The last few days have been very cold, but I have some most beautiful branches of Almond in full flower in the house. They were picked, as I have explained, whilst in bud, and put to expand in the greenhouse. This method defies the frosts and wind, and greatly prolongs the time of enjoying the blossoms.
About this time last year I cut away another bed of Laurels, which we had not time to do in the autumn, and it has made a nice snug corner for some newly-bought flowering shrubs - Lilacs which I had not got, such as Dr. Lindley and Charles X., and some white ones; a double-flowering Cherry, which is such a beautiful thing (though I fear it will never do well here, as it likes a strong damp soil); a Cerasus, pseudo Cerasus, double crimson Peach, Hamamelis japonica (which has died), Eucryphia pinnatifolia, and the before-mentioned Amygdalus davidiana alba. I have a great many Spiraeas in the garden, but never till now the Spirća confusa, which forces very well, and is a lovely thing. I have put it for the present with these new shrubs. I find it a distinct advantage putting new things in one place, as then one sees how they do, and what spreads and flourishes, and what is only a dry stick and a label the following year. It is mysterious why some plants die. I bought two beautiful Tea-roses in pots which were planted outside and drawn through into the greenhouse - one, a Maréchal Niel; the other, Niphetos. Both flourished equally well through the summer. The next spring, without any apparent reason, the Maréchal Niel, having made its leaves, turned brown and died - very provoking, as in this way one loses a whole year's growth. I think anyone who grows forced Tea-roses for picking will find they do far better and look more satisfactory in water if floated in large glass bowls than if only their stalks are in water.
I received a letter to-day from the Engadine, describing a phase of modern luxury which reads strangely to those who live quietly in country corners. My friend writes from San Moritz, and thus describes an episode in a fancy-dress ball: 'In the cotillon they had an enormous silver sledge smothered in the most gorgeously lovely flowers - Imantophyllums, Lilium speciosum, Lilies of the Valley with stalks eight inches long, White Lilac, and Prunus. And all these looked as if they had just been freshly gathered; yet the whole thing came from a flower-shop at Frankfurt-on-the-Main. I must say I never saw anything prettier, and in the sledge sat a lovely downy young English beauty, scattering bunches of flowers about, as they dragged her round the room. The whole thing seemed beautiful Fairyland up here in this world of ice and snow.' I suppose it is no more luxury for those who can afford it than my humble little greenhouse, which also costs money; yet one cannot help feeling sorry that these beautiful hot-house flowers should have been dragged up there for the wasteful enjoyment of one evening.