"And a river went out of Eden to water the garden."
A Recent addition to the country house is the "water garden," in which a running brook is the centre and motif of the subsidiary ornaments of flowers, ferns, trees, shrubs, and mosses. Nature is in league with art in the brook garden, for nowhere is wild vegetation so luxuriant, and the two forces of warmth and moisture so generally combined, as by the banks of running streams. The brook is its own landscape gardener, and curves and slopes its own banks and terraces, sheltered from rough winds and prone to the sun.
Many houses near the Thames, especially those under the chalk hills which fringe much of the valley, have near them some rill or brook running to the main river. On the sides of the chalk hills, though not on their summits, these streams cut narrow gullies and glens. Wherever, in fact, there is hilly, broken ground, the little rills form these broken ravines and gullies, often only a few yards in width from side to side. Usually these brooklet valleys are choked with brambles or fern, and filled with rank undergrowth. Often the stream is overhung and invisible, or dammed and left in soak, breeding frogs, gnats, and flies. The trees are always tall and beautifully grown, whatever their age, for the moisture and warmth force vertical growth; the smaller bushes - hawthorn, briar, and wild guelder-rose - also assume graceful forms unhidden, for they always bow their heads towards the sun-reflecting stream. Part of the charm of the transformation of these brookside jungles into the brookside garden lies in the gradual and experimental method of their conversion. Every one knows that running water is the most delightful thing to play with provided in this world; and the management of the water is the first amusement in forming the brook garden. When the banks have been cleared of brambles to such a distance up the sides of the hollow as the ground suggests, and all poor or ill-grown trees have been cut away to let in the only two "fertilisers" needed - air and sun - the dimensions of the first pool or "reach" in the brook garden are decided upon. This must depend partly on the size and flow of the stream. If it is a chalk spring, from six feet to six yards wide, its flow will probably be constant throughout the year, for it is fed from the reservoirs in the heart of the hills. Then it needs little care except to clear its course, and the planting of its banks with flowers and stocking of its waters with lilies, arums, irises, and trout is begun at once. But most streams are full in winter and low in summer. On these the brook gardener must take a lesson from the beavers, and make a succession of delightful little dams, cascades, and pools, to keep his water at the right level throughout the year. Where there is a considerable brook these dams may be carried away in winter and ruin the garden. Stone or concrete outfalls are costly, and often give way, undermined by the floods. But there is a form of overflow which gives an added sparkle even to the waterfall, and costs little. Each little dam is roofed with thin split oak, overlapping like the laths of a Venetian blind when closed. This forms the bottom of the "shoot," and carries the water clear of the dam into the stream below. As the water runs over the overlapping laths it forms a ripple above each ridge, and from the everlasting throb of these pleats of running water the sunlight flashes as if from a moving river of diamonds. Beside these cascades, and only two inches higher than their level, are cut "flood-overflows" paved with turf, to let off the swollen waters in autumn rains. With the cutting out of undergrowth and the admission of light the rank vegetation of the banks changes to sweet grass, clovers, woodruffe, and daisies, and the flowers natural to the soil can be planted or will often spring up by themselves. In spring the banks should be set thick with violets, primroses, and the lovely bronze, crimson, and purple polyanthuses. Periwinkle, daffodils, crocuses, and scarlet or yellow tulips will all flourish and blossom before the grass grows too high or hides their flowers. For later in the year taller plants, which can rise, as all summer wood-plants do, above the level of the grasses, must be set on the banks. Clumps of everlasting peas, masses of phloxes, hollyhocks, and, far later in the year, scarlet tritomas (red-hot pokers) look splendid among the deep greens of the summer grass and beneath the canopy of trees. For it must be remembered that the brookside garden is in nearly every case a shaded garden, beneath the tall trees natural to such places. All beautiful flowering shrubs and trees, such as the guelder-rose, the pink may, the hardy azaleas, and certain of the more beautiful rhododendrons will aid the background of the brook garden, and flourish naturally in its sheltered hollow. There is one "new" rhododendron, which the writer saw recently in such a situation, but of which he does not recollect the name, which has masses of wax-like, pale sulphur flowers, which are mirrored in a miniature pool set almost at its foot. This half-wild flower garden pertains mainly to the banks of the brook gully, and not to the banks of the brook itself. It is in the latter, by the waterside, that the special charm of these gardens should be found. It is the nature of such places to have a strip of level ground opposite to each of the curves of the stream. All the narcissi, or chalice-flowers, naturally love the banks of brooks -
On chaliced flowers that lies."