How to cover rocky land with the most appropriate vegetation at the least expense instead of making a lawn or doing other foolish things.
THE largest rock garden in England is that of Sir Frank Crisp, at Friar Park, Henley. It is a faithful reproduction of the Matterhorn on a scale of about three acres. (See plate 50.) Seven thousand tons of limestone were brought from Yorkshire to make it. The snow-capped peak is represented by quartz. Below it are thousands upon thousands of alpine flowers growing in pockets between the rocks and filling every chink in the trails that ascend the mountain. There must be two hundred different species in bloom at once. At the base of the mountain is a miniature Swiss chalet, where one may sit and enjoy the scene, comparing all the main features with a little bronze model of the Matterhorn which Sir Frank had made for the entertainment of his guests. A brook courses down the mountain side and just before it reaches the chalet it forms a pretty cascade and then spreads out at your feet into a miniature lake decorated with pygmy water-lilies and richly margined with pinks, primroses, gentians, and other alpine flowers. (For pictures of this garden see plates 27, 29, 30, 79, 81, and 82.)
As to the Matterhorn feature, English critics are divided. They do not quarrel with the Japanese for imitating Fuji, but there is no precedent in England for duplicating any particular mountain.
However, all are agreed that Sir Frank's alpine flowers are grown with admirable skill and regard for colour harmony. The accompanying photographs well illustrate the style of rock gardening one sees everywhere in England, viz., the culture of alpine flowers in the pockets of a " rockery," which is a complicated structure, put together in such a way as to give many kinds of rock, soil, and exposure. What England can teach us about this style of gardening I have tried to elaborate in Chapter XX. It is a grander theme to which I now invite your attention. For the best rockery in the world is obviously the work of man, while the finest floral pictures we can paint are those which seem to be the work of nature, e. g., the cascade of pinks on plate 30.
The kind of rock gardening that offers the most brilliant possibilities to owners of American estates is the painting of great landscapes on land that is naturally rocky. If you have motored over the Downs amid ten-acre splotches of scarlet made by the wild poppies in the grain fields; if you have coached through the Lake Country when miles of heather were in bloom; if you have rested your eyes during a hot summer noon on a cool expanse of ferns clothing a beetling cliff; if you have felt the centuries look down upon you from castle or cathedral ruins crowned with great colonies of snapdragon or red valerian; or if you have gazed upward at the harebells and rowan waving above a cascade in the Scotch Highlands, you will know what I mean.
Amidst such beauty my heart sank when I remembered the advertisements painted on conspicuous rocks in America. (How soon shall we have laws that make it a criminal offence to ruin a landscape in this way?) And I thought of the fortunes spent at Newport and in Connecticut in blasting out rocks and burying them in order to make lawns amid some of the wildest and most picturesque scenery on the Atlantic coast. There is nothing prettier than a lawn — in its proper place, and nothing more costly, vexatious, or futile than a lawn where nature does not want one. I believe we have spent millions in carting off rocks and carting on soil to attain a commonplace and conventional beauty, where thousands would have sufficed to restore and develop the inherent beauty of the region.
There are two kinds of pleasure any one may have in making a house and garden. The easy and obvious pleasure is to incorporate all the ideas we like best, to choose a style we have admired elsewhere, to plant the flowers we love best. Such efforts produce houses that do not fit their environment, and gardens that lack distinctiveness and charm. The finer and surer pleasure comes from discovering the hidden laws and in giving them the fullest expression. No houses in the world fit their surroundings better than the stone farm houses of the Lake District, because they are built of native stone in such a way as to resist the abnormally high rainfall of the region. No garden in the world is lovelier than a bit of rocky land at Haverford, Pa., where the characteristic beauty of rock-loving plants is allowed the fullest expression.
I came home from England with a determination to find out what rock-loving plants are native to America, and what sort of pictures we can make with them. The first encouragement I got was from the catalogues of specialists who collect native plants. These men offer about fifty species of rock-loving flowers at prices ranging from eight dollars to thirty dollars per one thousand or at the rate of one to three cents a plant. Doubtless the plants are not as good as nursery-grown plants, because the roots have little or no earth about them. Doubtless they have to be handled more carefully until they become established. But the cheapness of them is astonishing, compared with nursery-grown plants. The saving may be anywhere from 100 to 500 per cent.
Suppose, now, you have a bit of rocky woodland that contains few wild flowers because picknickers have taken them, or cattle have been allowed there. For fifteen dollars you could have one thousand plants of dog's tooth violets, or Dutchman's breeches, or mandrakes, or wood sorrel, or the dainty little alum root. For twenty dollars you could have one thousand plants of hepatica, or maidenhair fern, or false Solomon's seal, or Thalictrum Cornuti, or the violet wood sorrel. For thirty dollars you could have one thousand clumps of spring beauty, or one thousand trilliums. Even if the plants were fairly common in your neighbourhood it would be impossible, in some cases, for you to collect the plants as cheaply as this.