THE aesthetic side of Nature has always appealed most strongly to woman. The shadows on the mountain side, the deep green coolness of the forest, the mighty trees and tropical-like foliage of the thickets, the murmur of the splashing brook, the golden lights in its still brown pools, and the clear blue lake, all fill her mind with dreams; troubles and cares flee away, and she is transported to the world of imagination.
Man, alas! looks upon the brook with its quiet pools as a sure place for trout. In the forest he hopes to meet a deer, perhaps a moose, possibly, if he be very brave, a bear. For him the thicket is but a covert for quail, pheasant, or partridge, and the blue lake a likely place for fish, or the wild duck. The primeval love of the chase survives as a passion in his heart. Chained perhaps to city and office and free for only a few weeks in the year, he plans all the long months to get away for these weeks into the wild, and to kill something, not only for the savage joy of killing, but that he may eat. Eating! how much of the tragedy and pleasure and anxiety of life surround the word! Tragedy for the unfortunates whose light is extinguished for lack of food, and of whose pangs those who only know enough of hunger to call it good appetite, can have no conception; and pleasure to the agreeable people who meet around a dainty, well-served table to share a well-cooked meal! Best of all, perhaps, the dinner or luncheon tete-a-tete, or with a party of congenial spirits whose talk can be the spice of life. With breakfast, luncheon and dinner coming as regularly as night follows day, how rarely do we think of the anxiety and the labor that have gone to their production.
The world is inhabited by bread winners toiling for a home and for food. It may be that the home is but a hovel and the food only the portion necessary to sustain life. Or the "home" may be town and country house, with villa by the sea and mountain camp. Yet the toiler is back of it all, working with head or with hands; and with all, the object is still the same, with a difference only in degree.
Idlers in the market place are comparatively few and are but ciphers in the world. The man whose fortune is inherited, who accepts his wealth as a trust, and feels that his money and his position bring obligation, to whose generosity and continued care we owe hospitals, trade schools, universities and other institutions, has really less freedom from care and less time absolutely his own than the craftsmen and laborers, whose daily toil alone provides their daily needs.
Was there ever a man whose life has been told in prose or song, whose days, for a time at least, were so gentle an idyl as those of Elijah by the brook Cherith, when, worn with the stress of life and with journeying to and fro in the earth, he came to dwell in the shade by a murmuring brook and was fed by the birds? With no care and no anxiety, he had time to rest and to commune with Nature. And when the water of the brook ran low and quietude began to pall and the ravens' diet grew tiresome, he was sent to the house of a widow, probably young, for her son whom he was able to restore to her from death was a child, and certainly comely. For are not all widows comely, and do not all men and most women admit, that for charm and magnetism and knowledge of the ways of mankind, other women compared to a widow are as "moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine"? Moreover, Elijah's widow had a taste for culinary matters, for her cakes were light and good and she had many ways of making them.
Borders filled with perennials and annuals June twenty-fifth.
Is there not a saying about the way to a man's heart? But are not many women often indifferent to what they eat? The table must be orderly and attractive and the cooking good, but for them food is rather a necessity only. Were it not for other members of the family many women would, I imagine, be quite content to live on simple things, milk and cream, fruit and nuts, with possibly some of those wonderful breakfast foods whose merits for health and eternal vigor are recounted in the advertising pages of every magazine and newspaper and stare at one from bill-boards, in trolley car and station.
Most men who care for gardening devote themselves rather to the utilitarian side of the craft. They are deeply interested and generally successful in producing the finest vegetables and fruits, while flowers come as a secondary consideration. May this not be due to an inherited trait of ancient date? Primitive man, having been obliged for centuries to provide the food for himself and those dependent upon him through the chase and the tillage of the soil, it may be that his descendants of to-day in moments of leisure still turn instinctively to Mother Earth for delicacies for their tables, and leave to women the aesthetic part of gardening.
A woman's heart in gardening is with her flowers and shrubs, and the raising of vegetables is often a propitiatory offering to the other members of the family, who might otherwise accuse her of too much attention to the merely ornamental and beautiful. But if she care at all for growing things, she will naturally do what she can to make the vegetable garden successful; she will see that as many varieties as possible are grown, and that if possible her table is supplied, throughout the season, with fruits and vegetables from her own garden. She will even compete with her neighbors for the first peas or corn. Who does not know the mortifying question, "Have you had peas from your garden yet?" The condition of mine when others have announced that "they had them last week" has often induced in me the secret thought that their "peas" must have been only "pods."
In taking women through my flower gardens I have never heard one ask about the vegetable garden, but I do not remember a single instance of showing the flowers to a man who failed to inquire with a strong note of interest about the vegetable garden.
Aside from the pleasure of raising your own vegetables, and their superiority in freshness and delicacy, it is certainly an economy, and if the work be done regularly the garden is easily kept in order.
All well-ordered houses are run systematically, certain work being done on certain days. The garden must be attended to with the same system. Every part of the work should have its special time and be carefully laid out. The men in a large garden thus know what is to be done each day; and if but one man be kept he will easily accomplish more with better results than if the work be done in his own pottering way. If the same routine be followed in a little garden cared for by the members of a family, each bed or border weeded on a particular day, vines and plants tied up, grass cut, edges trimmed with shears, and all the other necessary things done regularly, then the garden will be always in order, and weeds will have no chance to become rampant.
The impetus that gardening has lately received in this country has resulted in the greatest improvement to to™ and villages. But what makes more for general and most-to-be desired improvement and beauty is not the half dozen fine places in a town, but the many streets lined with pretty unpretentious houses, each with neat lawn and flower borders, a few shrubs, two or three good trees, and having in the rear a small vegetable garden, all cared for by the owner, with perhaps a man for a day now and then.
Vase of Penstemon Alba July fourth.
If the vegetable garden be gone over carefully once a week, every weed taken out by the roots, and the earth well stirred and loosened with the hoe or cultivator, the vegetables will thrive and the place always look neat. If the garden be good-sized, a cultivator, with its array of tools, will be found a great saving of labor; but if small, a rake, spade, hoe and trowel will answer every purpose.
Where the place is too small for a complete vegetable garden, a plot of ground twenty feet by thirty, if well fertilized and well cared for, will yield enough tomatoes, cauliflower, egg-plants, peppers, lettuce and parsley for a family of eight persons. On this plot there is room for four dozen cauliflowers, four dozen egg-plants, two dozen pepper plants, three dozen tomato plants, three crops of lettuce, and sufficient parsley.
But little time is required for the care of so small a plot if it be regularly attended to. The plants can be raised from seed sown the first of March in boxes in sunny windows, or in a small hot-bed, or they may be bought about the 18th or 20th of May, which is the time to set them out. Two of the seedsman's packets of each variety of seed, costing but five cents each (except the Cauliflower, which is ten cents), will raise more than sufficient plants.
I should like to see every little house with even a bit of ground about it, beautified with vines and shrubs and ferns planted closely about the foundations of the house, with flower borders along the fences and dividing lines, and with a little patch of vegetables in the rear.
A home is always more a home when the outside is cultivated and made beautiful.
Go out into the country, oh ye flat dwellers of the city, and make a home; have a few rods, if no more, of your own ground about you and till it, and tend it; the flowers you raise will be sweeter and more beautiful to you than any displayed in florists' windows, and no vegetables that can be bought will compare in flavor with those you will raise yourself. If every woman blessed with a place of her own would do what she could to interest her humbler neighbors, giving them seeds, plants and shrubs from her own garden, telling how they should be planted and cared for, and interesting the children in raising flowers and vegetables, the result would be not only a beautified community, but a bond of sympathy between people in all walks of life, with a softening and refinement of char-acterthat comes from the spread of the love of Nature.
Stalks of Hyacinth us Candicans.