I see advertised to-day a book on 'Trees and Shrubs,' part of the 'Country Life Library,' by Mr. Cook, editor of the 'Garden.' I am impatient to see this book, as it is one I have been waiting for for years. Up to now, there has been no really good one that I know of, except the rare old 'Arboretum' of Loudon. I hope this book may supply a very real want, for, as I have repeatedly said, the ignorance about the pruning of trees and shrubs is very great. It is one of the most important parts of good gardening, whether practised in the tiny square of ground at the back of a suburban villa containing only two or three shrubs, or in the largest pleasure grounds of the United Kingdom, and yet bad pruning does more harm than none at all.
While correcting my proofs this book has appeared, and I am sure will be a disappointment to no one; it supplies a great want, and no garden library can afford to be without it. The photographs are many of them beautiful. Photography seems to suit the reproducing of trees and shrubs as well as it seems to me to do badly for roses either growing or as cut blooms. The book is suited to gardens and woods of all sizes, and touches on all the varieties of methods and growths for which various plants are suitable. The word 'English' of course stands for the British Isles. Towards the end of the book there are admirable annotated lists, divided into columns under the following heads : - Name - Country or Origin and Natural Order - Colour and Season - General Remarks. Another list gives hardy trees and shrubs for beauty of foliage and growth. With a careful study of this work no one can go wrong or leave out of his planting any desirable or beautiful shrub. The tender shrubs that only flourish in the south or west have a chapter to themselves. In spite, however, of its great merit and general usefulness, the book can in no sense compare with J. C. Loudon's wonderful 'Arboretum' which is almost a unique example of labour and industry in garden literature. While engaged on this work, which took him years and caused him to die heavily in debt, Loudon was in the habit of visiting all the large places in England, and on one occasion wrote to the Duke of Wellington asking for leave to inspect his beeches. The duke answered very stiffly in the third person to Bloomfield, Bishop of London, forwarding a pair of breeches to London house for the Bishop's inspection, having mis-read Mr. Loudon's wish to see the beautiful beeches at Strathfieldsaye, as a request from the Bishop of London to see the breeches he had worn at Waterloo!
Even in the last ten years, the marvellous increase in the beauty of seaside gardens makes one realise the power of man over plant life. This ought to be a great encouragement to everybody in all parts of the world. Give plants more or less what they require, and you are sure to be amply repaid.
Crabbe, who lived in Suffolk, and whose botanical observations, as Anne Pratt said in a book I had as a child, 'had led him to mark the inferiority of the vegetable kingdom in the neighbourhood of the sea,' gives the following melancholy picture of the plants of a small town on the coast: -
Where thrift and lavender and lad's-love bloom, There fed, by food they love, to rankest size, Around the dwellings docks and wormwood rise. Here the strong mallow strikes her slimy root; Here the dull nightshade hangs her deadly fruit; On hills of dust, the henbane's faded green And pencill'd flower of sickly scent, is seen ; At the wall's base the fiery nettle springs, With fruit globose and fierce with poisoned stings; Above (the growth of many a year) is spread The yellow level of the stonecrop's bed ; In every chink delights the fern to grow, With glossy leaf, and tawny bloom below : These with our seaweeds, rolling up and down, Form the contracted flora of our town.
This year an old local book has lately been published, with notes by Lord Francis Hervey. It is called 'suffolk in the XVII. Century: the Breviary of Robert Bryce, 1618,' now published for the first time from a manuscript in the British Museum. One sentence in his agricultural descriptions naturally struck my eye. He says, 'As for the goat hee is a stranger with us, hee likes not our fat fertile soil, hee comes from our Western parts, where hee delights in the hungry feed amongst the sharp rockes, and steep mountains, he is very seldome with us unless some for raritie and pleasure doe entertaine them, or for phi-sick's several uses doe maintaine and breed them.'
I think perhaps few of the crowds of tourists who go to Suffolk in summer know the two excellent little old books descriptive of the East Coast, which Cassell & Co. have republished in their 'National Library' for the modest price of 3d. One is called 'Travels in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth,' by Paul Hentzner; the other is a 'Tour through the Eastern Counties of England,' 1722, by Daniel Defoe. Defoe describes how in those days the poor turkeys were driven to London by the road 'in droves from three hundred to a thousand.' I think their legs must have grown harder and their fat less in the process. Of Ipswich he says what might be said to-day, 'An airy, clean, and well-governed town, a very agreeable and improving company almost of every kind. A wonderful plenty of all manner of provisions, whether flesh or fish, and very good of the kind.' He mentions the decline in the shipping trade even in his day. He only casually notices Harwich, from which place he sent round his horses and took a boat up the river Orwell to Ipswich. He mentions that the late Dutch wars injured the coal trade. The modern grumble is that the harbour is silting up, that there is no money for dredging, and that the fish are killed by the sewage of Ipswich, and that the river is being choked by a luxuriant weed that grows in the sewage. The future man, who invents something that solves the sewage question, wet or dry, will indeed be a benefactor to human kind.