One can learn something from almost every garden, no matter how humble. In walking about a town or village, I often pass a simple door-yard slowly two or three times, and sometimes hang over a fence to see what is within. There may be plants which I do not know, or a specimen of some variety brought to a finer degree of perfection than I have ever been able to attain with the same flowers. A good gardener, like 8 great painter, or a fine musician, is always lenient with the failures and shortcomings of the beginner. Knowing too well his own trials and struggles, he can sympathize with and overlook the mistakes of others. It is well, therefore, never to look with a critical eye upon the weeds among another's flowers, lest you should some day become aware of those in your own garden.
A little pond read; for planting October ninth.
It is, also, always possible to find gardens far more beautiful and more elaborate than our own which we have worked over and dreamed about and which is dear to us, but we can admire and learn from the success of others, and still return with a contented heart to our own little corner of the earth.
My own garden lies in a long, rather narrow valley, bounded on either side by ranges of high hills, which we call "mountains." Through the center flows a stream, which still bears its mellifluous Indian name Wa-wayanda, because of its curving, winding course through the broad meadow lands, where mild-eyed cattle graze in the luxurious grass. Great trees line both its sides, and on every hand oaks, black walnuts, chestnuts, ash and maple trees are interspersed with dark cedars. Cultivated uplands join the thickly wooded hills, and the quiet beauty of the scene so wins upon us that when the valley beautiful lies spread out before our eyes upon returning from journeys across the sea, we give thanks that our lives have been cast in so lovely a spot.
At the upper end of the valley is a prosperous, busy town, with handsome country places, inn, golf club, and much of the environment of modern existence. In Summer, life goes merrily with the people there, who drive gaily about in all manner of equipages, clad in fair attire. This is all very attractive; but a spirit of greater charm surrounds a little hamlet some miles down the valley where it broadens so as to be no longer narrow. Here a few quaint houses straggle along the roadside, tall trees tower above their roofs, and gardens surround them, where great bushes of Box and clumps of grandmother's flowers are grown. Time has left the hamlet untouched. No noise, no hurry, no bustle disturb the atmosphere. Life goes gently there and peace seems to brood over it with folded wings.
Back from the street, surrounded by a shady lawn, is the tiny church with raftered ceiling where our family has worshipped for generations; a church where twenty people are a fair congregation; where each has from childhood known the older people, and seen the young men and women brought as babies to be christened; and where for many years the rector has been a dear old man with snowy hair, beloved by all, who also give him from their hearts the affectionate title "Father." He knows the hopes and fears, trials and joys of all his flock and makes their joys and sorrows his. The service over, the congregation waits to take his hand and to greet one another before parting for the week. Some walk to their nearby homes and others drive away for miles over the hills to their houses on distant farms.
Behind the church are sheds for the protection of the horses of those who drive. Frequently I drive myself in a low phaeton to the church, and my own mare, an animal of great intelligence whom no one else is allowed to use, understands perfectly when Sunday comes, and almost without guidance makes straight for the little village and the tiny church. She is a creature of superior and somewhat haughty manners, and not only domineers the other horses in the home stable, but fairly browbeats those with whom she comes in contact in the church sheds. They, faithful creatures, mow great fields of hay, plow, and draw heavy loads, and the light task of taking their families to church makes Sunday for them a day of rest. My petted animal hears their tales of the hard week's work, and recounts to them her life of ease, telling how her only labor is to take her mistress upon pleasure drives. But last Summer her pride met with a downfall and her haughty spirit was brought low. The weather being very warm, I bought her a hat, bound the holes cut for her ears with red and adorned it further with a gay red chou. She wore it proudly for a few days; then came Sunday. Out of the church shed she came that day with a sadly subdued air; seemed to have no spirit; hung her head, and returned home so dejectedly that I feared she might be ill. The next day the united strength of two men could not put on that hat. She had been laughed at and jeered at by her companions in the shed for her frivolity in taking to millinery, so that her pride was broken and she learned the lesson of meekness.
Vase of Dictamnus May twenty-fifth ,.
The South wind sweeps up our valley at all seasons, gently at times, - fanning us tenderly on warm Summer days, and giving us a soft zephyr on nights that without its cooling breath would be unbearable. At times, it deserts us for days, coquettishly allowing us to realize how much we rely upon it in its milder moods, and again, when vexed, it comes almost like a tornado, shrieking aloud in its wrath. The great trees sway and bend in its blasts, tall plants are laid low, and much damage is done by its rage; and because of this south wind, tall plants and young trees must be well staked. But much judgment is required in tying up the flowers; while due support must be given them, the strings should never cut the tender stalks, and a clump of tall-growing things must not be tightly tied around the middle to produce the effect of a slender-waisted young woman.
There can be no doubt upon the question of the gain in health and strength to those who live much in their gardens and do active work among growing things. A couple of hours spent in weeding or transplanting, or in tying up climbing Roses and vines, gives exercise to unused muscles, keeps one lithe and supple, and forbids the dreaded adipose tissue to put in an appearance.
Vase of Columbines May twenty-fifth.
For those who are "getting on," whatever private opinion may be as to that period, garden exercise is a sure preserver of youth. The arms are raised above the head, one bends from the waist, gets up and down on the knees, all of which is exercise which is not work but delightful play. It is wonderful, too, how large a part of your life the love of gardening can become/what an absorbing occupation, and what solace in time of sorrow. A friend who has had one garden for fifty years, met with a terrible grief not long ago, and after a few months she wrote me, "You will be glad to know that the Comforter comes to me more directly through my garden than through any other earthly source."
Once, in Rome, I was taken painfully ill after three busy weeks spent in seeing the wonders and glories of the city. Nothing gave me relief, I had no rest by day, no sleep by night. Even recalling to my mind the miracles of art recently seen could not divert me from the suffering, but thoughts of the far-away garden, its present state, the flowers then blooming, what should be planted in the coming Autumn, what new work should be undertaken in the Spring, served as an anodyne, and brought to mind some words written years ago in our house-book:
"When tides of life ran irk and stern, Think of the farm at Meadowburn."
A single blossom of white Japanese Iris July fourth.