The history of the world was begun in a garden, and to judge by the temper and sentiment of the rising generation it is likely to end in one. Every year more and more people seek the country, not only in Summertime when the lanes and byways are aglow with flowers and merry with the songs of birds, but also in Winter when Nature has "wrapped the draperies of her couch about her and laid down to pleasant dreams." As our forefathers knew, we are beginning to learn that the lasting pleasures of life are not to be found in the teeming cities, but in the fields and woods within sound of the voice of Nature who is forever calling her children home. When an Englishman accumulates a small fortune he retires to the country to live before his youth is spent and his health broken, for he knows that in the open a man need never grow old; his great ambition in life is to leave the city behind him. What better friends can a man make for his declining years than the trees and flowers; what fairer heritage can he leave to his children than a garden? But if one persistently snubs Nature at forty, she may return the compliment at three-score-years-and-ten.
When a man buys a place in the country the first thing his wife thinks of is a garden, and it is generally the last thing that he makes. If he is chided for his lack of interest in the gentle art of horticulture, he will probably reply that he has become discouraged since strolling through the grounds of his rich neighbour who has laid out some of his surplus millions in glass houses, orangeries, vineries, velvet lawns, statues of Pan, fountains, sylvan lakes, nymphean groves and grots (with nymphs) and many other outward and visible signs of modern opulence. And discouragement would no doubt be natural unless he possessed modest tastes and a well-defined idea of the general fitness of things.
The following chapters were designed to point out to the owners of small and unostentatious places a way to plant their grounds and make their gardens with small expense; to use the best known indigenous trees and the shrubs and plants that have been identified for so long with American gardens that they have become American by adoption; and, to obtain with these, good and lasting effects that will be the means of ever-increasing enjoyment, yet will not entail the cares and worries that inevitably accompany elaborateness and display.
In the course of time the furniture of our forefathers went out of fashion and was superseded by many different styles more or less fantastic, and generally hideous, yet after a hundred years or more we find the chairs of Chippendale and the mirrors and tables of Hepplewhite just as beautiful as on the day they were made, and just as effective and dignified in a new house as in an old one, because they had merit, because brains and skill and time were given to their making.
So it is with the gardens, and with the shrubs and trees; those that possessed merit once possess it still, and those that were beautiful a hundred years ago are just as beautiful to-day, in fact more beautiful, because with the passing of Time they have become enhaloed by sentiment and tradition.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever; Its loveliness increases, it will never Pass into nothingness."
New styles and new fashions in flowers have been introduced and have had their day, yet the Roses and Lilacs of yesterday still possess their charms of colour and form and perfume, charms that a Burbank with all his magic has been unable to dissipate, and these our grandchildren will enjoy as much as their grandfathers enjoyed them.
If anyone should use the suggestions set forth in Common Sense Gardens and be dissatisfied with the results that are obtained, the defects may be easily remedied: call in a nurseryman or a landscape gardener and give him carte blanche to improve your grounds with pergolas, rustic benches, wire arches, rare trees and plants, and so forth; a great transformation may be worked in a short time. Of two evils the lesser should always be chosen, but in any event your wife and children should have a garden in which to work and play.
The illustrations in Common Sense Gardens are for the most part from photographs that I have taken from time to time in my own and other gardens. The figures of walls, arches, fences, gates and so forth, are reproductions of those found in old gardens, and were designed under my supervision for the book; the plan of planting is of my own garden. Acknowledgment is made to Country Life (English) for pictures of English gardens; and to House and Garden for the picture of an old garden at Camden, South Carolina. I desire also to mention the following books of reference and to acknowledge their influence: Old Time Gardens, Mrs. Earle; English Pleasure Gardens, Nichols; The Formal Garden in England, Bloom-field; Some English Gardens, George 8. Elgood and Gertrude Jekyl.
Cornelius V. V. Sewell. Eastover, Rye, New York, March, 1906.