Apology for more gardening notes - Journey to Ireland - New English Art Club - A modern landscape recalling Claude at his best - Spring in the West of Ireland - Glorification of flat garden by old yuccas - Persian ranunculus - Want of thinning out and pruning a universal fault - An East Coast garden - Cultivation of Hydrangea paniculata - 'The Wild Geese ' - Gardening letter from German friend - Two good spring plants - A sundial - Floating bouquets - The May horticultural show.
The number of excellent gardening books that have been written of late almost makes one ashamed to write any-further on the subject. But perhaps the personal experience of any one individual has always a certain interest for amateurs who are really fond of gardening. Not long ago, when listening to a discussion about these gardening books and their superabundant number, I heard one man remark, with rather a sad voice, for he had great possessions : 'No one ever seems to write with a view to helping people who have large gardens and woods.' So it came into my mind that I might write a few notes about large places I have visited during the last two years, and that, perhaps, any information I had gleaned as to any individual plants which I particularly noticed as doing well either at home or abroad, might be of some service to those who had gardens of no matter what size.
I have divided my notes into months, because gardening hints are so much simplified by taking the diary form , and in this way I can condense two years' experiences into one. I have omitted the three winter months of November, December and January; for, though all months arc equally important at home, one gains but little knowledge in winter from seeing the gardens of others. One's own garden is never dull in the worst weather because one can always picture what will be, and one can always think over the errors of the past, as useful in gardening as in other things, so long as it is not merely regretting the past, but determining to do better. Maeterlinck says somewhere that 'we are so constituted that nothing takes us further or leads us higher than the leaps made by our own errors.' If this is true of life, it is doubly true of gardening, and winter is a time for planning and reflection.
This late spring saw me journeying to Ireland instead of Italy, as I did last year. The day I left home I breakfasted, as usual, at eight; I then gardened, wrote letters, finished up the usual home-leaving business, and gave orders. At twelve I dressed and caught the one o'clock train to London, ate my bread and fruit travelling-luncheon in the train, deposited my maid and luggage at my son's flat, went to see a friend, and then visited two picture galleries. On my return to the flat I wrote several notes, rested and read for an hour, and dined at eight, on cheese, bread, salad, and fruit. I travelled by night mail to Dublin with the usual interrupted sleep of that journey. At nine the next morning in the train I had some hot milk and bread and butter, though sorely tempted to fall to excellent slices of grilled fresh salmon, which everyone around me was enjoying. I arrived at my destination at 12.50, and after a cold bath and a change of clothes I felt as little tired as if I had been at home and spent the night in bed. I merely give these uninteresting details to prove that, after nine or ten years of diet, my health and strength are better, not worse, than those of most people of my age, or even many much younger. This in no spirit of self-glorification, but for the sake of the cause which, I maintain, makes people stronger and more able to work, not less so. That is the whole point.
Before I go on with my Irish visits I must say a few words about one of the galleries I mentioned above, as it was the first visit I had ever paid to an exhibition of the New English Art Club. It interested me much, as it seems to represent to the young artist of to-day the very same kind of rebound that the early pre-Raphaelite brotherhood did to those interested in the new art in my youth, or, on broader lines, what the eighteenth century was to the seventeenth.So far as I could judge by this one exhibition, the school is a revolt against what is generally called colour, a determination to follow some special set of tones, and to arrive at a certain harmony and charm by pitching all bright pure colour, especially green, out of the paint-box.Is realism to be ignored in favour of a kind of cinquecento Titianesque harmony of tones ? Very decorative, very charming, as far as it goes, but only very exceptionally true to nature, because one so seldom sees those warm, blue-green and rich brown-yellow foregrounds in nature, and then only for a short time after a damp sunset.Does it not lead to mannerism to follow one special set of tones to express all moods of Nature ? The critics say the tendency of this club is towards a 'soberer tonality '; certainly this struck me most forcibly, for there seemed hardly a picture in the room with any of what I should call real colour in it.This school apparently seems to think that colour is tone, gradation, and values, and so it can be, but only every now and then. Perhaps the very reserve of these pictures would make them pleasanter to live with than what some of us would think better pictures in a gayer key.My chief interest in them is to try to discover the tendency of this school and its meaning. Titian's landscapes were almost always conventional backgrounds to figures. If we aim at a continuity of tone in painting, are we not limiting far too much the endless diversity of nature ? Are we to go back to Claude and Poussin, or the Early English water -colourists? But the New English Art Club has ideas and objects that make one think, and I shall always now try to go and see their exhibitions. One picture, to my mind, illumined the whole collection; the subject exactly suited the school. It was by Mr. Roger Fry, and was called ' A Baroque Facade' - a quaint Italian palace, with figures on the top, all grey, standing up, mysterious and dark, against a most beautifully toned and graduated evening sky, streaked in all directions with delicate grey after-sunset clouds. The landscape stretched away to blue grey distance on the left, and there were indications of walled gardens, and orange-trees, perhaps, on the right. The picture caught just that moment before darkness comes, when one says, while gazing at nature, ' How beautiful!' knowing that in a moment it will be gone. I had just this feeling about the picture, yet knowing it would not fade. It is a long time since I have enjoyed a painted landscape so much, and it is certainly no reproach that, in a mysterious way, though in no sense an imitation, it recalled the most beautiful Claude I ever saw.