A country garden grows best with broad sweeps of the imagination
More and more people are adopting country living these days by moving to land with considerable acreage. This calls for a review of what type of gardening is best suited to the setting.
The design and planting of country gardens is quite unlike that for city or suburban areas.
Wide expanses and distant prospects influence the individual character of rural borders. Colorful gardens that can be viewed from a distance and require a minimum of attention will be the answer for both show and personal pleasure.
One of the advantages of such plantings is that materials can be used that are not only hardy but also carefree as to maintenance once they have become established in their country settings.
The location for the principal flower border for a countryscape is determined by the topography of the land and a view from the living quarters of the house. A flat, well-drained space in full sunlight most of the day is ideal for a display of garden flowers. If the location can be surveyed from prominent windows of the dwelling, the effect of a parade of showy blossoms throughout the season can be fully absorbed and appreciated.
The shape of the main flower border is influenced by the type of background and the freedom from impedimental rocks that inevitably appear in country soil.
If the background is a hillside, a wooded area, or a fenced-in pasture, the opportunities are good for a border with a straight, well-defined frontal. If, on the other hand, the site happens to include rock ledges too deep to be removed easily, the border may be curved to accommodate nature's obstacles.
The width of a distant garden bed should be at least 10 feet. Its length can be as extensive as desired. It should blend informally at both extremes with the existing environment, whether it's a building, shrub border, or boundary wall.
The quality of the soil in the area selected very likely will be of an acceptable texture and need only applications of barnyard fertilizer which, more often than not, is still available in rural sections.
Plant materials for a country garden comprise those of a hardy nature that will produce vivid, showy flowers.
Fussy, hard-to-grow perennials, which are a welcome challenge in the intimacy of a suburban setting, have little place in the extensive gardens of the country. Varieties should be selected that will provide mass color, spread to fill large spaces and require a minimum of care.
A rare and demanding specimen plant to be appreciated at close range is hardly appropriate for a remote border.
Ideally, a country garden is planted largely with perennials supplemented with a supply of summer annuals. Among perennials that have proved faultless and colorful in my borders are iris, peonies, day lilies, beebalm, sweet rocket, sweet william, phlox, campanula, and, of course, chrysanthemums for fall.
Others that bloomed for a few years only to succumb to overcrowding and lack of attention later were oriental poppies, delphinium, gypsophila, foxglove, and balloon flowers.
Any number of colors of hardy iris, phlox, and chrysanthemums may be planted for a variety of conspicuous pink, white, blue, and yellow in the border.
For diversification, annuals may be included in sections of the border reserved for their presence. They are especially essential for lower foreground material. The blossoms of sweet alyssum, petunias, dwarf marigolds, and ageratum will afford pretentious edgings, colorful from a distance.
If one is partial to the cut flowers provided by long-blooming annuals, interspersing them among tall phlox and other summer perennials will add significantly to a distant show of bright color.
Caution must be taken to select flower hues that will blend harmoniously in the garden as a whole.
Usually the problem of severe drought is more noticeable in country gardens than in those smaller types where water can be supplied as needed throughout the hot months.
In a rural garden the distance may be too far from an available water spigot; or often, unfortunately, there may be no excessive supply of water with which to pamper a flower garden. Thus, only those varieties of both annuals and perennials which are predominantly resistant to protracted dry spells should be considered.
Many flowers will wilt under a hot summer sun only to revive again during the cooler evening and morning hours. Experience is the best guide as to what will or will not survive a drought within a given area.
Lawns adjoining country gardens seldom stay green in summer. Under a blazing sun, grass turns a summer brown which, to country folk, is as natural as the neighboring hayfields just after mowing. Country gardeners learn to let grass grow tall, even shaggy, in the height of summer heat. Then inevitably flowering weeds appear that can be in themselves colorful assets to large stretches of turf.
Both yellow and orange Indian paint brush, white daisies, golden moneywort, speedwell, and clovers are potential colormakers in a country lawn that is not too closely mowed.
Appropriate to a country setting is space set aside for an herb garden. It could be precision planted as a limited kitchen supply or it might involve a large area to include the rather unruly, space-taking herbs that are fragrant and usable, too.
A neat kitchen olitory is a pleasure to maintain and is a subject for a story in itself.
Complementary to the kitchen herb garden at the rear of the house may be a small dooryard garden at the fore. A perfect foil for a country home, it would feature old-fashioned favorites - pinks, hollyhocks, old roses, stock, pansies, geraniums, and such.
A country expanse is an ideal setting for the naturalization of spring bulbs. A variety of early, midseason, and late daffodils will furnish color for several weeks in fields or on hillsides that will be eventually barbered by a tractor. By that time the foliage of the bulbs will have yellowed and not be harmed by the mowing.
There are two other planting suggestions that fit into country living. The first is a garden of native plants - ferns, mosses, and wild flowers that can be transplanted from remote parts of the acreage to a space assigned to their culture.
Such a garden will provide a home for wild plants, protecting rare species that need to be preserved.
Finally, there will be space for extensive shrub borders, useful as boundaries, screens, or separators.
Choice shrubs are an asset to any home grounds, and in the country there is an opportunity to indulge in the luxury of many varieties. A selection may be planted to cover the four seasons with bountiful blossoms, bright fall foliage, and interesting twigs.