In the river woods, brush and swamp lots, near by, we have found and marked for our own the mountain fringe with its feathery foliage and white flowers shaded with purple pink, that suggest both the bleeding heart of gardens and the woodland Dutchman's breeches. It grows in great strings fourteen or fifteen feet in length and seems as trainable as smilax or the asparagus vine. Here are also woody trailers of moonseed, with its minute white flowers in the axils of leaves that might pass at first glance for one of the many varieties of wild grapes; the hyacinth bean, with its deliciously fragrant chocolate flowers tinged with violet, that is so kind in covering the unsightly underbrush of damp places. And here, first, last, and always, come the wild grapes, showing so many types of leaf and fruit, from the early ripening summer grape of the high-climbing habit, having the most typical leaf and thin-skinned, purple berries, that have fathered so many cultivated varieties; the frost grape, with its coarsely-toothed, rather heart-shaped, pointed leaf and small black berries, that are uneatable until after frost (and rather horrid even then); to the riverside grape of the glossy leaf, fragrant blossoms and fruit.
One thing must be remembered concerning wild grapes: they should be planted, if in the open sunlight, where they will be conspicuous up to late summer only, as soon after this time the leaves begin to grow rusty, while those in moist and partly-shady places hold their own. I think this contrast was borne in upon me by watching a mass of grape-vines upon a tumble-down wall that we pass on our way to the river woods. In August the leaves began to brown and curl at the edges, while similar vines in the cool lane shade were still green and growing. So you see, Mrs. Evan, that, in addition to our other treasure-trove, we are prepared to start a free vinery as well, and as our lucky star seems to be both of morning and evening and hangs a long while in the sky, Meyer, Larry's successor, we find, has enough of a labourer's skill at post setting and a carpenter's eye and hand at making an angled arch (this isn't the right term, but you know what I mean), so that we have not had to pause in our improvements owing to Amos Opie's rheumatic illness.
Not that I think the old man very ill, and I believe he could get about more if he wished, for when I went down to see him this morning, he seemed to have something on his mind, and with but little urging he told me his dilemma. Both The Man from Everywhere and Maria Maxwell have made him good offers for his farm, The Man's being the first! Now he had fully determined to sell to The Man, when Maria's kindness during his illness not only turned him in her favour, but gave him an attachment for the place, so that now he doesn't really wish to sell at all I It is this mental perturbation, in his very slow nature, that is, I believe, keeping him an invalid!
What Maria wants of the farm neither Bart nor I can imagine. She has a little property, a few thousand dollars, enough probably to buy the farm and put it in livable repair, but this money we thought she was saving for the so-called rainy day (which is much more apt to be a very dry period) of spinsterhood I Of course she has some definite plan, but whether it is bees or boarders, jam or a kindergarten, we do not know, but we may be very sure that she is not jumping at random. Only I'm a little afraid, much as I should like her for a next-door neighbour, that, with her practical head, she would insist upon making hay of the lily meadow!
"Straying away again from the horticultural to the domestic things," I hear you say. Yes; but now that the days are shortening a bit, it seems natural to think more about people again. If I only knew whether Maria means to give up her teaching this winter, I would ask her to stay with us and begin to train the Infant's mind in the way it should think, for my head and hands will be full and my heart overflowing, I imagine. Ah! this happy, blessed summer! Yes, I know that you know, though I have never told you.
That's what it means to have real friends. But to the shrubs.
Will you do me one more favour before even the suspicion of frost touches my enthusiasm, that I may have everything in order in my Garden Boke against a planting season when Time may again hold his remorseless sway. This list of eighteen or more shrubs is made from those I know and like, with selections from that Aunt Lavinia sent me. Is it comprehensive, think you? Of course we cannot go into novelties in this direction, any more than we may with the roses.
There is the little pale pink, Daphne Mezereum, that flowers before its leaves come in April. I saw it at Aunt Lavinia's and Mrs. Marchant had a great circle of the bushes. Then Forsythias, with yellow flowers, the red and pink varieties of Japanese quince, double-flowering almond and plum, the white spireas (they all have strange new names in the catalogue), the earliest being what mother used to call bridal-wreath (prunifolia), with its long wands covered with double flowers, like tiny white daisies, the St. Peter's wreath (Van Houttei) with the clustered flowers like small white wild roses, two pink species, Billardii and Anthony Waterer, beautiful if gathered before the flowers open, as the colour fades quickly, and a little dwarf bush, Fortune's white spirea, that I have seen at the florist's. Next the old-fashioned purple lilac, that seems to hold its own against all newcomers for garden use, the white tree lilac, the fragrant white mock orange or syringa (Caranarius), the Japanese barberry of yellow flowers and coral berries, the three deutzias, two being the tall crenaia and scabra and the third the charming low-growing gracilis, the old-fashioned snowball or Guelder rose (viburnum opulus sterilis), the weigelias, rose-pink and white, the white summer-flowering hydrangea (paniculate grandiflora), and the brown-flowered, sweet-scented strawberry shrub (calycanthus floridus).
"Truly a small slice from the loaf the catalogues offer," you say. Yes; but you must remember that our wild nursery has a long chain to add to these.
In looking over the list of shrubs, it seems to me that the majority of them, like the early wild flowers, are white, but then it is almost as impossible to have too many white flowers as too many green leaves.
September 15. I was prevented from finishing this until to-day, when I have a new domestic event to relate. Maria, no longer a music mistress, has leased the Opal Farm, it seems, and will remain with me this winter pending the repairing of the house, which Amos Opie himself is to superintend. I wish I could fathom the ins and outs of the matter, which are not at present clear, but probably I shall know in time. Meanwhile, I have Maria for a winter companion, and a mystery to solve and puzzle about; is not this truly feminine bliss?