The new gardener is coming to rely on perennial flowering plants to a greater extent every year. This is natural, for these plants to possess qualities, which enable them to fill satisfactorily almost all-gardening needs. There is danger, however, that we may select too many plants of too many varieties and undertake to care for a larger garden than we can properly keep in the pink of condition. It is more reasonable to limit our attention to a few plants and then raise them wisely and well, rather than to spread our endeavors over too wide a field, and so, perhaps, reap only disappointment for our labor.
By limiting our selection of plants and the extent of our garden, however, we do not fail to achieve beauty and distinction, for by selecting wisely we can get a great deal of variety and surely a large amount of enjoyment.
Where to begin and what to select of a small garden is no easy task. Every nursery catalogue attests to the great variety of species offered each described in glowing terms as most beautiful and quite indispensable to each and every garden. Who can, name the ten best perennials or the most interesting twenty-five for his own garden, let alone his neighbors`? Personal preference goes a long way in governing selection, but there are certain other criteria, which will guide us to a fuller realization of our ambitions. Hardiness and ease of culture should be taken into consideration. Color, height, and time of bloom are important, and above all let us practice restraint, a quality just as desirable in planning a garden as at a feast. It is far better to have a few large masses of several good varieties than a mixed collection of many inharmonious plants.
Important as is this matter of selection, design and arrangement in the garden itself are equally so. We must know where we are to plant and how much room we have before ordering plant material. Much of the effectiveness of small gar-dens depends on how well they serve as elements of decoration in the landscape scheme. Growing plants just for the sake of having them is all right, but it is horticulture, not gardening. Gardening depends more on the effectiveness of the display than on the size and luxuriance of individual plants. We should be sure, then, that our garden, though small and simple, is fundamentally well designed. It must have back-ground and enclosure. It must relate properly to other parts of the grounds and to the house. It must have balance, unity of composition, and accent, for a garden is not merely a collection of flowering plants. It is more than that. It is an artistic entity, effective for its purpose just so far as it follows out the fundamental concepts of design. Luxuriant flowers are only one factor in its success; there are other considerations of equal, if not greater, importance.
Having chosen our plants and designed a simple garden to contain them, our next step is to care for them in such a way that they will be contented and continue to grow, blossom, and multiply. In order to achieve this important end we must know something about the maintenance of perennial gardens, starting with soil preparation and fertility and carrying on with the proper methods and procedure of cultivation, top-dressing, mulching, spraying, and all the other routine subjects recognized as important factors in gardening.