I saw a Suffolk garden this September where I learnt more in an hour than one would do in most places in a week. It was a beautiful, stately, flat garden and on a very large scale, with tall trees and broad expanses of lawn, which, in spite of my opinion stated before, and which angered so many of my readers (about overdoing grass in small places), I do immensely admire when sufficiently spacious and with spreading timber feathering to the ground. I saw in this garden the finest tubs of Hydrangeas I have ever seen anywhere. They were much raised above the ground, on a half-tub reversed or on bricks, so that the plants, which had been left alone for many years, fell all round, covering the tubs almost entirely. The tubs were painted white, and the gardener told me that instead of putting them into any house or shed in winter he put them under very thick shrubs. In his case he was fortunate to have an Ilex grove. Nothing was cut off the Hydrangeas but the faded flowers. By this means they get the damp and cold which only strengthen them in their resting state. In the spring he cuts out the dead wood, mulches and copiously waters them when they begin to grow, and the result was certainly most satisfactory. Hydrangeas strike very easily in spring; and small young plants, especially if white or blue - which the pink ones will often turn to if planted in peat - make useful small decorative plants in a greenhouse or for late flowering. The tubs of Cape Agapanthus were less fine in foliage than mine are; but they had spike upon spike of bloom, which is really what one wants. He treated these in the same way as before described for Hydrangeas, leaving them out all the winter. Mine were kept in a cool greenhouse, and looked perfectly healthy, but had hardly any flowers at all this year. It's the old story. Everything from the Cape stands many kinds of treatment, but must have a long period of rest in order to flower well. Under a tall wall facing west in this Suffolk garden was a glorious border of many of the hardiest Bamboos, with a few strong-growing herbaceous plants in between and towards the front. The soil, in spite of the dryness of the year, was moist and very heavy, and the gardener told me he never dug up the border or touched it except to thin out and dig a big wedge out of the herbaceous plants with his spade in winter, filling up the hole with strong manure well stamped in. This, where size of clumps and filling up of large spaces are wanted, is quite an admirable plan. No re-planting is either necessary or desirable. In a small garden and light soil, where refinement and specimen plants are desired, re-planting and dividing, as well as thinning out, certainly seem to me to give finer blooms. On the top of a low wall dividing this garden from another portion of it were some flower-boxes well filled with trailing and half-hardy plants, brilliant in colour and easy to water and attend to; and the effect was very good, and might be adopted on those dreary little walls that sometimes divide small villa gardens from their neighbours. The evaporation from painted wood is very much less than from flower-pots, and there is no fear of their being thrown over by a high wind.
Going about, I observe that - next to pruning and cutting back - there is nothing people are so ignorant about as watering, especially in dry weather. The ordinary non-gardening mind seems to think that if a thing looks blighted or faded or drooping, it is 'below par,' and that water acts as the required tonic; whereas it is often that the dry weather has only hastened the period of rest, and when that is the case nothing is so hopeless as watering anything that is not in full growth. Consequently in mixed borders, unless very carefully done, to a plant that is coming into bud, watering - and, above all, hosing - is best left alone; and much watering in the summer is very injurious to spring-flowering shrubs. At the same time copious soaking once or twice a week is necessary very often to keep newly planted things alive. Half-hardy planted-out things, annuals, and plants lately moved from the reserve garden, can safely be watered. In this Suffolk garden all watering was done at four or five in the morning, the gardeners leaving off work at two in the afternoon. This plan, I think, would often work very well both for masters and men during the long hot days, but gardeners seldom like it.
I indiscreetly asked one of my rather intimate friends whether he had read 'Pot-Pourri.' He said, rather hastily: 'No, I gave it to my cook.' This impressed me with the idea that a good number of people valued the first 'Pot-Pourri' a great deal more for its cooking receipts than for anything else. Consequently the book quickly leaves the library or the drawing-room for the kitchen, and I think it would be a distinct assistance to the cook if I keep these new receipts as much as possible together, though I allot them a place in each month, as the times and seasons have such a great influence on food and garden produce. In this book I reserve to myself the right to spell recipe 'receipt,' to which some of my friends objected before. I was taught that recipe meant a prescription, and it always seems to me a slight affectation when I see it in a cookery book. I believe 'receipt' to be quite as old and good a word used in this sense. In an old cookery book of mine which was written by a lady and published in 1770 the word is spelt 'receipt.'
I take a great interest in cooks, and am always most anxious to help them, having agreed from my youth upwards with Owen Meredith's delicious lines in 'Lucile':
We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilised man cannot live without cooks.
He may live without books - what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope - what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love - what is passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live without dining?
There have been some complaints about the cooking receipts not being exact enough. I had tried them all myself, and with success, with several cooks, but I do not deny they were intended for those who understood cooking sufficiently to refer to more detailed books when they felt themselves to be ignorant. I shall continue to refer to 'Dainty Dishes' (by Lady Harriet St. Clair) as I did before, and without it my receipts are incomplete. Cooks differ very much in how they follow receipts. Some try to do it literally, but without judgment as regards increasing or decreasing quantities according to the number for whom they have to cook. Other cooks accept a receipt with the distinct conviction that their own way is far the best, and naturally then the new receipt does not turn out very satisfactorily. A good many cooks carry out a receipt very well the first time, and then think they know it by heart, and in a highhanded way never look at it again. All this is where the eye and the head of the mistress come in. Without showing it she must know the peculiarities of her own particular cook, and by gentle flattery lead her back into the right way. As my excuse for a certain vagueness in some of the receipts, I give them as they were given to me, for I did not by any means invent them all. Even when they are mine, I instruct the cook, but do not myself cook.
Some of my nieces scolded me for not putting the receipt for my bread sauce in my last book, saying they so seldom found it really good elsewhere. It is made in every English kitchen, small and big; and yet how very rarely is it excellent, as it ought to be, and with what horror is it viewed by foreigners!