Thursday, 4 April 2013

First Plantings 8

From In A Tuscan Garden, published anonymously 1902
Like many other gardeners, I started from the “landscape view” point, and determined that everything should be planted relativamente.  That is all very well up to a certain point, but when every effect has been thought out, and every bit of ground seems full, and things you “want to have” are always cropping up, it comes to this, - that they must either be popped into odd corners, or foregone altogether. Indeed I looked on the garden so much as existing for its own sake, that for some years, before flowers were plentiful in it, I would buy them in the market when required for the house, rather than rob the garden of those it possessed.  This put the finishing stroke to any reputation for sanity I may ever have enjoyed.  To have a garden, and not carry its flowers to market, was witless enough, according to the Tuscan standard, but to have flowers in the ground, and leave them there just for the pleasure of looking at them, while you wasted good money on buying what other folks raised and sold, - “May the saints preserve us from such mid-summer madness as that!”
I kept no diary of garden work, but our first planting was to fill the newly cleared border to the left of the grass walk with flowering shrubs.   These are very cheap in Tuscany, and many beautiful things are to be had that are only now beginning to be introduced into English gardens.  My long shrub border was planted according to my own design, and consisted of the large-leaved pale green Mahonia, Beali, Spirea prunifolia, which, grown as a pillar plant, has a most lovely effect in spring, when its long sprays of white blossoms hang down, from a height of seven or eight feet, in wreaths and festoons; Pittosporum, both the dark green and the variegated leaved kinds, Guelder roses, called here  “Pallone di Maggio”, and Pirus Japonica, which in this country is grown in balloon fashion, trained round and round, and very handsome it looks, when a mass of scarlet or pink flowers.  Somewhat behind these are Acera negunda variegata, their pale green and white foliage showing well against the dark background of the old shrubbery trees, but these thrive better in North Italy than in this dry Tuscan climate, and I have been frequently obliged to replace them.
Among these shrubs are Persian briers, La France, and many old-fashioned Italian borracina roses, red and crimson; sundry herbaceous plants and clumps of wallflowers and tulips; in front of the shrubs are herbaceous peonies of all sorts and colours, mostly picked up in old gardens here.  I now have a good named collection of them in another place, and beautiful tree-peonies on the grass; but those in this border I got during out first years here, just making a note where I had seen a good one in flower, from its earliest red shoots to its lovely blossoms, which have also the great merit of standing long when cut.
Some years later all my friends wanted a bit of those peonies, and I desired the gardener to take as many off-shoots as he could, without spoiling the plants.   But they took two seasons to recover my generosity, so ever since I have been very chary of dividing them. In front of the peonies are clumps of different varieties of Japanese anemones, most useful for cutting in the autumn, and at the very edge, close to grass walk, are groups of crocuses planted with a regard for a certain effect of colour, and in March, when these are in flower, they form one of the most beautiful of the garden effects.
Crocuses bastardize here after several years, and these have been renewed several times, but nothing would induce me to forgo these crocus groups.  For the border on the right of the grass walk I have an edging of them in mixture, and I know of nothing among spring flowers that gives the same amount of beauty at so small a cost. Later on, this right hand border was filled with oleander plants of various tints, rose, pale pink, white, yellow; both single and double flowering, the former being much the most beautiful.

For many years we carpeted the ground below and between the oleanders with daffodils, but, by degrees, these have all been transferred to the grass - partly because their effect, grown upon the latter, was so much better, but also because I wanted additional room for varieties of English and Spanish irises. Beyond the oleanders are  about thirty pillar roses; I left the selection of these entirely up to Monsieur Guillot of Lyons, only telling him that  I wanted their colours kept entirely to white, cream, and shades of yellow and orange.

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