SUNDIALS FOR THE GARDEN
In addition to the common pedestal sundial there are two other types. One is the Dutch, or armillary sphere, the other the wall sundial. The former is composed of three metal circles, joined to form a sphere, and a metal rod forming an axis through the centre. On the inside of one of the circles the hours are marked, and the shadow of the axial rod is cast upon these figures. Wall sundials are very attractive upon the wall of a house or garden; they are usually much larger than the pedestal ones and are often as much as two feet six inches square.
A sundial should always be placed in a quiet and restful part of the garden; it gives a greater sense of rest fulness and seems to remind one that though life has its worries time bears them away. Never make the fatal mistake of placing a sundial where it will be overcast by the shadow of a neighbouring tree or building. This may seem a needless warning but it is often done.
For some reason a sundial seems to fit in with abetter than any other form of statuary; the two features seem to be natural complements of each other, and a dial as the centre piece of such a garden seems always a happy thought.
Sundial pedestals are obtainable in cast or carved stone and in a great variety of designs, but apart from these, very charming ones can be constructed of old brick or similar material, leaving out a brick here and there and planting in the spaces rock and trailing plants such as Aubrietia and Limnanthes Douglasii—the latter grown from seed as an annual. For an old brick sundial a base three feet square and one brick deep, surmounted by a pedestal two feet six inches high and nine inches square gives a well-proportioned effective whole.
On a more formal sundial a small motto or stanza of suitable verse may often be inscribed, while often this is engraved upon the dial itself. Something of one’s own choice is most suitable, but here are one or two pertinent verses: “ Serene he stands among the flowers And only marks Life’s sunny hours J For him dark days do not exist, The brazen-faced old optimist.” “I have no sound, nor voice, yet by the light Of sunbeams touched, I tell the hours aright.” “I count no hours that are not bright.” “Time as he passes us, has a dove’s wing, Unsoiled and swift and of a silken sound.” The setting of a sundial is very important. This is best done early in the day, and, having seen that the top of the pedestal is perfectly flat and level—a spirit-level is essential—remove the three studs from the plate, place the latter upon the pedestal so that it shows the time correctly to within a few minutes, mark on the pedestal through the stud holes, and remove the dial. Next cut three holes in the pedestal where marked about twice as long as will be necessary to accommodate the studs so that the dial at the present has plenty of play round its centre. Into these holes run some thin neat cement and replace the dial with the studs. Now from an equation table ascertain the difference between solar and mean time, set the dial to show this true solar time, and allow the cement to set.
It may seem from this that one must wait for the sun to shine before setting the dial, but this is not essential, for a sundial may be set with the aid of a compass. Cut out the holes, fill with cement as before, and replace the dial with the compass upon it. The compass needle should not coincide with the north point upon the compass, but with the magnetic variation, which is ascertained by referring to any ordnance survey map. When the gnomon is pointing towards the north the dial is set.