This section is from the book "Flower Gardening", by H. S. Adams. Also available from Amazon: Flower gardening.
The English garden, when highly formal, is very apt to show traces of Italian or French influence. In its less grand estate it possesses a charm that neither of the others has—a certain atmosphere of the home. Beauty it has, often of an exquisitely reposeful sort that is lacking in Italy and France; but there is the feeling that the beauty is not so much for art as to live with and love by personal association. To bind it still more closely to the home, the bowling green, the tennis court or croquet ground may be made part of it, and it is a common practice to enclose it with a wall or clipped hedges to insure seclusion.
Where foreign copying is to be done, it is to English gardens that the American would better look in most cases; if he is able to appropriate their homely air, their restfulness and their seclusion he need not mind if his work is not scholastic.
Atmosphere rather than design being the distinguishing feature, the best way to make an English garden is to enclose—preferably with a wall of stone or brick—a plot laid out in a formal pattern. Whether the plot is exactly square is immaterial.
The walled garden is more laughed at than understood by Americans; they are prone to regard the barriers as an affront to liberty. Yet it is one of the most admirable of gardens—which scarcely can be sanctuary when exposed to the full view of the public. The walls do more than provide seclusion, however; they break the violence of chilling and withering blasts and keep out such undesirable visitors as dogs. They also make it possible to grow tender climbing roses and vines, as well as choice fruit.
The Japanese garden is the fourth great national type. As far from the Italian, French or English garden as the East is from the West, its art lies so much in the concealment of art that were it not for the architectural features it would seem as if nature were being imitated instead of adapted. This through the exercise of rigid laws that are not easy for the occidental mind to grasp. It lends itself very well indeed to many American requirements. It fits in with low rambling houses, or bungalows, where roofs are long and hang well over. It is most serviceable in the development of rocky grounds, especially where a small amount of water is at hand or easily obtainable. If a pedant chooses to call the resultant garden Japanesque rather than Japanese, let him.
There are hill and flat Japanese gardens. In the former, if there are not natural rises of ground, they are created, often with such cunning that the eye is deceived into seeing distance that does not exist. This idea is helped along not only by the size and shape of the hills and their relative positions, but by the planting of dwarf trees. For both types there are rough, intermediary and finished styles.
All are too complicated to be reproduced accurately by any save skilled Japanese gardeners, but single features are readily appropriated. Very frequently these are worth taking because of a meaning that, though distinctly oriental, may be given an occidental turn. Thus there is a very pretty sentiment to the stones known as "guardian," "perfect view," "moon shadow" and "pedestal," to quote only a few of the names, and the "principal," "perfection," "out-stretching pine," "setting sun" and other trees—all placed by rules that are tradition. Whether one takes no more than the merest suggestion, any good pictures of Japanese gardens will be found profitable study.
A rose garden has a charm so rare that there is nothing comparable to it. Unfortunately it will always be for the few. On anything like a large and comprehensive scale it is a costly as well as difficult undertaking. Then again, excepting on a place of considerable size, it is a wasteful use of space as its glory is transient. To be thoroughly successful the hybrid perpetuáis that bloom in June must be supplemented by enough hybrid teas to keep up a show of color until autumn, and the longest possible succession must be arranged in planting the climbers. Even then, pans ¡es, verbenas or some of the creeping perennials, as ground covers, and lilies or other tall flowers will have to be relied on to piece out the season. The ground covers can stand for several years if the soil is very heavily and deeply fertilized at the start. Or there are the numerous so-called roses which properly enough might go in. Lavender, where it proves hardy, is very beautiful planted with China roses.
Better for the most a garden with roses, or else a little place apart—too unpretentious to be designated a rose garden. A great many of the choicest roses are not particularly decorative and may just as well be grown in rows on the edge of the kitchen garden—where they can be cut with long stems and in no fear of color robbery.
An iris or a phlox garden is a safer venture. And if stock is propagated for a few years before the definite planting, the expense need be very little; possibly nothing at all, if there are kind neighbors. Nor is there the great maintenance and renewal expense of a well-ordered rose garden.
The iris garden may be made a beautiful place the year round by using no other flowers. The bloom of Iris pumila, Iris cristata, the German, Spanish, English, Siberian and Japan irises and the blue and yellow flags will be continuous from April into July, but before and after some of the foliage will be attractive. If the rest of the planting be small evergreens, with a bit of water and some rocks, there will never be the scraggliness that a rose garden is bound to show at times. Unless it be the curious, but capricious, I. Susiana, reject the strange-colored irises. Choose the clear colors and not too many of them in one class, if the garden is not very large.
A phlox garden will start to bloom in April and so late as November there is likely to be a bit of flower color here and there. But all through the winter there will be the broad bronzed leaves of P. ovata and the lighter green of P. subulata, P. aimoena and P. divaricata. These are April and May phloxes, but not all of them. Later come the tall P. suffrutkosa and the taller P. paniculata.