This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
EVERY gardener must be an infidel - I am, and I glory in the fact - on the subject of infidelity. The proofs and the precepts of natural and revealed religion are brought so frequently and impressively before him, that he cannot believe in unbelief. He takes a seed, a bulb, a cutting (who made them 1); he places them in the soil which is most congenial (who made it?); the seed germinates, the bulb spindles, the cutting strikes; he tends and waters (but who sends the former and the latter rain?); and the flower comes forth in glory. Does he say, with the proud Assyrian, "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom'"? Does he not stand the rather, with a reverent wonder, to consider the Lilies (the Auratum, it may be, the glowing Amaryllid, or the lovely Eucharis, in robes pure and white as a martyr's), until the very soul within him rises heavenward, and Manus Tuce fecerunt is his psalm of praise 1
And the truths of Revelation, the histories and the prophecies of the Older Testament, the miracles and parables of the New, are taught as constantly and as clearly to the gardener in his daily life. In our gardens always "There is a book, who runs may read, Which heavenly truth imparts;" ever reminding us of that Eden wherein were all things pleasant to the eye and good for food; of Gethsemane, and of that garden where our crucified Lord was laid. What is our love of flowers, our calm happiness in our gardens, but a dim recollection of our first home in Paradise, and a yearning for the Land of Promise! Here in the wilderness we love to reclaim these green spots from the Brier and Thorn; to fence and to cleanse; to plant and sow; to sit at eventide, when work is done, every man under his Vine and under his Fig-tree, with thankfulness and hope.
With hope, because these our gardens - scenes though they be of brightest beauty to our eyes, and sources of our purest joys - do not satisfy, are not meant to satisfy, our heart's desire. Perishable as we ourselves, for the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, they are, moreover, like all our handiwork, deformed by fault and flaw. Did you ever meet a gardener, who, however fair his ground, was absolutely content and pleased? Did you never hear "O si angulus ille!" from the lord of many fields? Is there not always a tree to be felled or a bed to be turfed? Does not somebody's chimney, or somebody's ploughed field, persist in obtruding its ugliness? Is there not ever some grand mistake to be remedied next summer 1 Alas ! the florist never is, but always to be, blessed with a perfect garden; and to him, as to all mankind, perfect happiness is that "gay to-morrow of the mind, which never comes".
These imperfections and mistakes, of course, arise in our gardens mainly from our own ignorance or indolence; and as sterility, feebleness, and premature decay are caused not by tree, plant, weather, soil, but by wrong treatment, position, neglect; so all unsightly combinations, poverty or excess of objects brought together, rigidity, monotony, un-gracefulness, originate not from the materials at our disposal, but from the manner in which we dispose them. And in this matter of arrangement we are at the present day conspicuously weak. Never was the gardener so rich in resources. Our collectors, hazarding their lives, and losing them in their work of love, have gained us treasures from every clime. Sadly, like some cemetery tree, does the beautiful Douglas Pine remind us of him whose name it bears, who sent it to adorn our homes, and who, searching for fresh prizes, perished miserably, falling into a pit dug by the Sandwich Islanders for the capture of wild bulls, and gored to death by one of them. The lovely Lycaste speaks to us sorrowfully of George Ure Skinner; and the most striking of the Marantas (Veitchii), the velvety Begonia Pearcei, with its golden flowers, his exquisite Gymnostachium, and splendid Sanchezia, of Richard Pearce, - both of whom died in their harness.
These and others have amplified our shining stores, while our florists at home, by selection, culture, cross-breeding, and hybridising, have made admirable improvements and large additions in every department of their art. The gardener, nevertheless, with all this wealth and skill, fails signally, in my eyes, as to the laying out of his garden. He fails, because he has to a great extent abandoned the English or natural system for the Italian and Geometrical, because he must have a sensational garden in spring, summer, and winter. His ancestors - poor floral fogies! - looked upon their gardens as quiet resting-places, fair scenes of refreshment and of health; and wandering amid these "haunts of ancient peace," they loved the cool grot for contemplation made, or the sunny walk through the glossy evergreens, in which the throstle sang. They welcomed their flowers, as Nature sent them, in their seasons; they did not upbraid her, nor essay to wake her, when she slept her winter sleep; they forgave her deciduous trees. They followed her in all things as their teacher. They copied her lines, which were rarely straight, rarely angular; and her surfaces, which were rarely flat.
Said to me a house-painter, whom I watched and praised as he was cleverly graining one of my doors in imitation of oak, "Well, sir, I must say I do think myself, that I'm following up Natur close," and he ran his thumb-nail up a panel swiftly, as though he would catch her by the heel. So did they reproduce her graceful features. "I am now," wrote the Czarina to Voltaire in the year 1772, "wildly in love with the English system of gardening, its waving lines and gentle declivities;" and so was all the gardening world. Sixty years later, in my own childhood, there were in the garden, before me as I write, and now little more than one subdivided flower-bed, those bowers and meandering walks - many a pleasant nook, where the aged might rest, young men and maidens sigh their love, and happy children play. Ah, what delicious facilities for "I spy" and for "hide-and-seek," where now there is but scant concealment for the furtive hungry cat! What lookings into eyes, what approximations of lips, where now it would be bragian boldness to squeeze a body's hand ! I look through the window, and I see the place where, under drooping branches, we were kings and queens; where we entertained ambassadors with surreptitious food; where I was crowned with laurel (the only bit of reality) as the great poet of my day; and where, for brilliant service, I was knighted scores of times, on my return from India, with the handle of our garden-rake ! I see the place - it was hidden behind the Yew-trees then - where we were so often shipwrecked upon "Desert Island," and where my youngest sister would never be induced to have her face adequately grimed for the performance of man Friday ! I look - but I can see no more ! "A flood of thoughts comes gushing, and fills mine eyes with tears." The playmates of my youth - where are they? 0 doleful memories! 0 blissful hopes! 0 dreadful earthly darkness! 0 dazzling heavenly light ! The morning cometh, as also the night.