Friday, 5 April 2013

First Plantings 9

From In A Tuscan Garden, published anonymously 1902
On the other side of these roses is a fringe of pale blue irises, and planted on the grass are various lovely spring-flowering shrubs and fruit trees, double almond (the most beautiful of them all), double peach, double plum Weigelia rosea, Choisya ternata, a shrub which in this climate is of much slower growth than it appears to be in England, and one which I confess seems to me to be much overrated at present – all these and many others have the patch of earth surrounding them planted with snowdrops and Scilla bifolia, for first spring flowering. To these succeed nasturtiums, from the pale La Perle to the deepest orange, almost black; and of course still later on there might be lovely annuals there, but alas! Our scanty water supply compels us to restrict our autumn effects. I think this autumn I shall have pink ivy-leaved pelargoniums, which stand any amount of heat and drought.
Crossing the  grass to the other side, and standing at the   beginning of the gravel walk, the border on the left hand is divided from the grass by a hedge of red Bengal roses of sorts and kinds, running the whole length of the garden, some of them very large and double and their flowers shading from pale pink in the centre to deep red at the edge. I cannot now remember from whom we had these roses, but I think they must also have come from Monsieur Guillôt, the raiser of so many of the best modern roses. Twice a year, from the end of March to July, and again from September to Christmas, this hedge is one mass of roses, flowered down to the ground.  Standing at either end and looking along it in the light of a setting sun, the gorgeous effect of colour is something not easily forgotten. Nothing in my little garden has received so much admiration as this rose hedge; beneath it tea-roses are planted all along the border, which is finished off with a wide belt of white pinks – this spring we planted, behind these last, a double row of tulips, two hundred in each row, the double “Yellow Rose” behind the pinks, and, beyond that, the purple “Couleur de Vin”. The effect was very lovely.  On the grass side of the red-rose hedge are our Madonna lilies, big clumps of which alternate with herbaceous peonies, and when the tall flowering stems of the lilies rear their stately heads against the dark red roses, they make a lovely picture.
The border on the right of the gravel walk was, for some years, a mass of old ivy and laurel stumps, and I could get nothing to grow in it.  But eventually we got rid of the latter, leaving only the ivy to clothe the boundary wall, and I then planted pink China roses, with some Scotch briers all along the side, facing the dark red on the opposite border.  I had the greatest difficulty in getting these Scotch briers, so few nurserymen, even in Scotland, grow them now.  Among all garden scents, I now of none so sweet as that of the small flowers of these roses. This border was latterly filled entirely with irises, the early flowering Stylosa pumila, and other dwarf kinds in front, and Spanish and Germanica behind. I have Susiana also in this border, which is a very sheltered and sunny one; but though the latter flower fairly well, they do not make the big clumps into which their Germanic brethren develop.  This border is edged with violets, and we generally have our earliest pickings from it.
It will be seen from the above descriptions that I prefer things grown in masses, and I much wish now that our rose-beds had been planted much more in that fashion and in fewer varieties. These beds take about thirty-five roses apiece, planted about two feet apart each way.  I bought our first roses from a local nurseryman, and might as well have thrown the money they cost into the Arno.  Then I tried a Belgian firm, who did not prove much more satisfactory, and finally landed with Monsieur Guillôt, from whom I now have all my roses; and it would be difficult to improve on them, though now and then there is a failure.

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