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rod and asters; month by month, with the rich fruitage of the garden, and with autumn's ruddy apples and golden pears.
Thus, year by year, we trust to glide with you through the changing seasons, till we become a household guest, an old friend; one with whom you could not bear to part; one of whom the past has only sunny memories; and the future, golden hopes.
In the month of May, an incredible multitude of little flower-pots — known to the expert as "thumb-pots " — go forth from innumerable greenhouses and propagating-pits, and in the hands of amateurs, great and small, are scattered broadcast through the land. Each pot contains a verbena, a salvia, a geranium, a fuschia, or some other tender bedding-plant, which, if the purchaser is skilful or fortunate, will give him, towards midsummer, an abundance of blossoms. Meanwhile, he must wait; for, during the spring and early summer, the "bedding-plants," with ordinary management, will do very little for him. Now, it is the aim of this paper to show how this season of expectancy, occurring at the very time when the appetite for floral beauty is strongest, may be turned into a season of fruition.
Every one knows something of the early-blooming bulbs, — snowdrops, crocus, narcissus, hyacinths, fritillarias, and others, the brilliant and beautiful harbingers of summer. They cannot be too heartily commended to the amateur gardener; but their reign is short, and they will not, of themselves, supply his want. Their character and culture have been well treated of elsewhere, and it is not of them that we shall speak here. There is another class of plants, of which very little is generally known, but which, if not more brilliant, are, in many respects, more interesting, and, what is no less to the purpose in the eyes of many people, quite as easy of culture.
Perhaps there is no better way of describing them than to take them in turn, in the order in which they bloomed under our eyes during the last spring. Our description, then, will be in the way of a garden chronicle. The times of blooming, as here set down, must, of course, be taken with allowance; for they will vary with different seasons and situations. We begin with a contemporary of the snowdrop.
April i. — Eranthis hiemalis, or winter aconite. This is a little plant, with a tuberous root and a bright-yellow flower, which often appears before the snow has gone, shining like a star on the surface of the black oozy mould. It grows close to the earth, and has a root shaped like a minute potato, whence it sends out long underground fibres, by which it spreads and increases. It is reasonably hardy; but in a severe season, without snow, is occasionally killed.
The black hellebore, Helleborus niger, or Christmas rose, with its large white flowers, shaded with pink, blooms in the midst of snow-storms. In some parts of England, it is said to flower all winter. We have seen one, in a neighboring garden, covered with bloom on Thanksgiving Day, when the borders around were all darkness and desolation. It was protected during the night by a bell-glass; and this would be very useful in the early spring also, when the frosts, though they cannot destroy its hardy flowers, are apt to disfigure them. There are other sorts of hellebore; among the rest, one with green flowers: but the Christmas rose is by far the best.
April 5. — The next flower that appears is a shrub, Daphne mezereum. It is of small growth, and very pretty, both when in bloom, and when covered with its bright-red berries, which, however, are poisonous. The flowers — pink in one variety, and white in another — cling close to the upright stems, from which, as yet, the leaves have not appeared, and diffuse their sweet and powerful fragrance, for which the mezereum is well known. The shrub is compact and bushy. When young and small, its tenure of life is uncertain, and it is difficult to transplant; but, when once well established, nothing will kill it. There is another hardy Daphne, of which we shall speak in its season.
Now, side by side with the clumps of crocus and the drooping blue-bells of the Siberian squill,— a beautiful bulbous plant, deformed with an ugly name,—the hepaticas are opening their flowers. The wild single hepatica is a beautiful ornament of the garden, where, if planted in soil mixed with well-decayed leaves, or black mould from the woods, it does very well; but the most beautiful of the family are the double red, double blue, and double white hepaticas of Europe. They grow here as well as our own species, and require, like them, a fresh light soil. They have, like the American hepaticas, a way of pushing themselves out of the ground ; so that they must be replanted every three or four years, — always in early autumn; for they must not be disturbed when in growth.
April 14. —Arabis alpina and Arabis albida in full bloom. They grow close to the earth, in large circular cushions of evergreen leaves, almost hidden at present under the dense mass of pure white flowers. Sanguinaria, violets, pansies, and Adonis vernalis, as well as the narcissus and the hyacinth, come into bloom at the same time; and, when planted in the same bed, give a rich variety of color. The sanguinaria, or bloodroot, is one of the most interesting of our wild-flowers. When fully open in the warm sun, it is in shape like a many-pointed white star; and, when closed at night, it is no less beautiful. Even after the bloom has ceased, the leaves, which continue to enlarge for several weeks, are very ornamental. Nothing can be hardier, or easier of culture. It thrives in the common soil of the gafden, with no special care.
Adonis vernalis is a fine hardy plant, with lustrous yellow flowers some two inches in diameter, and leaves finely cut, like parsley. It forms a clump about eighteen inches high, where its gay blossoms open in bright relief against the fresh green foliage. Its culture requires no skill, and we never knew it to suffer in the hardest winter.
Pansies are widely known. They come, by right, within the province of "florist flowers,"—a class whose natural beauties have been enhanced by a painstaking culture through many generations, and which, to bring them to their greatest perfection, require a cultivation specially adapted to them. Pansies, however, will grow and bloom very creditably with ordinary treatment. If sown in a rich garden-border in August, and protected with a few dry leaves or a little coarse hay during winter, they will bloom abundantly in early spring and throughout the season.
Of the violets which bloomed here last spring, the earliest and the most profuse in flowering was a single ever-blooming variety lately introduced. Early in April, the ground was blue with its countless blossoms; and il blooms again in October, filling the surrounding air with fragrance. The double white violet, the double blue English, and the Neapolitan, ought all to be cultivated, as nothing is easier than their ordinary management; and the little care they require cannot be better bestowed. Another pretty variety is Viola bicolor, striped with blue and white. There is a native violet, the Canadian, — Viola Canadensis, — which, though single, is Of remarkable beauty. This, with our other wild violets, white, blue, yellow, and straw-color, is well worth a place in the garden of early flowers. They grow readily, and usually bloom better than in their native woods or meadows.
April 18.—Erythronium dens canis, the European dog-tooth violet. Though this is one of the bulbs, we notice it because it is so little known. It has no resemblance whatever to a true violet. Its ordinary color is a reddish-purple; but there is a white variety. It is as large as a crocus, and extremely ornamental. Our American yellow dog-tooth violet is very shy of flowering in the garden; but its foreign relative blooms without reserve. Both are remarkable for the peculiar mottled appearance of their leaves.
April 19. — Pulmonaria officinalis and Pulmonaria mollis. These plants, commonly called lungwort, are very pretty both in foliage and flowers. The leaves, especially those of the last-named species, are curiously blotched and marbled; and the flowers are of changing colors, from bright pink to sky-blue. They are of low growth, and the foliage retains its freshness throughout the summer and autumn. They are very hardy.
The saxifrages of various species come into bloom at this time. Saxifraga irassifolia and Saxi/raga cordifolia are amongst the most show}', with their broad, smooth, succulent leaves, and their masses of pink flowers rising to the height of two feet or more. The Cynoglossum, or hound'stongue, with its small flowers of vivid blue close to the earth, is also in