Garden History and Historic Gardens of the NortheastFlower border - The Path to Gardens Past


February 1930- Better Homes & Gardens Articles

1930 BHG Columns - Along the Garden Path, The Roving Gardener
James H. Burdette

Since seed catalogs were first published-and they are said to be the oldest form of mail-order catalog-a prominent feature of their make-up each spring has been the novelty pages.
New flowers and new vegetables have always has an appeal to the garden-maker. They are welcome fuel for an eager imagination already aflame with the dreams of a garden which is to surpass all former efforts. Once there were not a catalogs which described wonder plants with such vividness that the humorists still joke about their exaggerations.

The modern catalog has lost its poetic exaggeration; but let us hope it has not lost inspirational effect, and certainly it has not lost its annual list of novelties. Indeed, these are becoming more numerous each year; and it may fairly be said, of more dependable merit, for systematic plant-breeding is being organized on a far greater scale than ever before, methods are being improved, and better varieties of flowers and vegetables are an inevitable result.

larkspurUntil the World War, most of our flower seeds came from France, Germany, and Italy, and novelties introduced in Europe to quite a while to reach us. One reason was uncertainty of their performance in our climate. It was not uncommon to have a novelty popular over there fail to show its merit with us. You could never tell just what it would do until extensive trails had been made under varying conditions. There is no variation of importance in the color and form of a new flower which has appeared in California when its seed is grown in other parts of the United States.

p. 16 middle-A variety of annual larkspur known as the Exquisite Pink Improved. It is very upright in habit

What, then, is new for the season of 1930? There are families of flowers which exhibit what might be called ambition, a desire to improve. They respond to the efforts of breeders, constantly showing improved forms and colors. They soon become “show” flowers, and are the chief reliance in gardens and flower shows. The China-aster is such a flower. Its double forms have been multiplied until they are now numerous types of blossom and a widening range of colors. A new type which appeared a few years ago is called the Sunshine China-aster, a semi double flower in which the pale center is composed of very double disc petals, giving it an effect resembling an Anemone. This new type has grown rapidly in popularity, not only for garden effects, but for cut-flower arrangements. This year a selected strain which grows with longer, stiffer, stems than the original is introduced under the name of California Sunshine. The stems are said to average 2 ½ feet long.

One of the colors rare in double in China-asters is yellow. The range of this flower has been chiefly in the red and blue tones. asterThe development of a yellow will open up the possibilities of orange, apricot, and salmons in these fine flowers. Peerless Yellow is the name of a new yellow variety described as of good size, petals slightly incurved, a deep yellow when first open, fading slightly as it ages.

p. 16 bottom left-The Sunshine China-asters have long stems, quilled centers, and are obtainable in many colors

Calendulas have responded well to breeding experiments. They are valuable flowers for the florist and for the cutting garden. New varieties this year are Campfire, a very large flat blossom, and Radio, from Europe, introducing quilled petals, curled and twisted, a new form in this flower.

Cosmos is one of the valuable garden annuals, because it blossoms late and gives tall-growing plants, with numerous flowers in September and October, and even later in the more southern locations. The chief problem of plant breeders has been to produce early-flowering strains, as the late-flowering type is altogether too late for locations north of St. Louis. Early Express Pink is introduced as a variety which will produce flowers within forty-five days from sowing. A new form in cosmos is Hollywood Star, with anemone center and starlike petals, coming in red, pink, and white. The interest in cosmos would be greatly increased if the orange type (Cosmos sulphureus), which is grown in Mexico, Hawaii, and some southern states, could be bred to an early strain; the season is now much too long for us.

The Chinese Forget-me-not (Cynoglossum amabile), so valuable in our gardens, is offered this year in a pure-white variety. It likes hot weather and will blossom all season if the flowers are kept cut.

Dahlias are so easily grown from seed that an increasing number of varieties recommend for treatment as annuals are being introduced. The Starfish Dahlias are a new type introduced from Europe, of medium height, in white, red, orange, and canary yellow. The twisted petals give a bizarre effect. Coltness Hybrid Dahlias, introduced several years ago from England, where they are said to be rapidly rivaling zinnias for the border, are now in general use in this country, and the seeds are being produced here. They are easy to grow from outdoor-sown seeds.

Dimorphotheca is one of those South African plants, its simpler name being Cape-marigold, of Veldt-daisy. A new form introduced this year is the species Dimorphotheca ringens, a free-flowering, somewhat dwarf type. The large, white daisy-like flowers have a conspicuous blue ring around the center of the flower.

California-Poppies (Eschscholtzia) are showing a gratifying tendency to improve themselves. A frilled and semidouble type has been named Ramona. Several new colors in this type have been discovered in the field and will be developed. Owing to its extreme hardiness to and ever-blooming nature, the California-poppy offers most promising material and may one day develop into one of the dominant flower families. A double Eschscholtzia, Autumn Glory, has petals which are orange-crimson on the outside and coppery orange inside. Sunlight is a true deep yellow, a large flowered and long stemmed single.

Heliopsis is the name of a group of fall-flowering perennials related to the sunflowers. A double Heliopsis introduced by the French hybridizer Lemoine is being offered. It is a perennial, coming into flower in July, growing 3 to 4 feet high, and producing a double flowers of a brilliant golden yellow. Its cousin is the Sunflower Maroon Prince, described as a dwarf red sunflower. It is a single flower, a true maroon in color. The Dazzler Sunflower has a red chestnut center and yellow petals.

Larkspurs of the annual type are valuable in the garden for midsummer color. They are chiefly remarkable for the exquisite pinks which have been developed. In combination with dark blues, also found in this family, one can make a thrilling planting. Lustrous Carmine, or Newport Pink, was the most popular variety a few years ago, but many variations, lighter or darker in color, have been introduced. Larkspur Los Angeles, introduced this year, is a richer pink, described by the producer as having a salmon ground overlaid with a brilliant rose. It is a vigorous grower as well. Larkspur Exquisite Pink Improved is a salmon pink, lighter than Newport Pink, and distinguished by an upright growth, resembling that of the perennial Delphinium.

Marigolds are among the oldest of our flower families, and improvements are rare. But the merits of this family are so great and its variations so numerous that few realize its possibilities. One of the finest edging plants, for example, equaling sweet alyssum for prolific bloom, is Tagetes signata pumila, a dwarf marigold, about eight inches high, covered with tiny yellow flowers. An old variety, a tall French single which was discovered a few years ago in a Chicago garden, and introduced into commerce as the Marigold Josephine, is one of the finest cut flowers. It has petals of a velvet texture, long stems, and a color which ranges from old gold to dark maroon. Florists this year are offered a tree marigold, coming from Australia, growing 6 to 8 feet tall, and having double flowers of the French type in yellow, orange, bronze, and red. Its season is so long that it is not advised for outdoor growing except in warm-weather states.

Pansies are really Violas, differing chiefly in size, and size has always been sought in pansies. There is an ideal shape, also, which is that the petals, overlapping, should form a flower approximating a circle in its outline. The ultimate in size and shape so far seems to be attained by a strain known in this country as Swiss Giants. New colors are now being selected in this strain. Swiss Giant Blue is several shades darker that Emperor William. The variety Alpenglow is a dark, glowing red.

Pentstemons offer a great opportunity to the plant breeder. The varieties grown in California, which are half-hardy perennials, rival the Canterbury-bells in the size of their flowers and excel them in coloring. In cold-weather states they will produce flowers the first year from seed sown in a hotbed, although first-year plants do not reach normal size. French Hybrids of a strain called Sensation Improved give an excellent variety of various colors and marking. There are many hardy native Pentstemons found in America-most of them with the small flowers, lavender pink in coloring. Here would seem to be an opportunity for the hybridizer to produce a strain which had the hardiness of the native types and the size and coloring of the French hybrids.

Stocks, when well grown, are useful plants for color masses. We are told that plenty of lime in the soil is essential to success with stocks. Early Giant Imperial Old Rose is a new color in the Giant Imperial type sometimes called Bismarck stocks.

Verbena Dwarf Compacta Fireball is a compact grower 6 inches high, covered with bright scarlet blooms, one of the very fine edging plants of which we are coming to have so many.
We now have annuals of almost every color to provide the foreground of the border picture: Sweet Alyssum for white, Tagetes signata pumila for yellow, Lobelia for blue, Verbena Fireball for scarlet. This range will undoubtedly be extended. And so each year, new pigments are offered the gardener, and new possibilities are opened for his skill in painting a brilliant and harmonious picture. poppy

And now this alphabetical discussion comes to an end with Z, which in the flower world stands for Zinnia. Zinnias continue to be improved, and attention is now being directed to the lilliput type. These might be called pompom zinnias; they are delightful border subjects, splendid decorative material, and the selection of new colors will increase their popularity. Delicate flesh pink is a new color this year. Pumila zinnias, slightly larger and taller that the lilliputs, are enriched this year by the first appearance of the picotee form, in Zinnia Pumila Picotee Delight, having ruffled and curled petals, in salmon and orange tones.

Picture Captions
p. 16 top left-The Isaac House strain of Scabiosa bears larger, better-formed flowers, longer stems, and is superior to the usually grown Scabiosa caucasica. The colors range from white to the darkest blue, including some lovely pale blue varieties

p. 16 middle-A variety of annual larkspur known as the Exquisite Pink Improved. It is very upright in habit

p. 16 bottom left-The Sunshine China-asters have long stems, quilled centers, and are obtainable in many colors

p. 17 top-The dwarf scarlet Verbena Compacta Fireball grows 6 inches tall and serves as a better edging plant that the older types

p. 17 middle-A unique Cosmos, Hollywood Star may be purchased in red, pink, and white

p. 17 middle-The Early Giant Imperial Old Rose Stock is a new color in this type

p. 17 bottom-Loveliest of California-poppies, Ramona is semidouble, of a cadmium yellow color

WINDFLOWERS by Agnes C. Intlekofer

Oh, my heart turns back to childhood,
When the march winds blow,
And I’m thinking of the hillside
Where the windflowers grow.
How eagerly we sought them
On the bleak, unsheltered hill
Dainty flower with furry calyx
Bringing such a joyous thrill.
And, when carefully we’d plucked them,
As the March wind swept us by,
Happily we started homeward,
Ruddy-cheeked and shining eye.
Ah, how long the way lies, winding
Up and down and to and fro,
Since those happy days of childhood,
On the hills, where windflowers grow.
But when spring comes, gaily dancing,
And the winds sweep free,
I catch that fragile fragrance
Memory brings to you and me.
Oh, for just one day to wander,
Eager, laughing, free from care,
On the happy hills of childhood,
And to find the windflowers there.

New Perennials
J. G. Bacher

To the man or woman who is deeply interested in the garden there is one event or occurrence during the flower season that is looked forward to more than anything else-the first flowering of novelties, or just rare plants never seen or heard of.

This curiosity for meeting strangers in one’s garden seems present as much in the experience amateur as well as the most seasoned professional plantsman. With advancing years and greater experience the plant fancier continues more intensely his search for better and finer flowers to grow in the home garden. That is one field where novelty never becomes stale, for to study the behavior of new plants is something that calls for the keenest observation and contains so many elements of surprise that season after season seems to bring us unexpected features and colors in plant life.

A fairy tale is often not in the running when compared with some of the events produced by the flower world. To tell some of the thrills experienced by the writer mention must be made of a newcomer from the high alpine meadows of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. This is to tell you of the Aster Farrerei, discovered by the late Reginald Farrer, and now gradually being introduced into gardens where plant fanciers are finding it a new form of perennial Aster of unique beauty, un-approached by anything known so far in this great group of plants.

Those who know the Aster subcoerulea can readily form an idea of its habit of growth, which is similar, but the leaves are a bit broader and bear a dark color in its midrib, especially towards the base of the leaf. The flowering period comes shortly after the Aster subcoerulea, or simultaneously, when the petals begin to unfold on flower stems from 10 to 14 inches tall. Like rays of silken thread in lovely shades of violet, with the center of the richest chrome yellow. The very daintiness of the slender petals is a revelation in form new to this group of asters in our gardens. The plant seems easily grown and is hardy, preferring a well-drained fertile soil. The foliage, unlike some others, disappears during the winter, suggestive that it may thrive in the most sever regions of our country.

From the mountain ranges of Tibet we received, just a few years ago, a new primrose of exceptional merit for the gardens of this country, especially for the northern and central states. Primula Florindae is the newcomer that seems to be making good in various sections. Here in the Northwest this plant has shown surprising vigor, and for continued flowering it has surpassed all of the known kinds.

The first flowers of this new primrose opened in Portland gardens during June, 1928, and then flowered continuously until the end of September. It was noticeable that hot, dry winds or extra bright days were not good for these flowers, and when they were shaded from the afternoon sun, they looked brighter and lasted longer. The soil, of course, never lacked moisture and was deep and rich in humus, evidently very much to the liking of the plants, for they grew very freely even while flowering. Some of the flower stems reached a height of 24 inches and were larger than ordinary pencils, with a succession of flowers arising from the tassel-like clusters for nearly three months. The color of the flowers is a bright lemon yellow, at times slightly powdered white, and emitting a delightful fragrance, recalling slightly that of preserved peaches but more spicy. Truly, Primula Florindae is one of the remarkable newcomers for the perennial garden and under favorable conditions it will prove perhaps the finest representative of the Primulas known so far. As a cutflower it will in time be a most welcome addition to the assortment of choice table blooms. During the winter period its foliage decays, and it waits very carefully in spring before sprouting, so late frosts do not damage the growth.

The same feature is observed in the Sikkim Primrose, resembling the former, which starts very late in spring. Primula Florindae may readily be raised from seed or from plants secured from specialists. It may prefer to grow in partial shade, but deep rich soil is required for it. In the writer’s experience it is the outstanding member of the Primrose groups so far tried out in this country.

The garden enthusiast who is looking for best returns by growing cutflowers fit for cutting will be pleased with an improved strain of the well known Scabiosa caucasica. It has come from abroad recently under the name of the Isaac House strain. The new strain is considerably improved for size of flower and deeper coloring reaching into the dark blues. One must bear in mind that these flowers are raised from seed, and a certain percentage will fail to show itself superior to the type of Scabiosa caucasica, yet no one ever complains of having too many flowers from this plant or becoming tired of them. Their very elegance and lasting quality as cutflowers make them a popular feature of the perennial border in every section of the states.

A recent introduction from South Africa, Scabiosa columbaria, an entirely different sort in a new shade of pink, is a worthy addition to the perennial border. The plant is chiefly remarkable for its neat, almost curly, compact foliage from which arise many slender stems bearing the handsome pink flowers of a shade entirely new to this group-a luminous rose. The green of its foliage is also a distinct feature, as it is of a very light tint. This plant apparently grows as readily as the ordinary pincushion flower or annual Scabiosa. What its range of hardiness will be is of course yet to be discovered. It may not resist the rigors of northern winters. At any rate, it dislikes wet soils. The southern states and Pacific Coasts sections are a proved field for this plant.

Shasta Daisy, that popular, easily grown perennial known to most gardens, is also coming in a new dress for those who are seeking the finer things in the variety called Marian Collier. The originator or place of birth of this type is unknown to me. However, the newcomer seems happy here in the Northwest, and it grows as readily as the common forms, with perhaps a bit more restraint in its foliage output. The new elegance of the ray petals in this form places this modern Shasta Daisy in the class of chrysanthemums, so to speak, for its frilly elegance is a most welcome variation from the rather formal type of the stand-by in Shasta Daisy forms.

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