IT'S A mistake to insist on flowers that bloom for extremely long periods, because in the first place they do not give the effect of bursting luxuriance you want. All too often they quickly become despised.
Already, I see, there are marigolds in bloom, and they will stay in bloom till November and most gardeners will be fairly sick of them by the end of July.
Zinnias, which come in so many colors, are less wearing on the eyeballs, but they will get tall and guant and flop over more space than one had intended.
Petunias, to my mind, wear as well as anything, and the sort that spring up along alleys in white and washy lavender are quite pretty.
Often enough I have tried the fairly irresistible deep and bright reds, the powerful purples and the frilly whites, and fine I get quickly tired of looking at them.
The trouble probably is the same with flowers as with people: Those that come on strong in a great blaze are all very well for one cocktail party or two, or for one weekend, but that's about it.
Consider the tree peony. It is glorious for about four days, it blooms thick as the thickest dahlia and as large as soup plates, and there really is nothing so spectacualr in the garden.
The petal texture is like highly-polished silk, and the colors (even the magenta ones) are sparkling and marvelous. The effect is vastily enhanced by the foliage, deeply cut and usually as glaucous as a cabbage.
Now four days of floral splendor a year is not long enough.Yet I never heard of anybody pitching out his tree peonies on the grounds they did not justify their space.
The same is true of Lilies, which last only a few days, and of irises, which last no more than two weeks. Just here let me point out that while tall bearded irises (or peonies or lilies or daffodils) may bloom for six weeks, since there are early and mid-season and late varieties, still the individual plant blooms for two weeks and that's that.
As a result -- noticing how short their floral seasons are -- many gardeners have dismissed the great flowers and called in the humbler creatures for the excellent reason (they think) that space might as well be given to flowers that bloom for months on end.
And yet it is hard to believe anybody really loves geraniums. They are "useful" and go on forever, and they make utterly reliable splotches of color. If you want a band of pink or white or scarlet, they will indeed do the job. They remind me of Paris parks, and of shallow brains. Which design such parks.
But of course one should grow them by the acre if one gets pleasure from them. Different strokes.
The fuchsia is pretty remarkable in keeping up a steady rush of flower all summer and fall, while remaining a rather exciting flower. As everyone knows, they do astonishingly well in hanging baskets out from a wall that faces north. They need to be watered every day, and there is no point thinking you can go off for numerous weekends and leave them alone.
The nasturtium also serves, better than most things I can think of, to provide weeks and weeks of color without either fuss or boredom.
Sometimes people ask about floribunda roses, which go on and on, and many have discoverd 'Betty Prior,' a harsh pink that blooms forever and which stays in admirable health and vigor with less trouble than most roses. Against a background of deep yews or gray foliage or dark shadows, a big clump of this rose is as reliable as it is impressive.
Now thanks to great efforts by rose breeders we can obtain highly discordant clashes of brilliant color is floribundas; and if we like beds of mustard, clood and bathroom white, we can cause any rash gazer to wipe his eye.
Some of the most gorgeous roses, unfortunately, do not go on week after endless week. Among my outrages is the extreme shortage of supply for plants of 'Mme. Gregoire Staechelin,' the ruffled full-pink fragrant climber. It blooms only in May.
Among the few plants I inherited in my present garden was an enormous plant of 'White Dawn,' which (I have read) blooms all the time and is a regular jim-dandy.
For me it bloomed only in spring and did not look so hot even then. I, chopped it out, at the cost of great suffering, from thorns, and have never regretted it.
It is pleasant enough to have late-season flowers from such climbers as 'New Dawn,' 'Golden Showers,' 'Blossomtime,' and some of the others -- I consider all three of them very much worth growing -- but I do not know of a repeat-blooming pink climber as beautifual as Madame.
Even 'New Dawn, which is the standard for repeat blooming climbers, make no great show except in late May. It is nice to cut flowers from it off and on through the summer and fall, but it is not showy after its first main flush of bloom. Some gardeners expect a repeat-blooming rose to be a solid mass of color from May to Thanksgiving, and of course none is.
Among white climbing roses that bloom off and on through the summer and fall, I know of none equal to 'Madame Alfred Carriere,' which was introduced into commerce slightly over 100 years ago. And yet it is now quite rare in gardens. The white 'Climbing Snowbird' seemed to me outstanding (I never grew the climber, only the bush form), but it appears to have been dropped; a shame, since it is an intensely fragrant flower.
My point is, when you see a climber that seems to you unspeakably beautiful, do not hesitate to plant it. Those that bloom again later are fine, but that repeat blooming is not quite the advantage a new gardener might think.
As Graham Thomas (pre-eminent authority on roses) once observed, it is a "talking point" for a climber to repeat, but it is not everything.
And while marigolds are all very well, it's a mistake to give them so much space there is no room for more fugitive and more beautiful flowers. CAPTION: Picture, The exuberant "Brazilian" stitch, a kind of canvas work using a cross-stitch with couching -- "a dance for the needle, an embroidery samba" -- was invented by Madeline Colaco. Now her daughter, Concessa Colaco, a colleague of her mother's for 25 years, is exhibiting her own tapestries at the Textile Museum through June 2. The tapestries are full of fantastic flowers, scrolls, cherubs, fruit, and color. The prices range from $910 to $2,562.