This brings me to a fascinating subject — the use of fragrant herbs for edging paths in a flower garden. A garden can hardly be charming without sweet odours and I fancy that some of the fascination of the old Italian gardens is due to their bay, myrtle, and lemon, which makes them ever fragrant. Flowers are scented only when they bloom, but leaves will give forth their odour whenever they are brushed against. Therefore, an evergreen edging plant, with fragrant leaves would be a great advantage, but I fear we shall never have any in the North, except box. Sweet gale i s evergreen in England, but not here. Rosemary hedges are common in warm countries, but they would not be sufficiently hardy or evergreen for Northern gardens. The most fragrant evergreen native to the Northern United States is the balsam fir, which is obviously unsuited to gardens. Wintergreen would be too low for some gardens, and requires shade from the mid-day sun. Perhaps some genius will give us a dwarf hemlock with foliage more fragrant than the ordinary.
Lavender is not only fragrant, but evergreen and hardy in England. "Lavender walks" are a famous feature of English gardens. One sees them four feet high and several hundred feet long. Full-grown lavender is too tall for garden use without clipping. However, there is a dwarf variety that minimizes clipping or even renders it unnecessary. Unfortunately, lavender is not hardy in the North and we cannot have lavender edgings except as a summer feature. Thus, even if expense need not be considered, we miss the charm of age in this plant.
Geraniums, also, are only a summer feature but they are so easily carried over the winter that they are worth serious consideration. They have a wonderful variety of odour in their foliage, but some varieties have bad colours which would make havoc in a garden. The nutmeg geranium, however, has white flowers and white is the safest colour in edging. Some one ought to make a collection of all the geraniums that have different odours — the apple, lemon, nutmeg, rose, etc., and tell us about their suitability for edging.
Obviously, however, a fairly permanent plant should be the ideal. The fraxinella or gas plant is very permanent and is redolent of lemon, but it is rather tall for gardens, a little too oily, and too slow to propagate. Lemon balm is delicious, but rather homely and coarse for a refined flower garden. The only native shrubs I know that have fragrant leaves are bayberry, sweet fern, and aromatic sumach, but the first two are scraggly and all would require too much clipping. Sage and the other culinary herbs make an interesting collection in a vegetable garden, but they are rather coarse for a flower garden. Probably the best fragrant-leaved plants we can have in the North for edging gardens are the white-flowered varieties of thyme. Beside the common thyme, there is creeping thyme, of which the lemon-scented and woolly leaved sorts are varieties. These are evergreen in the North, but how attractive is a question.
FANCY WALKING ON THIS VELVETY MOSS FOR A QUARTER OF A MILE UNDER BEECH TREES! A UNIQUE EFFECT AT CLIVEDEN, ESTATE OF W. W. ASTOR.
The garden is not the only place where an Englishman likes to see every foot of ground covered. He has the same ideal for his estate and for his whole island. This is nature's ideal too. For, wherever man leaves a bare spot nature attempts to cover it, though she maybe able to do so only with plants we call "weeds.'* Bare earth is not essentially ugly, but if it remains so for a long time it suggests barrenness, poverty, unhappiness. On the other hand, luxuriance suggests peace and plenty. Consequently the Englishman often covers the ground beneath the trees in his park with ivy, producing great expanses of evergreen verdure, a glimpse of which may be had at plate 93. In America we leave such spots bare instead of going to the woods to see what nature does under beech, pine, or maple. We have not yet found cheap but fitting methods of bringing all the distant parts of an estate up to a high pitch of luxuriance, beauty, and joyousness. We can and should. And the solution lies in our own native plants of low growth that have a genius for spreading, such as Virginia creeper, partridge-berry, wintergreen, the larger American cranberry, etc.
I cannot go into this great question of cover plants. I can merely suggest some of the possibilities. This principle of covering every foot of ground can be applied even to formal flower beds. For instance, a bed of Japanese flowering crabs (plate 102) is carpeted with heath. Here we have a bed that not only possesses two periods of bloom, but is even attractive in winter by reason of the evergreen covering of heaths. Is this not better and cheaper than planting every year with tender bedding plants ?
But the most astonishing bit of greenery I saw in English woods was a carpet of moss at Cliveden, the home of W. W. Astor. Imagine walking for a quarter of a mile under century-old beeches on a gravel driveway that has been absolutely covered with a thick carpet of velvety moss of the richest luxuriance! The important thing to learn from this is that the finest of all mosses reaches its highest beauty under beech trees and whenever we have a chance to make beech dominant we have a chance to reproduce that magical yellowish green atmosphere which is the most enchanting that can permeate any forest. (Plate 95.)
No one of us now living may hope to see America as a whole smiling with the luxuriance or finish of old England, but every one of us who owns a little land can bring every foot of it up to the English standard of efficiency and loveliness.