Making Special Displays. German Irises. Phloxes. Michaelmas Daisies. Biennials. Hardy Plants in Pots. Oriental and Iceland Poppies. Lupins and Hybrid Pyrethrums vv perennials are likely to thrive, either in city gardens or the happier ones on city outskirts, but attention has to be called to the manner in which we can use some to obtain quite remarkable effects.
A Border of Warm Colour.
As a rule, if a garden-owner has discovered that a particular perennial (herbaceous plant) will flower well year after year with him, he tries to find others that will be as complaisant, and there he makes a mistake. If he specialized in that plant, instead of experimenting with others, he would create a really remarkable garden.
Take the German iris for an example. It is so often found doing excellently, giving its rich violet-purple flag flowers without much encouragement, until at last it is choked by its luxuriance, stifled by its own offspring, so can only make leaves and smaller, weaker ones each year. Now there are dozens of florists' varieties of the German iris that the average town-dweller has never even seen, just as easy to cultivate, just as complaisant. The colours range from black-indigo, through wondrous blues, to pale lavender and white ; from deep crimson, terra-cottabrown, to bronze-gold, clear yellow and cream ; there are mauves flushed with red, and whites that blush with rose or peach. Let him send to some great firm for a collection of different sorts, plant them in deeply dug and well-manured borders, in sun or semi-shade (reserving the quite shady borders for the ordinary violet and the red-purple), nine inches to a foot apart, and then keep the surface ground hoed over, give water when necessary from April to September, and the reward will be speedy. As soon as the irises have formed a thicket they should be lifted, chopped into portions and replanted, either elsewhere or in the same border after it has been re-manured. Of course liquid manure and soot-water help the plants when their buds are forming, and a November mulch keeps them comfortable during winter, but this should be of manure with loam.
The hardy summer and autumn blooming phloxes are glorious plants for town gardens, and if a long border or a big bed is given up to them their display will be considered marvellous, whereas a phlox or two in a mixed border will not excite much attention. They must have rich soil and be hoed round constantly, but really they are most robust. They prefer semi-shade.
A town garden all hollyhocks, daffodils, and pinks would be attractive from spring till autumn. If there were spaces where some pot chrysanthemums could be turned out each August the floral display would continue until November, possibly later.
Michaelmas daisies are astoundingly various. There are some almost like tall white heather, some nearly six feet high, with deep rose flowers, some that have big single starry blooms, others that have minute blossom set all along drooping or erect stems. The smaller growing sorts are not as robust as the giants, but there are few, if any, that would not embellish the ordinary town garden, if given some sunshine, enough food and drink, and hoe-ventilated soil.
The entire families of the various herbaceous species that will live should be represented, to produce notable results. Mixed borders are all very well, but specializing commands far more praise. Plants that should be chosen for this really representative kind of cultivation include delphiniums, golden rods, campanulas, lilies, carnations, sunflowers, and peonies.
In a lesser degree full shows might be made of Japanese anemones, the Shasta or Ox-eye daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum), day-lilies, pansies, potentillas and alum-roots (Heucheras).
Then there are families of plants that include distant kinsfolk, as when the common primrose is accompanied by polyanthuses, coloured and yellow cowslips and auriculas, or dianthuses are represented by spring's alpine pinks, Japanese pinks in summer, by carnations and sweet-williams and the common and the florist's pinks.
Many biennials that seed themselves are splendid for making borders gay, and it is a good plan to mulch these borders with finely-chopped old manure and soil each early November, so that the seedlings are protected. There are foxgloves, hollyhocks, sweet-williams, honesty, sweet rocket, and Canterbury bells. These seldom die out of gardens.
Hardy plants are often most successful in pots. If there is no garden, only stone courts, areas, or roof-tops, the town-dweller can buy medium tall perennials in October or November, pot them up, sink the pots in a deep bed of cinders out in the air, mulch over the tops of all with really old manure, and he will see growth sprouting forth in earliest spring, just as though his plants were in beds or borders.
After-culture is simple: lime scattered often among the pots will keep enemies away ; repotting can be done when the pots are too full of roots; watering must be systematically carried out, also syringings, some weak liquid manures (and soot-water once or twice) should be given when buds are formed, not before ; some staking and tying will be required. Blossoming plants can be used to adorn rooms for a few days at a time, then be stood out again in the air.
Alum-roots (Heucheras), Michaelmas daisies of medium growth, peonies, doronicums, snapdragons, sweet-williams, peach-leaved campanulas, Canterbury bells, the foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), spiderworts (Tradescantias), veronicas, pansies, phloxes, and fleabanes (Erigerons) can be recommended.
There are certain plants that will flourish grandly for a year or so—perhaps only one season—then die out of some town gardens. I have known this happen with the grand Oriental poppies and the Iceland poppies.
Lupins and hybrid pyrethrums I have not advised for gardens, because insects seldom let them live. But for protected pot culture they are delightful. So too are columbines.