THE character of professional gardeners seems to be changing. They have become more perfunctory, more stubborn, more opinionated, until now it is a really serious question with them of "the danger of a little knowledge." To find a man who combines sobriety and a good disposition with a fair knowledge of his business and a real liking for it, is a difficult matter. Where but one man is kept to care for vegetables, flowers and lawn, he is more than likely to have little interest beyond potatoes or corn, or to be good at raising small fruits, and to consider everything else he has to do as so much waste of time. When first married, one of our gardeners was a German who took no interest in flowers, and planted half the vegetable garden with "kohlrabi" and "korn salad." We had never heard of these delicacies before, and did not care for them. I remember also his telling me that one kind of flower was enough to raise anyway.
If a young man with an elementary knowledge of gardening can be found, who wants to learn, is strong, willing and intelligent, it is better to supply most of the brains yourself. You will find your own wishes more apt to be carried out than by the gardener who "knows it all," and seems to resent what he calls "interference" on the part of his employer.
I remember, when a child, seeing my father's gardener walking about in the early evening after his supper, smoking a meditative pipe, tying up Roses or spraying plants, and often setting out seedlings after sundown. He was never idle; he loved his work and attended to it. But now it is rare indeed to see a gardener, after hours, going about his work; autre temps autres moeurs.
Remember always that it is the overcoming of the difficulties in the gardener's way, the determination to succeed, that gives zest to the occupation. Did everything planted grow and flourish, gardening would be too tame. Rust and blight, cutworms, rose-beetles and weeds, afford the element of sport so attractive to us all. A lesson must be learned from every failure; with renewed patience persevere until success is reached.
I would make the strongest plea in favor of a garden to all those who are so fortunate as to possess any land at all. The relaxation from care and toil and the benefit to health are great, beyond belief, to those who may have to work with head or hands.. If you can snatch a few minutes in early morning or late afternoon, to spend among the plants, life takes on a new aspect, health is improved, care is dissipated, and you get nearer to Nature, as God intended.
If the rich and fashionable women of this country took more interest and spent more time in their gardens, and less in frivolity, fewer would suffer from nervous prostration, and the necessity for the multitude of sanitariums would be avoided.
Flower gardening is preeminently a woman's occupation and diversion. Nearly every great lady in England takes a personal interest in her gardens and conservatories, and knows all about the plants and flowers. Here, the majority of women having large places leave the direction of the flowers, as well as the vegetables and fruit, to the taste and discretion of the gardener, and thus miss a great and healthful pleasure.
As a rule, young people do not care for gardening. They lack the necessary patience and perseverance. But in the years of middle life, when one's sun is slowly setting and interest in the world and society relaxes, the garden, with its changing bloom, grows ever dearer.