Just outside, and dominating the quaint little village of Bourg St. Pierre - the last village upon the road to the Grand St. Bernard - stands the oldest of the gardens in the Swiss Alps: La Linnea. Founded in 1889 with M. Henry Correvon as director, it now affords shelter to some 3,000 different kinds of plants, of which some 2,000 appear to be perfectly happy and flourishing. Once again the Iceland Poppy has found for itself a congenial home - a home which it shares with the little Papaver alpina, of finer foliage and frailer blossom. But the garden has really no need to borrow the brilliance of these two Poppies - at all events, not at the end of July and beginning of August: for at that season its wealth is superabundant. Even along the shady paths which wind up about its northern side there is no lack of colour-interest; even here, in the shade, plants indigenous to the site, such as the rich madder-red Lilium Martagon, the warm-brown Gentian (G. purpurea) and its creamy relative, G. punctata, the rosy Adenostyles and the stately mauve Mulgedium, are mingling in more or less tended profusion with such strangers as the steel-blue Eryngium, the gleaming white Pyramidal Saxifrage, the rosy Rhododendron hirsutum and its American cousin, R. punctatum, of larger, clearer pink flowers. And when, after a time, the plateau at the summit of the garden is reached, we are met by an expanse of such varied, glowing colour as is indeed difficult to describe with any true degree of sufficiency. Although the plants are mainly grouped according to their countries, they are arranged with a keen eye to effect. The vivid orange Lilium croceum from the Simplon and the rich plum - coloured Verbascum phoeniceum are near neighbours of the lively-violet Campanula nobilis from Japan, of the brilliant orange Senecio Tyrolensis and of the fiery-sprayed Heuchera sanguinea from the Sierras of Mexico. Many kinds of lovely Columbines and Delphiniums are rubbing shoulders with the tall and decorative pale-yellow Scabious (Cephalaria), with the nobly-plumed Spiraea Aruncus, and with the deep brick-red Potentilla atrosanguinea from the Himalaya and the dwarf white Potentilla Clusiana from the Alps of Austria. Hosts of lovely Saxifrages and Androsaces, too, in infinite variety, are in neighbourly communion with a remarkably rich and varied collection of lovely Pinks. With these and many another bright and exquisite flower in abundance, what need for Papaver nudicaule, the Iceland Poppy, to lend its brilliance to the feast!
There are many things of beauty in this world about which we feel most eloquent when we remain dumb - things of beauty which we can sensibly appreciate more than we can explain; and it is among these things that we must place the mountain-flowers. Their fascination is so elusive a quantity that it quite defies adequate presentation by either pen or brush. What presentation we can make is of necessity in the manner of a mere 'prentice hand. Whether it be in the gardens or upon the wild mountain-side, the moment we set pen or brush to paper this elusiveness confronts us, and we are aware that we have sensed more than we can tell. Perhaps this is especially the case when we are gazing upon Alpines in all the attractiveness of freedom. Then, especially, is there a je-ne-sais-quoi of enchantment which sets us childishly fumbling upon our palette or among our parts of speech. We are filled with confused expression; adjectives are of small avail, and our brightest, deftest colour-blends are flat and lifeless.
How is it, by the way, that more attempts are not made in England to create Alpine pastures? Alpine rock-works we have in hundreds, but a stretch of meadow-land sown or planted with Alpine field-flowers seems as yet to be but rarely attempted. And yet, commencing with the bulbs and ending with the hay-flowers, what could be more interesting or seductive? Innumerable variety crammed into one small spot is not the secret of Nature's wild, unfettered loveliness.
A little way up the Valsorey, not far from the Sempervivum-decked roofs of Bourg St. Pierre, are some gentle, grassy slopes and long, low ridges of crumbling rock whose floral robe in July and August baffles description far more completely than anything to be seen in the gorgeous garden near by. Pinks, Campanulas, Phyteumas, Asters, Saxifrages, Arenarias and Veronicas are there growing in bewildering abundance, and yet with a grace and airy-lightness which is far more moving and far more difficult to translate than are the compact and studied masses in the garden. Though the beauty of this latter may well exhaust our fund of superlatives, these untamed slopes outside make an even higher, more elusive appeal. It is well to wander from the garden to these rocks and pastures, and mark how that 'the earned loaf eats the sweetest.' It is well to see how, in spite of all that Man may do to imitate and even to create, he cannot equal, much less rival, Nature. It is well to note, by contrast, the worth and quality of his 'creations': to see how his originality obliges him to imitate, and how wondrously original ofttimes are his imitations! It is well to note all this - to see how Nature obtains her gracious and triumphant effects, and how the exigencies of a garden (as we at present mostly understand a garden) oblige our best and loveliest endeavours to take but a back and distant seat. To those who have not seen these things side by side amid the grand and glorious setting of the Alps no wish of ours could be more friendly than that they may have speedy occasion to 'look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pool.'