The Hardy Border
The most satisfactory garden of flowering plants for small places, all
things considered, is one composed of hardy herbaceous perennials and
This for several reasons:
1st.--Once thoroughly established they are good for an indefinite
2d.--It is not necessary to "make garden" annually, as is
the case where
annuals are depended on.
3d.--They require less care than any other class of plants.
4th.--Requiring less care than other plants, they are admirably adapted
to the needs of those who can devote only a limited amount of time to
5th.--They include some of the most beautiful plants we have.
6th.--By a judicious selection of kinds it is possible to have flowers
from them from early in spring till late in fall.
I have no disposition to say disparaging things about the garden of
annuals. Annuals are very desirable. Some of them are absolutely
indispensable. But they call for a great deal of labor. It is hard work
to spade the ground, and make the beds, and sow the seed, and keep the
weeds down. This work must be done year after year. But with hardy
plants this is not the case. Considerable labor may be called for, the
first year, in preparing the ground and setting out the plants, but the
most of the work done among them, after that, can be done with the hoe,
and it will take so little time to do it that you will wonder how you
ever came to think annuals the only plants for the flower-garden of busy
people. That this _is_ what a great many persons think is true, but it
is because they have not had sufficient experience with hardy plants to
fully understand their merits, and the small amount of care they
require. A season's experience will convince them of their mistake.
In preparing the ground for the reception of these plants, spade it up
to the depth of a foot and a half, at least, and work into it a liberal
amount of good manure, or some commercial fertilizer that will take the
place of manure from the barnyard or cow-stable. Most perennials and
herbaceous plants will do fairly well in a soil of only moderate
richness, but they cannot do themselves justice in it. They ought not to
be expected to. To secure the best results from them--and you ought to
be satisfied with nothing less--feed them well. Give them a good start,
at the time of planting, and keep them up to a high standard of vitality
by liberal feeding, and they will surprise and delight you with the
profusion and beauty of their bloom.
Perennials will not bloom till the second year from seed. Therefore, if
you want flowers from them the first season, it will be necessary for
you to purchase last season's seedlings from the florist.
In most neighborhoods one can secure enough material to stock the border
from friends who have old plants that need to be divided, or by
But if you want plants of any particular color, or of a certain variety,
you will do well to give your order to a dealer. In most gardens five or
six years old the original varieties will either have died out or so
deteriorated that the stock you obtain there will be inferior in many
respects, therefore not at all satisfactory to one who is inclined to be
satisfied with nothing but the best. The "best" is what the dealer will
send you if you patronize one who has established a reputation for
The impression prevails, to a great extent, that perennials bloom only
for a very short time in the early part of the season. This is a
mistake. If you select your plants with a view to the prolongation of
the flowering period, you can have flowers throughout the season from
this class of plants. Of course not all of them will bloom at the same
time. I would not be understood as meaning that. But what I do mean
is--that by choosing for a succession of bloom it is possible to secure
kinds whose flowering periods will meet and overlap each other in such a
manner that some of them will be in bloom most of the time. Many kinds
bloom long before the earliest annuals are ready to begin the work of
the season. Others are in their prime at midsummer, and later ones will
give flowers until frost comes. If you read up the catalogues and
familiarize yourself with the habits of the plants which the dealer
offers for sale, you can make a selection that will keep the garden gay
from May to November.
On the ordinary home-lot there is not much choice allowed as to the
location of the border. It must go to the sides of the lot if it starts
in front of the house, or it may be located at the rear of the
dwelling. On most grounds it will, after a little, occupy both of these
positions, for it will outgrow its early limitations in a few years. You
will be constantly adding to it, and thus it comes about that the border
that _begins_ on each side of the lot will overflow to the rear.
I would never advise locating it in front of the dwelling. Leave the
lawn unbroken there. While there is not much opportunity for "effect" on
small grounds, a departure from straight lines can always be made, and
formality and primness be avoided to a considerable degree. Let the
inner edge of the border curve, as shown in the illustration
accompanying this chapter, and the result will be a hundredfold more
pleasing than it would be if it were a straight line. Curves are always
graceful, and indentations here and there enable you to secure new
points of view that add vastly to the general effect. They make the
border seem larger than it really is because only a portion of it is
seen at the same time, as would not be the case if it were made up of
straight rows of plants, with the same width throughout.
By planting low-growing kinds in front, and backing them up with kinds
of a taller growth, with the very tallest growers in the rear, the
effect of a bank of flowers and foliage can be secured. This the
illustration clearly shows.
Shrubbery can be used in connection with perennials with most
satisfactory results. This, as the reader will see, was done on the
grounds from which the picture was taken. Here we have a combination
which cannot fail to afford pleasure. I would not advise any home-maker
to confine his border to plants of one class. Use shrubs and perennials
together, and scatter annuals here and there, and have bulbs all along
the border's edge.
I want to call particular attention to one thing which the picture under
consideration emphasizes very forcibly, and that is--the unstudied
informality of it. It seems to have planned itself. It is like one of
Nature's fence-corner bits of gardening.
For use in the background we have several most excellent plants. The
Delphinium--Larkspur--grows to a height of seven or eight feet, in rich
soil, sending up a score or more of stout stalks from each strong clump
of roots. Two or three feet of the upper part of these stalks will be
solid with a mass of flowers of the richest, most intense blue
imaginable. I know of no other flower of so deep and striking a shade
of this rather rare color in the garden. In order to guard against
injury from strong winds, stout stakes should be set about each clump,
and wound with wire or substantial cord to prevent the flowering stalks
from being broken down. There is a white variety, _Chinensis_, that is
most effective when used in combination with the blue, which you will
find catalogued as Delphinium _formosum_. If several strong clumps are
grouped together, the effect will be magnificent when the plants are in
full bloom. By cutting away the old stalks as soon as they have
developed all their flowers, new ones can be coaxed to grow, and under
this treatment the plants can be kept in bloom for many weeks.
"Golden Glow" Rudbeckia is quite as strong a grower as the Delphinium,
and a more prolific bloomer does not exist. It will literally cover
itself with flowers of the richest golden yellow, resembling in shape
and size those of the "decorative" type of Dahlia. This plant is a very
strong grower, and so aggressive that it will dispute possession with
any plant near it, and on this account it should never be given a place
where it can interfere with choice varieties. Let it have its own way
and it will crowd out even the grass of the lawn. Its proper place is
in the extreme background, well to the rear, where distance will lend
enchantment to the view. It must not be inferred from this that it is
too coarse a flower to give a front place to. It belongs to the rear
simply because of its aggressive qualities, and the intense effect of
its strong, all-pervading color. You do not want a flower in the front
row that, being given an inch, will straightway insist upon taking an
ell. This the Rudbeckia will do, every time, if not promptly checked. It
is an exceedingly valuable plant to cut from, as its flowers last for
days, and light up a room like a great burst of strong sunshine.
Hollyhocks must have a place in every border. Their stately habit,
profusion of bloom, wonderful range and richness of color, and
long-continued flowering period make them indispensable and favorites
everywhere. They are most effective when grown in large masses or
groups. If they are prevented from ripening seed, they will bloom
throughout the greater part of the season. The single varieties are of
the tallest, stateliest growth, therefore admirably adapted to back rows
in the border. The double kinds work in well in front of them. These are
the showiest members of the family because their flowers are so
thickly set along the stalk that a stronger color-effect is given, but
they are really no finer than the single sorts, so far as general effect
is concerned. Indeed, I think I prefer the single kinds because the rich
and peculiar markings of the individual flower show to much better
advantage in them than in the doubles, whose multiplicity of petals
hides this very pleasing variegation. But I would not care to go without
Coreopsis _lanceolata_ is a very charming plant for front rows,
especially if it can have a place where it is given the benefit of
contrast with a white flower, like the Daisy. In such a location its
rich golden yellow comes out brilliantly, and makes a most effective
point of color in the border.
Perennial Phlox, all things considered, deserves a place very near to
the head of the list of our very best hardy plants. Perhaps if a vote
were taken, it would be elected as leader of its class in point of
merit. It is so entirely hardy, so sturdy and self-reliant, so
wonderfully floriferous, and so rich and varied in color that it is
almost an ideal plant for border-use. It varies greatly in habit. Some
varieties attain a height of five feet or more. Others are low
growers,--almost dwarfs, in fact,--therefore well adapted to places
in the very front row, and close to the path. The majority are of medium
habit, fitting into the middle rows most effectively. With a little care
in the selection of varieties--depending on the florists' catalogues to
give us the height of each--it is an easy matter to arrange the various
sorts in such a way as to form a bank which will be an almost solid mass
of flowers for weeks. Some varieties have flowers of the purest white,
and the colors of others range through many shades of pink, carmine,
scarlet, and crimson, to lilac, mauve, and magenta. The three colors
last named must never be planted alongside or near to the other colors,
with the exception of white, as there can be no harmony between them.
They make a color-discord so intense as to be positively painful to the
eye that has keen color-sense. But combine them with the white kinds and
they are among the loveliest of the lot. This Phlox ought always to be
grouped, to be most effective, and white varieties should be used
liberally to serve as a foil to the more brilliant colors and bring out
their beauty most strikingly.
Peonies are superb flowers, and no border can afford to be without them.
The varieties are almost endless, but you cannot have too many of
them. Use them everywhere. The chances are that you will wish you had
room for more. They bloom early, are magnificent in color and form, and
are so prolific that old plants often bear a hundred or more flowers
each season, and their profusion of bloom increases with age, as the
plant gains in size. Many varieties are as fragrant as a Rose, and all
of them are as hardy as a plant can well be. What more need be said in
In order to attain the highest degree of success with the Peony, it
should be given a rather heavy soil, and manure should be used with
great liberality. In fact it is hardly possible to make the soil too
rich to suit it. Disturb the roots as little as possible. The plant is
very sensitive to any treatment that affects the root, and taking away a
"toe" for a neighbor will often result in its failure to bloom next
season. Keep the grass from crowding it. Year after year it will spread
its branches farther and wider, and there will be more of them, and its
flowers will be larger and finer each season, if the soil is kept rich.
I know of old clumps that have a spread of six feet or more, sending up
hundreds of stalks from matted roots that have not been disturbed for no
one knows how long, on which blossoms can be counted by the hundreds
Dicentra, better known as "Bleeding Heart," because of its pendulous,
heart-shaped flowers, is a most lovely early bloomer. It is an excellent
plant for the front row of the border. It sends up a great number of
flowering stalks, two and three feet in length, all curving gracefully
outward from the crown of the plant. These bear beautiful
foliage--indeed, the plant would be well worth growing for this
alone--and each stalk is terminated with a raceme of pink and white
blossoms. It is difficult to imagine anything lovelier or more graceful
than this plant, when in full bloom.
The Aquilegia ought to be given a place in all collections. It comes in
blue, white, yellow, and red. Some varieties are single, others double,
and all beautiful. This is one of our early bloomers. It should be grown
in clumps, near the front row.
The Iris is to the garden what the Orchid is to the greenhouse. Its
colors are of the richest--blue, purple, violet, yellow, white, and
gray. It blooms in great profusion, for weeks during the early part of
summer. It is a magnificent flower. It will be found most effective when
grouped, but it can be scattered about the border in such a way as to
produce charming results if one is careful to plant it among plants
whose flowers harmonize with the different varieties in color.
Color-harmony is as important in the hardy border as in any other part
of the garden, and no plant should be put out until you are sure of the
effect it will produce upon other plants in its immediate neighborhood.
Find the proper place for it before you give it a permanent location.
The term, "proper place," has as much reference to color as to size. A
plant that introduces color-discord is as much out of place as is the
plant whose size makes it a candidate for a position in the rear when it
is given a place in the immediate foreground.
Pyrethrum _uliginosum_ is a wonderfully free bloomer, growing to a
height of three or four feet, therefore well adapted to the middle rows
of the border. It blooms during the latter part of summer. It is often
called the "Giant Daisy," and the name is very appropriate, as it is the
common Daisy, to all intents and purposes, on a large scale.
The small white Daisy, of lower growth, is equally desirable for
front-row locations. It is a most excellent plant, blooming early in
the season, and throughout the greater part of summer, and well into
autumn if the old flower-stalks are cut away in September, to encourage
new growth. It is a stand-by for cut flowers for bouquet work. Because
of its compact habit it is a very desirable plant for edging the border.
It is difficult to imagine anything more daintily charming than the
herbaceous Spireas. _Alba_, white, and _rosea_, soft pink, produce
large, feathery tufts of bloom on stalks six and seven feet tall. The
flowers of these varieties are exceedingly graceful in an airy,
cloud-like way, and never fail to attract the attention of those who
pass ordinary plants by without seeing them.
The florists have taken our native Asters in hand, and we now have
several varieties that make themselves perfectly at home in the border.
Some of them grow to a height of eight feet. Others are low growers. The
rosy-violet kinds and the pale lavender-blues are indescribably lovely.
Nearly all of them bloom very late in the season. Their long branches
will be a mass of flowers with fringy petals and a yellow centre. These
plants have captured the charm of the Indian Summer and brought it into
the garden, where they keep it prisoner during the last days of the
season. By all means give them a place in your collection. And it will
add to the effect if you plant alongside them a few clumps of their
sturdy, faithful old companion of the roadside and pasture, the Golden
It hardly seems necessary for me to give a detailed description of all
the plants deserving a place in the border. The list would be too long
if I were to attempt to do so. You will find all the really desirable
kinds quite fully described in the catalogues of the leading dealers in
plants. Information as to color, size, and time of flowering is given
there, and you can select to suit your taste, feeling confident that you
will be well satisfied with the result.
Just a few words of advice, in conclusion:
Don't crowd your plants.
Allow for development.
Don't try to have a little of everything.
Don't overlook the old-fashioned kinds simply because they happen to be
old. That proves that they have merit.
Keep the ground between them clean and open.
Manure well each spring.
Stir the soil occasionally during the season.
Prevent the formation of seed.
Once in three or four years divide the old clumps, and discard all but
the strongest, healthiest portions of the roots. Reset in rich, mellow
soil. Do this while the plants are at a standstill, early in spring, or
in fall, after the work of the season is over.
Next: The Garden Of Annuals
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