Sunday, June 14, 2009

Garden Tours - A Process Of Learning

By Thomas Fryd

You need never hesitate to ask questions of the various owners while on a garden tour, garden owners are noted for their willingness to share their knowledge, and sometimes their plants! The roses that are so perfect... what is the spraying schedule... and what kind of sprayer is most satisfactory? How often is the lawn fertilized? Were the chrysanthemums started from divisions or cuttings?

Your notebook will soon become a priceless reference book, filled with answers to the problems of your specific locality.

Naturally, the flowers and plants you see will be an exciting adventure, for in May and June all the world seems a garden. Some kinds will be new to you, others will be old sorts that you had forgotten, and some, perhaps the most thrilling of all, will be familiar favorites used in unfamiliar ways.

I shall never forget the enchanting picture of hundreds of columbines blooming beneath the arching branches of an ancient elm, the sunlight filtering through in just the right measures to assure six or eight weeks of bloom from these happy and dancing flowers.

And who could think of anything to mitigate the commonplace look of a barberry hedge? But one homeowner did when he planted at its base a wide band of Pachysandra terminalis (spurge). The different heights of the two kinds of plants added great interest, and the green of the pachysandra provided a wonderful foil in fall and winter to the scarlet fruits of the barberry.

But you must not let the beauty of the individual plants distract from some of the basic principles of design. There are many months when the size and shape of a flower bed will have as much to do with your pleasure in it as its colorful contents in the spring. When one particularly pleases you, measure its width in relation to its length; the width of the paths: and note also what relation they all bear to the adjacent grass area. Proportion is a subtle thing that can delight you with its unobstrusive perfection.

Your pleasure will be greater, too, if you can follow a path that takes you through the garden one way and brings you back another, without retracing your steps. A great landscape idea isn't it? And it may give you the chance to discover the little mowing strip of bricks laid on sand that outlines the shrub border: the compost pile artfully hidden behind a large shrub in a tiny yard of handkerchief size; the hedge-like edging of ordinary lemon thyme around an herb garden; and the wonderful adaptability of lily turf (liriope) to both sun and shade, and its rich accent in perennial beds.

And always you must be alert to see how the homeowner has achieved privacy, "the most priceless heritage of civilized man." Even with the smallest of yards it is possible, and the more discouraging the problem the greater will be your delight in its solution.

I have in mind a house with a picture window at the side, floor length, looking into an open garage less than 40 feet away. A formal lily pool was built at the base of the window, the side opposite the window semi-circular in shape. This same curve was repeated in a tall hedge of privet along the side boundary, and in this recess was a charming stone figure with urns of white petunias near by. Simple, serene, and inexpensive, yet in the hot summers of Mid-America, what could give greater illusion of coolness than the clear water, the green lawn, and snowy flowers against the rich, dark background of smartly trimmed hedge?

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