This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The connexion between the exercise of industry and skill, and a certain measure of success, may be considered as a law which, although not without exceptions, is sufficiently regular to become a stimulus to exertion. It is to the operation of this law that floriculture owes its existence as an art and a science, and no pursuit more explicitly exhibits and confirms the great principle that God will reward human labour when rationally bestowed. This, then, is a result of the culture of flowers, that it displays the extent to which our Maker allows us to be fellow-workers with Him, and thus stamps a high value on industrious thoughtfulness.
It will be at once confessed that the productions of the Florist are, in the highest sense, utterly beyond human skill; so much so, that all the combined energies of mankind could not call into exist-tence, as a living organised structure, the most simple flower of the field. On the other hand, it is equally evident that many of the loveliest ornaments of the garden and the conservatory would have had no existence without human effort. The fixed type, indeed, of every flower exists in Nature, and the production of a new species is never for a moment contemplated by the youngest student of physical history; but the improvement of that type, and the bringing into high relief its latent excellences, is a work entrusted unto man, and one in which his assiduity has been eminently rewarded. Take, for instance, the Pelargonium, and inquire in what form it is found in an uncultivated state in its native home. Pluck one of its flowers as it expands in its habitat, and place it side by side with one taken from a new variety exhibited at Chiswick; and how great a difference is perceptible ! It requires almost a professed botanist to recognise the close relationship between the lanky and loose petals and the angularities of the one, and the firm texture, filled-up outline, and perfect roundness of the other.
To what, then, is the difference to be attributed? The one is the Pelargonium in its wild or natural condition, as it grows, like the Daisy, without the care and skill of man; the other is the same thing subjected to culture, and by a long course of experiments brought to its state of full development. Ten thousand years might have passed away, and the wild flower would still have been humble and comparatively unattractive: but man sees it, admires its features, and transplants it to his parterre; a change of soil somewhat alters its form, and constant cultivation yet further rewards the possessor, until, by hybridising, a perfection is attained which no dreamer even would once have imagined to be possible. This is only one example out of many, of the way in which the great Artificer allows His works to be moulded and improved by the hands of man; and in every case in which this change results from human labour and care, his agency is recognised and a reward is given him.
What delightful intelligence, what cheering lessons, are thus conveyed to the gardener, as he makes his flowers more beautiful, and his trees more prolific, by his own efforts, when co-operating with the laws to which their Maker has subjected them ! Let the humble workman remember this, as with spade in hand he digs the soil and casts in manure; let the gentleman and lady florists not forget it, as they yearly produce new varieties of their favourite flowers. God manifestly and eminently crowns their exertions with success, and proves that He is not for from us in our humble toils. A divine wisdom is thus poured into the ear of those who minister in the great temple of Nature; its accents are sweet and animating; its lessons are based on actual examples, and, when properly learned, will promote our happiness and increase our usefulness in all circumstances of life.
This subjection of vegetable life to the plastic hand of man will surely teach us that similar care bestowed in the culture of our own spirits will certainly be accompanied with improvement. " Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," is true mentally and morally, as well as physically; and the great principle is illustrated in floriculture, to the end that while it there delights us by its results, we may seek similar effects in the more important sphere of our own hearts. The divine hand which stops until the feebler one of His creatures is put to the work, and then condescendingly combines its own energies with those of its humble assistant, for the production of a more beautiful flower, which lasts but for a day, must surely be stretched forth with still greater alacrity when the adorning of an immortal spirit is the contemplated object. The same reasoning will hold in reference to our duties to our children, our countrymen, and the whole world. It is our duty to seek the advancement of others in all that we hold to be valuable to ourselves; and the lessons taught us in floriculture bear directly on our encouragement in every labour having for its object the intellectual and moral improvement of mankind.
In stating this to be one of the results of floral tastes, we are aware that it is not in every case that such important and pleasing lessons are recognised. Some minds are impervious to all calls to advancement, whether human or divine. But it must be remembered that natural laws work their destined ends even when they are not formally recognised or acknowledged. A beautiful summer morning, with its dew, its fragrance, its brilliancy, and its songsters, tells upon man's spirit, although he may not express his sensations in words, or even reason upon them in his own thoughts. So the tendency of floriculture is as we have described it to be; and our observations will only subserve a purpose already designed by the Almighty, if they lead our readers to secure a still larger measure of an effect which, in some degree, must work upon all who till the ground.