias.

BREADTH OF MASS AND INTERGROUPING. It is important to notice that the mass of each colour should be large enough to have a certain dignity, but never so large as to be wearisome; a certain breadth in the masses is also wanted to counteract the effect of fore- shortening when the border is seen from end to end. When a definite plan of colouring is decided on, it will save trouble if the plants whose flowers are approximately the same in colour are grouped together to follow each other in season of blooming. Thus, in a part of the border assigned to red, Oriental Poppies might be planted among or next to Tritomas, with scarlet Gladioli between both, so that there should be a succession of scarlet flowers, the places occupied by the Gladioli being filled previously with red Wallflowers.

WARM COLOURS are not difficult to place : scarlet, crimson, pink, orange, yellow, and warm white are easily arranged so as to pass agreeably from one to the other.

PURPLE and LILAC group well together, but are best kept well away from red and pink; they do well with the colder whites, and are seen at their best when surrounded and carpeted with gray-white foliage, like that of Cerastium tomentosum or Cineraria maritima; but if it be desired to pass from a group of warm colour to purple and lilac, a good breadth of pale yellow or warm white may be interposed.

WHITE FLOWERS. Care must be taken in placing very cold white flowers such as Iberis correae folia, which are best used as quite a high light, led up to by whites of a softer character. Frequent repetitions of white patches catch the eye unpleasantly; it will generally be found that one mass or group of white will be enough in any piece of border or garden arrangement that can be seen from any one point of view.

BLUE requires rather special treatment, and is best approached by delicate contrasts of warm whites and pale yellows, such as the colours of double Meadow Sweet, and CEnothera Lamarckiana, but rather avoiding the direct opposition of strong blue and full yellow. Blue flowers are also very beautiful when completely isolated and seen alone among rich dark foliage.

A PROGRESSION OF COLOUR in a mixed border might begin with strong blues, light and dark, grouped with white and pale yellow, passing on to pink; then to rose colour, crimson, and the strongest scarlet, leading to orange and bright yellow. A paler yellow followed by white would distantly connect the warm colours with the lilacs and purples, and a colder white would combine them pleasantly with low- growing plants with cool-coloured leaves.

SILVERY-LEAVED PLANTS are valuable as edgings and carpets to purple flowers, and bear the same kind of relation to them as the warm-coloured foliage of some plants does to their strong red flowers, as in the case of the Cardinal Flower and double crimson Sweet William. The bright clear blue of Forget-me-not goes best with fresh pale green, and pink flowers are beautiful with pale foliage striped with creamy white, such as the variegated forms of Jacob’s-ladder or Iris pseudacorus. A useful carpeting plant, Acsena pulchella, assumes in spring a rich bronze between brown and green which is valuable with Wallflowers of the brown and orange colours. These few examples, out of many that will come under the notice of any careful observer, are enough to indicate what should be looked for in the way of accompanying foliage such foliage, if well chosen and well placed, may have the same value to the flowering plant that a worthy and appropriate setting has to a jewel.

IN SUNNY PLACES warm colours should preponderate; the yellow colour of sunlight brings them together and adds to their glowing effect.

A SHADY BORDER, on the other hand, seems best suited for the cooler and more delicate colours. A beautiful scheme of cool colouring might be arranged for a retired spot, out of sight of other brightly coloured flowers, such as a border near the shady side of any shrubbery or wood that would afford a good background of dark foliage. Here would be the best opportunity for using blue, cool white, palest yellow, and fresh green. A few typical plants are the great Larkspurs, Monkshoods, and Columbines, Anemones (such as japonica, sylvestris, apennina, Hepatica, and the single and double forms of nemorosa), white Lilies, Trilliums, Pyrolas, Habenarias, Primroses, white and yellow, double and single, Daffodils, white Cyclamen, Ferns and mossy Saxifrages, Lily-of-the- Valley, and Woodruff. The most appropriate background to such flowers would be shrubs and trees, giving an effect of rich sombre masses of dusky shadow rather than a positive green colour, such as Bay Phillyrea, Box, Yew, and Evergreen Oak. Such a harmony of cool colouring, in a quiet shady place, would present a delightful piece of gardening.

BEDDED-OUT PLANTS, in such parts of a garden as may require them, may be arranged on the same general principle of related, rather than of violently opposed, masses of colour. As an example, a fine effect was obtained with half-hardy annuals, mostly kinds of Marigold, Chrysanthemum, and Nasturtium, of all shades of yellow, orange, and brown. This was in a finely designed formal garden before the principal front of one of the stateliest of the great houses of England. It was a fine lesson in temperance, this employment of a simple scheme of restricted colouring, yet it left nothing to be desired in the way of richness and brilliancy, and well served its purpose as a dignified ornament, and worthy accompaniment to the fine old house.

CONTRASTS How TO BE USED. The greater effects being secured, some carefully arranged contrasts may be used to strike the eye when passing; for opposite colours in close companionship are not telling at a distance, and are still less so if interspersed, their tendency then being to neutralize each other. Here and there a charming effect may be produced by a bold contrast, such as a mass of orange Lilies against Delphiniums or Gentians against alpine Wallflowers; but these violent contrasts should be used sparingly and as brilliant accessories rather than trustworthy principals.

CLIMBERS ON WALLS. There is often a question about the suitability of variously coloured creepers on house or garden walls. The same principle of harmonious colouring is the best guide. A warm-coloured wall, one of Bath stone or buff bricks, for instance, is easily dealt with. On this all the red-flowered, leaved, or berried plants look well Japan Quince, red and pink Roses, Virginian Creeper, Crataegus Pyracantha, and the more delicate harmonies of Honeysuckle, Banksian Roses, and Clematis montana, and Flammula, while C. Jackmanni and other purple and lilac kinds are suitable as occasional contrasts. The large purple and white Clematises harmonise perfectly with the cool gray of Portland stone; and so do dark-leaved climbers, such as White Jasmine, Passion Flower, and green Ivy. Red brickwork, especially when new, is not a happy ground colour; per- haps it is best treated with large-leaved climbers Magnolias, Vines, Aristolochia to counteract the fidgety look of the bricks and white joints. When brickwork is old and overgrown with gray Lichens, there can be no more beautiful ground for all colours of flowers from the brightest to the tenderest none seems to come amiss.

COLOUR IN BEDDING-OUT. We must here put out of mind nearly all the higher sense of the enjoyment of flowers; the delight in their beauty individually or in natural masses; the pleasure derived from a personal knowledge of their varied characters, appearances, and ways, which gives them so much of human interest and lovableness; and must regard them merely as so much colouring matter, to fill such and such spaces for a few months. We are restricted to a kind of gardening not far removed from that in which the spaces of the design are filled in with pounded brick, slate, or shells. The best rule in the arrangement of a bedded garden is to keep the scheme of colouring as simple as possible. The truth of this is easily perceived by an ordinary observer when shown a good example, and is obvious without any showing to one who has studied colour effects; and yet the very opposite intention is most commonly seen, to wit, a garish display of the greatest number of crudely contrasting colours. How often do we see combinations of scarlet Geranium, Calceolaria, and blue Lobelia three subjects that have excellent qualities as bedding plants if used in separate colour schemes, but which in combination can hardly fail to look bad? In this kind of gardening, as in any other, let us by all means have our colours in a brilliant blaze, but never in a discordant glare. One or two colours, used temperately and with careful judgment, will produce nobler and richer results than many colours purposely contrasted, or wantonly jumbled. The formal garden that is an architectural adjunct to an imposing building demands a dignified unity of colouring instead of the petty and frivolous effects so commonly obtained by the misuse of many colours. As practical examples of simple harmonies, let us take a scheme of red for summer bedding. It may range from palest pink to nearly black, the flowers being Pelargoniums in many shades of pink, rose, salmon, and scarlet; Verbenas, red and pink; and judicious mixtures of Iresine, Alternanthera, .Amaranthus, the dark Ajuga, and red-foliaged Oxalis. Still finer is a colour scheme of yellow and orange, worked out with some eight varieties of Marigold, Zinnias, Calceolarias, and Nasturtiums a long range of bright rich colour, from the palest buff and primrose to the deepest mahogany. Such examples of strong warm colouring are admirably suited for large spaces of bedded garden. Where a small space has to be dealt with it is better to have arrangements of blue, with . white and the palest yellow* or of purple and lilac, with gray .foliage,. A satisfactory example of the latter could be worked out with beds of purple and lilac Clematis, trained over a carpet of Cineraria ‘maritima, or one of the white-foliaged Centaureas, and Heliotropes and purple Verbenas, with silvery foliage of Cerastium, Antennaria, or Stachys lanata. These are some simple examples easily carried out. .The principle once seen and understood (and the operator having a perception of colour), modifications will suggest themselves, and a correct working with two or more colours will be practicable; but the simpler ways are the best, and will always give the noblest results. There is a peculiar form of harmony to be got even in varied colours by putting together those of nearly the same strength or depth. As an example in spring bedding, Myosotis dissitiflora, Silene pendula (not the deepest shade), and double yellow Primrose or yellow P.olyanthus, though distinctly red, blue, and yellow, yet are of such tender and equal depth of colouring, that they work together charmingly, especially if they are further connected with the gray-white foliage of Cerastium.

G. J.”