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Sequence of Bloom

In small gardens plants must be selected and arranged to form a single picture for each period of the garden year. A series of such pictures can fulfill the aim of most gardeners — succession of bloom. The experienced gardener in northeastern or middle western sections knows how easy it is to have abundance of bloom in May and June, how difficult to achieve a like opulence in late July and August. Obviously succession requires planning. It cannot be left to nature or happenstance.

Unfortunately there are limitations to what can be accomplished in a given area. If you have only a small space to work with, you simply cannot, without resorting to continual replacements, secure a colorful succession throughout the season. The only practical alternative is to concentrate on one or two seasonal displays, in spring and fall perhaps. If the garden has an interesting pattern, a good focal point, and a sense of enclosure, it will be pleasing even during out-of-bloom periods.

It is difficult to develop effective sequences if the pattern of the garden is complicated and made up of many small beds. If you must have this kind of garden, better not attempt a complete succession. There probably is not room and it seldom works out well to allot certain beds or sections to certain seasons. This produces an unbalanced and inharmonious picture. The complicated pattern should probably be worked out with bedding plants, heliotrope, geraniums, lantanas, dwarf snapdragons, torenia, or petunias. Once in, these are steadily colorful and pleasing.

It is fine if a property is large enough to include a series of small gardens, each devoted to one or two seasons, and each situated so as to be inconspicuous when not in full flower. This can be done by creating a series of small enclosed room-like gardens opening off a main axial panel. Gertrude Jekyll finally decided that this was the solution of the problem even in England, where duration of bloom is longer and overlaps more than it does with us.

It requires self-controlled planning to achieve succession. So much depends on proper distribution of plant groups through the entire garden and avoidance of concentration in any one section for one time. Because of the desire for masses of bloom, "riots of color," at all times, even though it is an impossibility without replacements, there is danger of over-planting for a particular season, with not enough room left for other seasons. A carefully made planting plan, carefully followed, is the best safeguard against this natural tendency.

Beginning gardeners, especially, are so enthusiastic that unless the curb of a plan is at hand, they easily become collectors. Marion Shull once said, "If you would avoid becoming an iris enthusiast, never let yourself acquire beyond the fifth variety." This is true of all other perennials that present a wide choice of colors—peonies, phlox, hemerocallis, chrysanthemums, and even lilies. It becomes first a question of rigid selection to secure the best variety for your purpose, a color scheme, or succession. The second consideration is to place this material where it will best carry out your garden scheme.

In spring, gardeners crave a host of daffodils, wide splashes of color from tulips, many spring-flowering shrubs, and small trees like dogwoods and crabapples. Myriads of iris, peonies in abundance, delphinium, foxgloves and lilies also tempt them. The garden looks lovely into June, but the rest is dull. Gardeners who have had the sad experience of ensuing dearth, have learned to limit themselves to one, or possibly two, strong compositions for each season, even spring. Size and number depend on the extent of the garden. In the small formal garden with a terminal motive, a good composition should appear at least twice, once on each side of the main axis. In the formal garden, with a central motive, the same composition might be used four times—once in each quadrant around the central feature. As the size of the garden increases, the same or similar harmonies may be repeated along the main axis. This strengthens the design, and the repetition and sequence lead the eye on to the culminating focal point. Thus unity and harmony, impossible with unrelated groups, are created.


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