14 MARCH 1931, Page 47

The Modern Home

March Garden Notes

By ELEANOUR SINCLAIR ROHDE " It is now March . . . the dayos begin to lengthen apace ; the forward Gardens give many a fine Sallet, and a nose-gay of Violets is a present for a LadE: the Prime-Rose is now in his Prime and the Trees begin to bud, and the green spices of grasse to peep out of the earth."—The Twelve ItIonelha, 1661.

TIIE " prime-roses " are not yet in their prime, for they need warmer sun and showers before they are in their full beauty. The range of colours has indeed been wonderful already, and what more attractive this month and April than a primrose garden ? I do not think any flowers radiate such a joyous wealth -of spring colour. Lovely as the blues and pinks are, what delight one most are the crimson, ruby, wine and red varieties; All the P. Juliae hybrids are easily grown, the brightest of all being " Pam " - a beautiful ruby crimson. Personally I have a great love for the deep wine-coloured " Wanda. This accommodating little primrose flourishes under almost any conditions ; it is very hardy and it is easily increased by division after flowering. And it is one of the very earliest to ,bloom. In a mild January it can be relied on to bloom anyhow in these parts before the middle of the month. The comparatively new " Barrowby Gem " is also a real treasure for those who love very early flowering primroses. In spite of its deep lemon colour and rather large flowers this primrose has much-of the charm of the wild primrose and it is exquisitely scented. Few primroses have a longer flowering period, for in southern parts it blooms almost continuously from December to May. The new fragrant Chinese primrose P. sonchifolia is yet to be proved, but perhaps it will take as kindly to our gardens as Winter's primrose. P. sonchifolia, discovered and enthusiastically described by Farrer, will indeed be an acquisition, for it varies from sky blue to a deep indigo blue and has a striking orange eye. Lovely as the primrose garden is now it will be even lovelier when the polyanthuses, the bunch primroses, and the auriculas are in their glory. Best of all the polyanthuses are the old scarlet hose-in-hose and no modern auricula can compare with the old red Dusty Miller and the yellow Dusty Miller.

Double daisies are also amongst the most joyous of the early spring flowers, for what flower in the garden at this time of Srear gives such a vivid splash of bright red and pink ? They have been so improved in recent years that the big rather coarse flowers they produce seem to bear little relation to the old-fashioned bachelor's buttons." Personally I far prefer the latter, for they have a demure child-like, happy charm which the modern handsome varieties seem to lack.

I love a thick edging of the old sort, the red and pink mixed. Seed for next year's flowering can be sown now in a cold frame, and when large enough to handle, planted out in a shady part for the summer. Double daisies do not take kindly to prolonged sun and drought and if left in a sunny part during the summer months they deteriorate rapidly. In autumn they can be placed in the sunniest part to flower early. Although perennial, a fresh sowing should be made every two years. There is always something lacking in a spring garden where these humble, gay little flowers are absent.

The scents of spring were more noticeable before the snow than even a fortnight ago. The earth when one forks it over has a sweet, dry smell now, very different from the cold, dead smell of winter. The wind when it blows from the south is full of a thousand scents. The sweetest scents in the garden apart from the violets are those of the daphnes and best of all D. odora, which flourishes in Devon and Cornwall, but in less favoured parts only against a warm sheltered wall, land Berberis japonica van Bealii, the scent of the flowers being almost indistinguishable from that of the lily of the Valley. The long racemes of ,flowers of this variety are far more attractive than the short racemes of B. japonica. Sweetest of all perhaps is Lonicera fragrantissima which has been out now for weeks. This winter flowering honey- suckle is slow in growth but it is invaluable even in the smallest garden. Grown spread out against a wall it takes little space, its fresh green leaves produced in mid-winter are a joy, and the flowers, though not freely produced, have a most delicious scent.

Iris stylosa (it is difficult to learn to call it I unguicularis) gives almost its last blooms this.month, and how grateful one has been ever since the end of December for these lovely flowers which in the darkest days remind one of the blue of `a summer sky. What more delightful than to push aside .the rather tough long leaves and to find the flowers as perfectly protected even after a storm as though they had been grown under cover. Iris stylosa is a plant which revels in starvation. In ordinary garden soil it produces an abundance of leaves but at most only one or two flowers. I have never seen it flower 40 profusely and continuously as when planted in path,

at the foot of a sunny wall and with plenty of mortar rubble. The white variety one seldom sees, and small wonder, for who wants white flowers in January ?

I think it is interesting to experiment with at least one uncommon vegetable each year. This year I am going to try skirrets which are listed by many seedsmen but which one never sees growing. They were an esteemed delicacy in this country 300 years age. No less an authority than John Evelyn describes them as " exceedingly nourishing, wholesome and delicate." He adds that they • were ,so valued by the Emperor Tiberius that he accepted them for tribute. Possibly they were amongst the numerous vegetables grown in these islands in Roman days and then " lost." again until reintro- duced in Elizabethan and Stuart times. Skirret (sium sisaram) is a native of China and is supposed to have been introduced into .this country in Henry VIII or Edward VI's reign. By whom, I wonder? In sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth- century books they figure as a common vegetable. Gerard observes : " 'Tis reported they were heretofore something bitter ; see what culture and education affects." - In his Paradis-us Parkinson places them first amongst root vegetables and describes their flavour as ".very pleasant, _far _beyond any Parsnep, as all agree that taste them." Joseph Cooper, who was cook to Charles I, gives a recipe for skirret pie made with boiled skirrets dipped in yolk of egg, cooked chestnuts and slices of hard-boiled eggs with butter, and flavoured with lemon, cinnamon and nutmeg. Skirrets were also fried in batter flavoured with ginger or cinnamon and served with orange sauce. And John Evelyn in his Acetaria gives a recipe for skirret • milk, also highly recommended by Tryon as an excellent restorative to people who have suffered through long illness." In modem gardening books skirrets find no place, but according to the old authorities the seed should be sown towards the end of this month or early in April in light rich soil and the plants thinned to a foot apart. The roots are ready for use in autumn.

Salsify and scozonera are two other vegetables which are also slowly disappearing. The former is, I think, the most delicious of all vegetables, bar none. On our light, sandy soil it grows like the proverbial weed. Ground on which celery has been grown is ideal, though on a light soil it seems to flourish under any conditions. Salsify needs careful thinning not to disturb the roots and the final thinning should leave them a foot apart. Except for hoeing they need no attention. If sown at the end of this month they will be ready in October. If the roots are carelessly lifted they bleed and lose flavour. Chinese artichokes are another uncommon vegetable. Although introduced as long ago as 1897 (they, were the' vegetable novelty of that year) they have been curiously slow in coming into favour. They are perfectly hardy and as easily grown as Jerusalem artichokes on light soils but they do not succeed on heavy soils. The tubers should be planted at the end of this month three inches deep. When dug up in October they cannot be left exposed to the light or they lose their delicate ivory tint. The Chinese artichoke (stachys tuberifera) is not an artichoke at all, for it belongs to the same family as stachys lanata, the " rabbits' ears" of gardens, beloved by children.