The Green Hellebore in the Wild Garden

Anemones in the Riviera. Thrive equally well in any open soil here, only flowering later. There are many of the Ranunculi, not natives of Britain, which would grow as freely as our native kinds. Many will doubtless remember with pleasure the pretty button–like white flowers of the Fair Maids of France (Ranunculus aconitifolius fl. pl.), a frequent ornament of the old mixed border. This, and the wild form from which it comes—a frequent plant in alpine meadows—may also be enjoyed in our wild garden. Quite distinct from all these, and of chastest beauty when well grown, is R. amplexicaulis, with flowers of pure white, and simple leaves of a dark glaucous green and flowing graceful outline; a hardy and charming plant on almost any soil. This is one of the elegant exotic forms of a family well represented in the golden type in our meadows, and therefore it is welcome as giving us a strange form. Such a plant deserves that pains be taken to establish it in good soil, in spots where a rank vegetation may not weaken or destroy it.

Of the Globe Flowers (Trollius), there are various kinds apart from our own, all rich in colour, fragrant, and hardy in a remarkable degree. These are among the noblest wild–garden plants—quite hardy, free of growth in the heaviest of soil and wettest of climates, affording a lovely type of early summer flower–life, and one distinct from any usually seen in our fields or gardens; for these handsome Globe flowers are among the many flowers that for years have found no place in the garden proper. They are lovely in groups or[26] colonies, in cold grassy places, where many other plants would perish.
The Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) should be naturalised in every country seat in Britain—it is as easy to do so as to introduce the thistle. It may be placed quite under the branches of deciduous trees, will come up and flower when the trees are naked, will have its foliage developed before the leaves come on the trees, and be afterwards hidden from sight. Thus masses of this earliest flower may be grown without the slightest sacrifice of space, and only be noticed when bearing a bloom on every little stem. That fine old little plant, the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger), likes partial shade better than full exposure, and should be used abundantly, giving it rather snug and warm positions, so that its flowers may be encouraged to open well and fully. Any other kinds might also be used.

Recently many kinds of Helleborus have been added to our gardens, not all of them so conspicuous at first sight as the Christmas Rose, yet they are of remarkable beauty of foliage and habit as well as of blossom, and they flower in the spring.

These, too, show the advantage of the wild garden as regards cultivation. They[27] will thrive much better in any bushy places, or copses, or in mutually sheltering groups on warm banks and slopes, even in hedge banks, old quarries, or rough mounds, than in the ordinary garden border. Of the difference in the effect in the two cases it is needless to speak.

Some of the Monkshoods are very handsome, but all of them virulent poisons; and, bearing in mind what fatal accidents have arisen from their use, they are better not used at all in the garden proper. Amongst tall and vigorous herbaceous plants few are more suitable for wild and semi–wild places. They are hardy and robust enough to grow anywhere in shady or half–shady spots; and their tall spikes, loaded with blue flowers, are very beautiful. An illustration in the chapter on the plants suited for the wild garden shows the common Aconite in a Somersetshire valley in company with the Butterbur and the Hemlock. In such a place its beauty is very striking. The larger rich blue kinds, and the blue and white one, are very showy grown in deep soils, in which they attain a great height. When out of flower, like many other stately Perennials, they were often stiff and ugly in the old borders and beds. In the wild garden their stately beauty will be more remarkable than ever under the green leaves in copses and by streams. And when flower–time is gone, their stems, no longer tied into bundles or cut in by the knife, will group finely with other vigorous herbaceous vegetation.

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