But the patient friend suggested something for which I still cherish his memory. He pointed out that bulbs look very formal mostly, unless planted in great quantities, as may be done with the cheap sorts—tulips and such. An undergrowth of low brightly-coloured annuals would correct this disadvantage. I caught the hint, and I profit by it to this more enlightened day. Spring bulbs are still a specialite of my gardening. I buy them fresh every autumn—but of Messrs. Protheroe and Morris, in Cheapside; not at the dealers’. Thus they are comparatively inexpensive. After planting my tulips, narcissus, and such tall things, however, I clothe the beds with forget-me-not or Silene pendula, or both, which keep them green through the winter and form a dense carpet in spring. Through it the bulbs push, and both flower at the same time. Thus my brilliant tulips, snowy narcissus poeticus, golden daffodils, rise above and among a sheet of blue or pink—one or the other to match their hue—and look infinitely more beautiful on that ground colour. I venture to say, indeed, that no garden on earth can be more lovely than mine while the forget-me-not and the bulbs are flowering together. This may be a familiar practice, but I never met with it elsewhere.
Another wild scheme I recollect. Water-plants need no attention. The most skilful horticulturist cannot improve, the most ignorant cannot harm them. I seriously proposed to convert my lawn into a tank two feet deep lined with Roman cement and warmed by a furnace, there to grow tropical nymphaea, with a vague “et cetera.” The idea was not so absolutely mad as the unlearned may think, for two of my relatives were first and second to flower Victoria Regia in the open-air—but they had more than a few feet of garden. The chances go, in fact, that it would have been carried through had I been certain of remaining in England for the time necessary. Meanwhile I constructed two big tanks of wood lined with sheet-zinc, and a small one to stand on legs. The experts were much amused. Neither fish nor plant, they said, could live in a zinc vessel. They proved to be right in the former case, but utterly wrong in the latter—which, you will observe, is their special domain. I grew all manner of hardy nymphaea and aquatics for years, until my big tanks sprung a leak. Having learned by that time the ABC, at least, of terra-firma gardening, I did not trouble to have them mended. On the contrary, making more holes, I filled the centre with Pampas grass and variegated Eulalias, set lady-grass and others round, and bordered the whole with lobelia—renewing, in fact, somewhat of the spring effect. Next year, however, I shall plant them with Anomatheca cruenta—quaintest of flowering grasses, if a grass it must be called. This charming species from South Africa is very little known; readers who take the hint will be grateful to me. They will find it decidedly expensive bought by the plant, as growers prefer to sell. But, with a little pressing seed may be obtained, and it multiplies fast. I find Anomatheca cruenta hardy in my sheltered garden.