My wind has turned to bitter north, That was so soft a south before;
My sky, that shone so sunny bright, With foggy gloom is clouded o'er.
Arthur Hugh Clough.
My conscience would lead me to make an apology to my tree-nurslings for having called them stubborn and irresponsive, when they have in many instances given me so much satisfaction; but as I feel that it is necessary to be as honest about mistakes as about successes, in order to render these records truly valuable, I feel it my duty - though it is almost as bad as betraying a domestic secret - to admit that they have been a trial. And that people may not be led away into thinking a tree nursery any freer from failings than a child nursery, I must tell the painful as well as the charming: facts about them.
No one knows better than I how much some of the more satisfactory among them will do for one under kind treatment, but, all the same, I must reluctantly maintain that many of them are freakish and disappointing; not, perhaps, so much from their inherent wickedness, as from the baneful influences of the world outside, the flirtations with insects of which they are capable, their predilection for ornamenting themselves with bright colored fungus growths which check their development, a perverseness about living, even when given the very best advantages, only paralleled by those Chinese servants who go and kill themselves if their master speaks sharply to them; and, above all, a stubbornness about adapting themselves to new conditions as great as that of a trueborn Briton.
Your tree is the true conservative, and will insist upon its own way quite as unreasonably as a human being, even when you are sure you know what is better for it than it does itself. It is as hard to bring it to a new way of living as it is to bring about a constitutional amendment. If there is a spot where you do not want a tree to grow, notably a garden bed or your potato patch, there it will insist on coining up and making itself at home; but, take up this interloper and put it in a proper place, where you want it, and, ten to one, it will sulk and defy you.
One's favorites show in extreme youth a propensity to come in contact with cows' horns and the jackknives of mischievous boys, that is another proof of ill-regulated character. They let their top-buds perish in the most careless way, and put out two leaders instead of one before you know it; they grow unevenly, they make themselves untidy with absurd little leaves up and down their stems, with a vague idea of keeping the sun off their trunks. One has a constant struggle with evergreens to keep their lower limbs in condition; they always prefer to go barefooted Indeed, I call one Norway Spruce I know of Sock-less Jerry, on account of this very failing.
There is a crying instance of depravity in a moderate-sized White Ash on our lawn, which ought to be a stately tree by this time, for a neighbor tells us it has been growing there for forty years. Every spring it puts out a magnificent crop of new shoots, and we congratulate ourselves that at last it has really made up its mind to go ahead and reward us for all the digging around and high feeding we have given it; but in late June ominous yellow spots appear upon the leaves, great orange-colored excrescences disfigure the young shoots, and the first thing we know they are all shriveled and dying, and the ground underneath it is strewn with blackened leaves. Later it pulls itself together and gets out a feeble crop of young sprouts, just enough to enable it to hold its own from year to year, but which seem to add almost nothing to its girth, and very little to its height.
Now, can any one tell me what is the proper punishment for that?