We do not lay as much stress on edging beds and walks with flowering plants as formerly, but the practice is a most pleasing one, and ought not to be neglected. It is one of the phases of gardening that has been allowed to fall into disuse, to a considerable extent, but there are already signs that show it is coming back to its old popularity, along with the old-fashioned flowers that are now more in favor than ever before. This is as it should be.
A bed without a pretty border or edging always seems incomplete to me. It is as if the owner of it ran short of material before it was finished. The bit of lace or ribbon that is to add the last touch of grace and beauty to the gown is lacking.
Especially is a border of flowering plants satisfactory if kinds are selected which bloom throughout the greater part of the season. The plants we make use of in the centre of the bed are not always attractive before they come into bloom, neither are they that after they have passed their prime, but a pretty edging of flowers draws attention from their shortcomings, and always pleases.
One of our best flowering plants for edging purposes is Candytuft. It comes into bloom early in the season, and blooms in great profusion until the coming of frost. Keep it from developing seed and it will literally cover itself with bloom. I would advise going over it twice a week and clipping off every cluster of faded blossoms. This answers two purposes—that of preventing the formation of seed, and of removing what would be a disfigurement to the plant if it were allowed to remain.
There are two varieties of Candytuft in cultivation—one white, the other a dull red. The white variety is the one most persons will select, as it harmonizes with all other plants. But the red sort is very pleasing when used with harmonious colors. I last year saw a bed of Nasturtium bordered with it, and the effect was delightful. Its dull color blended well with the richer, stronger tones of the Nasturtium flowers, and gave them an emphasis that was suggestive of the effect of dull, rich colors used in old rugs in heightening and bringing out, by contrast, the brighter colors.
In using Candytuft for edging, set the plants about a foot apart. I would advise two rows of them, placing the plants in such a manner that they alternate in the rows. Do not attempt to train them. Let them do that for themselves. One of their most attractive features is their lack of formality when allowed to grow to suit themselves. Very pleasing results are secured by using the white and red varieties together, the colors alternating. If the centre of the bed is filled with “Golden Feather” Pyrethrum and these two Candytufts are used as an edging, the effect will be very fine as the dull red admirably supplements the greenish-yellow color of the Pyrethrum, while the white relieves what, without it, would be too sombre a color-scheme.
Sweet Alyssum is excellent for edging purposes. Its general effect is quite similar to that of the white Candytuft, but it has greater delicacy of both bloom and foliage, and the additional merit of a delightful fragrance.
Ageratum is lovely for edging beds of pink Geraniums, its soft lavender tones being in perfect harmony with their color. It is equally satisfactory when used with pale rose Phlox Drummondi, or the soft yellow shades of that flower. Combine the three colors in a bed and you will have something unusually dainty and delightful. One of the prettiest beds I saw last summer was filled with Sweet Alyssum, and edged with Ageratum. If there was any unfavorable criticism to be made, it was that a touch of some brighter, stronger color was needed to relieve its white and lavender. A free-flowering rose-colored Geranium in its centre, or a pink Verbena, would have added much to the general effect, I fancy. As it was, it was suggestive of old blue-and-white Delft, and the collector of that ware would have gone into raptures over it.
For a permanent edging, for beds, paths, and the border, Bellis perennis, whose popular name is English Daisy, is one of the best of all plants. It is entirely hardy. It blooms early in the season. It is wonderfully generous in its production of flowers. These are small, and very double, some pink, some almost white, produced on short stems which keep them close to the ground and prevent them from straggling. Its thick, bright green foliage furnishes a charming background against which the blossoms display themselves effectively. It is a plant that does well everywhere, and is always on good terms with everything else in the garden, as will be seen by the illustration that shows it in full bloom, along with Pansies and Hyacinths. Because of its compact, non-straggling habit it is especially useful for bordering paths and the border, permitting the use of the lawn-mower or the rake with perfect freedom. Plants should be set about eight inches apart. If you have but few plants of it and desire more, pull the old plants apart in spring and make a new one out of each bit that comes away with a piece of root attached. By fall the young plants will have grown together and formed a solid mass of foliage, with a great many “crowns” from which flowers will be produced the following season. Florists can generally furnish seedling plants in spring, from which immediate effects can be secured by close planting.
One of the best if not the best plants for all-around use in edging is Madame Salleroi Geranium. It is quite unlike any other Geranium of which I have any knowledge, in general habit. It forms a bushy, compact plant, and bears a solid mass of foliage. No attention whatever is required in the way of pruning. The plant trains itself. The ordinary flowering Geranium must be pinched back, and pruned constantly to prevent it from becoming “leggy,” but there is no trouble of this kind with Madame Salleroi. Its branches, of which there will often be fifty or more from a plant, are all sent up from the crown of the plant, and seldom grow to be more than five or six inches in length. Each branch may have a score of leaves, borne on stems about four inches long. These leaves are smaller than those of any other Geranium. Their ground color is a pale green, and every leaf is bordered with creamy white. This combination of color makes the plant as attractive as a flowering one. It is a favorite plant for house-culture in winter, and those who have a specimen that has been carried over can pull it apart in May and plant each bit of cutting in the ground where it is to grow during summer, feeling sure that not one slip out of twenty will fail to grow if its base is inserted about an inch deep in soil which should be pinched firmly about it to hold it in place while roots are forming. Set the cuttings about ten inches apart. By midsummer the young plants will touch each other, and from that time on to the coming of frost your border will be a thing of beauty, and one of the delightful things about it is that it require’s no attention whatever from you. Never a branch will have to be shortened to keep it within bounds. No support will be needed. The plants will take care of themselves. I have never had a plant that is easier to grow. It harmonizes with everything. Seen against the green of the lawn it is charming. All things considered, it is an ideal plant for edging. In combination with scarlet and yellow Coleus it is exceedingly effective, because of its strong color contrast.
Most amateur gardeners are familiar with the various merits of Coleus, Alternatheras, Achyranthes, “Golden Feather” Pyrethrum, and Centaurea maritima, better known as “Dusty Miller” because of its gray foliage. These are all good, when properly cared for, when used for edging beds and borders. Especially so when used with Cannas, Caladiums, and other plants of striking foliage, where their rich colors take the place of flowers.
Phlox decussata, commonly known as “Moss Pink” because of its fine foliage and bright pink flowers, is a most excellent plant for the hardy border, because it stands our winters quite as well as the hardiest perennials. Early in spring it will cover itself with charming blossoms that are as cheerful to look at as the song of the robin or the blue bird is to hear. It is a lovable little thing, and has but one rival among early-flowering plants for edging, and that rival is the English Daisy.