EVERY spring some gardeners spend a small fortune on bedding plants such as young dahlias, antirrhinums, and so on. No words of mine will dissuade those who are convinced that this is quite the best way to do gardening; but many others will perhaps be willing to consider if the same money (or less) might be spent with better effect on new plants of a different kind.
Some of these can be bought now, others can be ordered for delivery at the right time. I am not going to suggest anything outlandish, but merely recommend the selection of one or two gems that will last—and be different. Some gardens, even the tiniest, are very enterprising. In them you will find species and varieties that do just as well as the common kinds—even better—and yet are practically unknown in the surrounding district. Gardeners enjoy admiration as much as anyone else, and it is a fine thing to be envied because you have such different plants, Difference alone would he worth little, but some of the less familiar plants are so astonishingly beautiful that I am sure the reason for our not seeing them often is that many gardeners have never seen them at all.
Plants which flower very early or very late have a strong appeal for me. Magnolia stellaia is a small bush which can now be bought for planting out in the open border in any reasonable soil. It should he obtained with a good ball of roots in a hag of sacking. Late winter planting sometimes suits it better than autumn planting. Daphne mezereon is a small compact bush which can be bought now as a small tiny thing in a pot ready for immediate planting out in time to give a good display of bright and deliciously scented
flowers within a few weeks. Both these plants are of course hardy and perennial. and are suitable for the smallest garden.
PLANTS FOR LIGHT SOILS
In contrast to the two just mentioned, which like a good heavy loam better than a sandy soil, there are some plants frequently overlooked which can now be bought in pots from enterprising nurserymen, plants likely to do well on poor parched soils. They will do equally well on satisfactory loam provided it is well drained. Cistus Silver Pink and Cistus wintoncnsis will grow quickly into compact bushes which keep up a long succession of brilliant poppy-like flowers. They are better than many of the old taller-growing kinds of Cistus. some of which are not hardy. If you have not yet got a plant of Ceratostigma Willmottianum, I strongly recommend a purchase. It grows into a small shruh (about eighteen inches) with elegant foliage, which covers itself with wideawake flowers of most brilliant hue in late summer and autumn. It will reach full size in the first year.
For a really hot corner try Zauschneria californica spendens. an improved form of the Californian fuchsia. Iris onguicularis (stylosa) is a fine January-March flower for the same situation. If you can use a wall. try Solanum crispum.Glasnesin variety.
THE HEATHER FAMILY
The heathers and azaleas do very well indeed on light soils provided they are quite free from lime, and altho(igh they (or many of them) can endure some drought. they can tolerate much moister conditions too. The large azaleas are fine things, but even superior are the dwarfs, some of which are so good that I have actually seen them sold like the greenhouse azalea for indoor decoration. They are not suitable for this; but it does give you an idea of the size and brilliance of their flowers, even on dwarf bushes.
Some of the better kinds have been only recently raised, so they are not frequent in commerce; but they can be got easily enough if you ask. My own favourites are Salmon Beauty. Orange Beauty, John Cairns, Atalanta and Kathleen. My own soil is unsuitable for these plants; hut I have dug a place out and filled it with sandy leaf-mould and lime-free soil. just to have a few of them. The older Kurume azaleas such as Hinemayo and Hinodegiri are also excel lent. I forgot to mention that all these azaleas are evergreen, and none grow much higher than eighteen inches even when they are old. although they spread out generously in time. They all flower in spring.
To have winter-flowering heathers you do not need any very special soil. Mine bloom from November to May, and if it were so desired a succession of heathers could be had all the year round. A well-tried selection includes Ericus mediterranea, darleyensis, and the following named varieties : Loughrigg, Vivellii, Springwood, Springwood White, Brightness, W. T. Ratcliffe and King George. These include all shades from pure white to rich crimsonpurple.
All the plants mentioned in this article are best purchased in pots early in the year and planted at once into suitable positions with the all of soil almost intact. They are potgrown to enable us to transplant without check at this time. All except those recommended for a hot corner are hardy anywhere.