"How exquisitely sweet This rich display of flowers, -This airy wild of fragrance, So lovely to the eye, And to the sense so sweet!"
"And round about he taught sweet flowers to grow."
"Flowers! The cultivation of flowers," say some; "of what use ? It gives us neither meat, drink, nor clothing." Well, supposing it does not? Shall we not turn our thoughts to something else besides corn and potatoes, and the productions of the earth which only keep soul and body together? Is there no mind to feed and delight ? Shall we always be plodding ? Will it always be the inquiry, " What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed ?" Must care and business always engross the whole mind ? The earth, the seas, and skies, are full of the wonders of God's beautiful creation. Shall we close our eyes, stop our ears, and be dumb, when there is such an endless profusion around us, to delight, to cheer, and soothe us ? We need not compass sea and land for our gratification; the means for innocent and healthy relaxation are within the reach of every one. It lies around us; it is at our feet; "it may be found in the garden, where, in the beginning, everything pleasant to the sight "was congregated.
Flower-gardens were ever held in high estimation by persons of taste. Emperors and kings have been delighted with the. expansion of flowers; and a more exalted personage than the highest on earth called the attention of his followers to the beauty of flowers, when he said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Nature, in her gay attire, unfolds a vast variety which is pleasing to the human mind, and, consequently, has a tendency to tranquillize the agitated passions, and exhilarate the man, - nerve the imagination, and render all around him delightful. Who, that has been confined to the business of the day, toiling and laboring in the "sweat of his brow," does not feel invigorated and refreshed, as he takes his walk in the cool of the evening, with the happy family group about him, and marks the progress of his fruits and flowers ? Or who, that breathes the delicious fragrance of the morning flowers, glittering with dew, but can look up with greater confidence to Him who has strewed, with such liberal profusion, in every direction, the evidences of his goodness to the children of men ?
"The cultivation of flowers is an employment adapted to every grade, the high and the low, the rich and the poor; and especially to those who have retired from the busy scenes of active life. Man was never made to rust out in idleness. A degree of exercise is as necessary for the preservation of health, both of body and mind, as food. And what exercise is more fit for him, who is in the decline of life, than that of superintending a well-ordered garden? What more enlivens the sinking mind? What more invigorates the feeble frame? What is more conducive to a long life?
"The pleasure derived from a fine collection of flowers requires no comment, only that the more varied and perpetual the flowering, the greater is the gratification to the observer. The moral lesson that can be obtained from flowers also forms another fine characteristic in the flower-garden; for flowers not only please the eye and gratify the passing observer, but contain a beauty in their structure, in the most minute parts and coloring, that conveys a pleasing and natural lesson to the most accurate and intelligent observer, with everything to please and nothing to offend.
Who, that was blessed with parents that indulged themselves and children with a flower-garden, can forget the happy, innocent hours spent in its cultivation ? O ! who can forget those days, when, to announce a bud, or the coloring of a tulip, or the opening of a rose, or the perfection of a full-blown peony, was glory enough for one morning?
"Who can forget the vine planted by his mother's own hand when he was a little child ? Its tendrils now cling to the top-most branches of a tall tree in the front yard; and he never revisits the scene of his childhood, without gratifying some of the holiest emotions of his nature, by sitting under its shelter, and recalling the earliest and happiest associations of his life. And there, too, clinging about the columns of the porch, is the coral honeysuckle, shading the evening window with its rich and delicate clusters of flowers; and at every footstep along the border, are the many-hued flowers planted by a sister.
"It has been said by travellers that they could distinguish a pure-minded and more intelligent family, from the appearance of the house and grounds in this particular. The difference was striking, - the house of the more intelligent was surrounded with flowers - the windows displayed them - vines were twined with care and taste over the dwelling. Another presents a different spectacle. The weeds and briers are allowed to hold their dominion. In short, Solomon's picture of the garden of the sluggard is exactly verified.
"The cultivation and study of flowers appears more suited to females than to man. They resemble them in their fragility, beauty, and perishable nature. The Mimosa may be likened to a pure-minded and delicate woman, who shrinks even from the breath of contamination; and who, if assailed too rudely by the finger of scorn and reproach, will wither and die from the shock."
"A taste for trees, and plants, and flowers, is the love an enlightened mind and a tender heart pay to nature. It is a peculiar attribute of woman, exhibiting the gentleness and purity of her sex; and every husband should encourage it; for his wife and daughters will prove wiser, and happier, and better, by its cultivation. Who does not venerate and love some tree, or rose, or honeysuckle, planted, it may be, by the hand of some absent or departed mother, or sister, or brother ? and who would not protect them with a holy reverence, as mementoes of a hallowed love as well as contributors to the gratification of an elegant taste ? What can be more grateful to the merchant, or man of any professional business, than to recreate for a short time in a well-selected collection of flowers, neatly arranged and cultivated ? Every one either engages his attention by its fragrance, color, or its peculiar character; and many, as the rose, white lily, etc., embrace everything to attract our most ardent desires."
In reply to the question often asked, What is the use of flowers ? Cobbett asks another : What is the use of anything ? There are a variety of things pleasing to the eye of man, - some of them expensive and not within the reach of all; but flowers may, without much expense, be possessed by the humblest individual. Their cultivation may be made one source of happiness to the family. Let heads of families gather around them every source of innocent amusement and recreation for their children. They should endeavor to make their home attractive and lovely, in doors and out, - a paradise, if possible.