Yet this luxurious superabundance of ornament never degenerated into vulgar profusion.Exquisite delicacy of sight and touch gave truth of accord to all the parts, and traces of brilliant execution not long ago revealed the same rare quality of light and happy touch which still enlivens the gracious courts of Ecouen.Until the hour of the Commune brought fire upon their walls, these two pavilionsstoodingrace scarcely impaired by time or restoration.The alterations which took place during the reign of Louis XIV. resulted in a complete refashioning at the hands of Le Veau and Dorbay of the centre portion, and the two wings completed by De l'Orme.But the two pavilions raised by Bullant suffered only the loss of the mansard roof, which was replaced by a more convenient attic, and the addition of some ill-calculated ornaments carved upon the shaftsof columns originally plain.A sun- and moon-dial, one such as those described in the treatise "De l'Horlogiographie," which has been affixed to a blank side-wall facing south, necessarily disappeared in contact with the extensions of the Louvre executed by Henry IV., but the rest remained even as Bullant had left it, the effect of the graceful Ionicorder prevented somewhat, indeed, but not destroyed by the neighbouring presence of the towering columns of Du Cerceau's additions.Now there remain only such rare fragments of columns and pilasters as might be gathered by the hand.' The fragments now exist only in this Valescure garden.
I happened to be in Parissoon afterMeissonier's death, and had the privilege of visiting his studio.His method of working from small clay models rather than from nature or memory explains much that is remarkable in the style of his pictures. But what makes me recall this visit now is that I saw there an exceedingly interesting sketch of the ruined Tuileries. It was an unusually large water-colour representing the Salle des Mar6chaux after the fire as seen from the Tuileries gardens, with Napoleon's battles still engraven on the cornice, bright blue sky above, and the car and horses on the top of the Arc du Carrousel appearing above a heap of ruins. Madame Meissonier has since given this valuable historical record to the Luxembourg.
At the end of about ten days I left my kind friends at Valescure and moved on to Cannes, where I had not been for many years. The whole place was changed beyond recognition; the old olives are being cut down as not profitable, and new buildings rise in all directions. The yellow-flowering acacia (Acacia dealbata) has sown itself everywhere. It began by being the pride of Cannes gardens, and is now much encouraged by the peasants for the exportation of its flowering branches for sale in northern cities. To me it is a beautiful thing in the hand, but singularly unbecoming to the colour of the landscape. Of all the new plant introductions since my childhood along the Mediterranean coast, the one that seems to me to have taken good hold, and to be most suitable both in growth and colouring, is the Australian eucalyptus. This in a kind of way may take the place of the disappearing olives. It is bluer in colour, and the growth is even more weirdly picturesque. I often wondered how several trees of it would look grouped together; for the present one only sees single standards, some of them very tall. The Eucalyptus Gunnii in my garden, which I mentioned in a former book, has continued to stand our winter climate, and flourishes only slightly protected by other shrubs.
I did not mention that I grew it originally from seed; many things adapt themselves better to a strange soil if grown from seed on the spot.
The orange gardens at Cannes have ceased to exist as they were in my day, when, being highly cultivated and manured, there grew beneath the trees carpets of Neapolitan violets, 'Violettes de Parme,' as they are called. Now everything is sacrificed to the imitation of English lawns, and in these are planted, very inappropriately, palms and bamboos, aloes and agaves, all dotted about, and producing a most unfortunate and ugly effect. From a gardener's point of view this is absolutely incorrect, for the grass requires much watering, whereas the poor aloes and agaves need a dry, stony soil in order to flourish and gain their beautiful blue bloom.
On the whole, the gardens that I saw at Cannes disappointed me dreadfully; but then I must confess it was a very backward year. Even the favourite of our English gardeners, the 'Old Glory,' or, as some put it, ' the Glory to die John,' was hardly in leaf.
As a happy instance of what the unlettered can make of a botanical name I have been told by a friend, who actually heard it, that as two old women were parting by a cottage-gate one said to the other, admiring her large laurustinus in full bloom, ' What a fine plant you have there !' 'Yes,' said the other,'and such a beautiful name as it's got!' The first one, looking a little astonished and ashamed of her ignorance, said, 'And what is it ?' 'Oh, don't you know ? It's called "The Lord sustine (sustain) us "!'
In gardens where tiny streams ran through them, quantities of the lovely Iris stylosa were in flower. But beyond this there was little to attract attention. Not nearly enough care is given in England to this beautiful winter flower.Very large clumps are required, and with room to spread, all buds come out well in water. The only violet I saw in cultivation was the large single kind with long stalks and little smell.
On March 18 a German friend came all the way from Frankfort to go with me to see Mr. Hanbury's garden at La Mortola. The morning dawned with heavy, driving clouds, and by eight o'clock it was raining in torrents. She sent to ask what I intended to do. My answer was the irritatingly priggish one (which I should never have dared send to a man) that I never allowed weather to interfere with my plans. So we started for Mentone by rail, and then, after driving for over an hour in ceaseless rain, we arrived late for luncheon. Our longed-for treat of seeing this wonderful garden had to be enjoyed under umbrellas and holding up dripping petticoats as we climbed up and down the steps, the whole garden being on the slope of a steep hill. In spite of these unfavourable conditions, it far outstripped in interest any I had seen, and gave wonderful life to the charming and instructive book I mentioned before, ' Riviera Notes,' which is dedicated to ' Commendatore Thomas Hanbury, of La Mortola, Italy.' I do not know if this book has been reprinted, but I sincerely hope so for the benefit of all who can avail themselves of the privilege, so kindly granted, of seeing Mr. Hanbury's rare botanical collection. Everything in it is arranged in the manner best suited to the growth of the individual plants, coming as they do from all parts of the world and willing to flourish on his sunny rockeries. The garden is full of beautiful memories of the old, uncultivated Italian podere, and at the base, between the garden and the sea, runs the original, narrow, paved road made by the Romans, it is said, in the year 13 B.C., and called Via Augusta. The ordinary Cannes visitor is apt to be disappointed, I am told, not to find this garden the usual effect of turf and spring-bedding.The field of anemones that was in bloom the day I was there is far more beautiful than any bed of flowers that one can imagine. Of course, they had originally been planted, but their growth and general effect of colour in the field grass gave the appearance of wildness. There is still in the centre of the garden a most stately avenue of Cupressus semper-virens, the pyramidal cypress. It forms a beautiful feature in the landscape, and the people of the place say it recalls a long-forgotten cemetery, as the name 'La Mor-tola' is supposed to mean 'a place of burial.' The cypress-trees are sharing the fate of the olives and are disappearing from the fields and gardens along this coast. They are claimed by the church as being trees of mourning, and the peasants believe them to be unlucky round their dwellings and appropriate only to burial-grounds. I am very sorry for this, as they are a feature associated with all that seemed most paintable in one's youth, with their tall dark spikes against sunset skies. We are always trying to grow them in England, where they don't flourish, or to imitate them with shrubs of much less beautiful growth, such as Cupressus macrocarpa and Irish yews.