During my stay I was not able to see any of these houses, as I had wished, and only once did I stand in the town on the ever wonderful bridge where the Rhone, as blue as melted sapphires, tears through the arches. In spite of endless scientific investigations, no explanation has ever been arrived at to account for the wonderful colour of the Rhone water. A few miles below the town, as we all know, the Arve rushes down from the valley of Chamounix, muddy in tone and charged with solid matter, and it colours for miles the blue waters of the Rhone. At length the Arve gains the mastery, and the Rhone, once polluted, does not recover its purity before reaching the sea. So remarkable a freak of Nature, however often one has heard of it, strikes one afresh with its obvious allegory.
Instead of all the things I wished to see in Geneva, the one and only thing I did see was the new museum with its newly planted grounds, a short drive from the town, and called (goodness knows why) Ariana. The building is commodious and light, and well suited for its object. It is a pleasure to visit a museum with all the windows wide open; they are generally such airless, stuffy places. But one cannot help being severe on modern buildings on one's return from Italy. Local museums always have an interest, and one generally finds something one could have seen nowhere else. In this case it was a most instructive and comprehensive collection of old china, very well arranged, named, and dated. Several specimens and manufactories were quite new to me - which is not astonishing, as I know so little about china. A tea service with butterflies and beetles on a white ground, catalogued 'Nyon 1780 to 1800,' struck me as exceedingly pretty. Also some Charlottenburg of 1790 was rough in shape, but beautifully painted, clear and clean. The only really ugly china was that of about the middle of this century.
There were some curious old pictures, interesting rather chronologically and historically than from any artistic reason. A picture of the 'Roi de Rome,' at about twelve years old, stated to be by Gerard, was curious, and if authentic would be a joy to a Napoleonic collector. Otto Marcellis and Auger Meyer, two insect and leaf painters of the end of the last century, interested me, as their oil-paintings resembled a curious water-colour I have, on a black ground, done by the well-known flower painter, Mme. Mariani.
I spent two charming afternoons with the famous Alpine gardener, Monsieur H. Correvon. Though at this time of year bis garden near Geneva was almost a dry desert, yet it was full of interest to the true gardener. M. Correvon said that gardening, as we understand it, had made but small way on the continent of Europe, and that almost all of his clients were English. Such observations as I have been able to make quite confirm this assertion. A talk with him is alone well worth any trouble, and no garden-lover should fail to visit a man who has done so much to keep together and cultivate the mountain flora of Europe. I still hope I may go some spring on purpose to see his Alpine garden, which is high up on the edge of the snows of the great St. Bernard, a huge rockery cultivated under natural conditions. I cannot imagine anything more interesting to plant-lovers. M. Correvon is the author of many charming little books on Alpine and herbaceous flowers - 'Fleurs Coloriées de Poche dans les Montagnes de la Suisse,' 'Les Orchidées Rustiques' (very enlightening to the ignorant on the numbers of these plants), and 'Le Jardin de l'Herboriste,' carrying on to our day the theory of the health-giving virtues of medicinal plants, and often quoting l'Abbé Kneipp. M. Correvon is a poet too, and can express as well as feel, which is not given to all of us. This is what he says on Linnæus's humble flower:
Sur les flancs de nos monts il est une fleurette
Au suave parfum Qui fuit l'éclat du jour, dérobant sa clochette
Aux yeux de l'importun.
Sa patrie est au loin, sous un ciel plus sévère,
Près des glaces du Nord, Et nos torrents ont vu la charmante étrangère
Croître aussi sur leur bord.
Ses jolis rameaux verts s'étalent sur la mousse
De nos vallons alpins, Formant, près des vieux troncs sous lesquels elle pousse
Le plus beau des jardins.
Il semble qu'un reflet d'aurore boréale,
A survivre obstiné, S'attarde et se mélange à la teinte d'opale
De la fleur de Linné.
I have tried in many places for years to grow this plant; it does not die exactly, but it pines and looks sad, and has never once flowered with me.
In some gardens round Geneva I saw several fine specimens of Hemerocallis fulva. The kind sold by nurserymen generally is the one figured in the 'English Flower Garden,' and slightly double. This probably makes them rather shy flowerers, and in England they are usually seen in mixed flower borders. The flowers of those I saw in Switzerland were quite single, probably a strong-growing type. They were planted in small, rather sunk beds in gravel or grass, in quite full sun, and copiously watered. They were one mass of flower in July, and really most effective, handsome plants - quite as effective as the Cape Agapanthus, so much commoner with us. They would look showy on lawns, and would, I think, do well in tubs, if they got sun and water enough.
The lovely yellow Day-lily, which flowers earlier, has done well with me in full sun, never moved at all, but mulched and watered in dry weather at the flowering-time.
There are several so-called new varieties of Hemerocallis, and all seem worth growing when they can be made really to succeed; but though apparently coarsegrowing plants they must be fed, and in a shrubbery in this soil they would hardly make healthy leaves.
The shrubberies round about the villas in the neighbourhood of Geneva were quite as badly pruned - often all on one side, and as much choked up - as ours in England, or more so. All that the inhabitants seem to care for is what makes dense shade, which of course they need more than we do. A large Privet, called Ligustrum sinense, was flowering very well, and is effective and worth growing in villa gardens, in spite of its rather disagreeable smell. It is a good flowerer in July, a rare quality among shrubs.