Fables were not more,
Bright, nor loved of yore;
Yet they grew not, like the flowers, by every old pathway.
A false statement.
WHILE we and our neighbors are doing our best to stock our grounds with ornamental shrubs and blossoms, it is discouraging to be told by some of our periodicals, which are probably edited by gentlemen who live chiefly in towns, that Americans do not love flowers, because they are used among the rich and fashionable in reckless profusion, for display rather than enjoyment. It is also claimed that we are not a flower-loving people, because we accept botanical appellations for our indigenous plants, instead of giving them simple, homely names like the charming ones with which familiar flowers have been christened in older countries.
To this may be answered, that what ostentatious dwellers in towns are guilty of is by no means to be accepted as a national trait. The place to study the characteristics of a people is not among the very rich, but among those in moderate circumstances, who make up the bulk of the inhabitants; those who occupy its longer settled regions, and best represent its individual and continuous modes of thought. And when I see how little these idle talkers know about what country people feel and think, I wish that our urban critics could walk though this ancient town, and be introduced to its flower lovers, and get a glimpse of its interesting gardens, before they make up their minds so positively about the tendencies of our people. Here can be found the American race at its best, unadulterated by foreign admixture, or perverted from its instincts by the pressure of conventions; a people that has lived on the soil for two hundred and fifty years, and has had time to develop its characteristics, - a much better test to judge by than the floating population of newer towns farther west.
Whoever has driven through New England or the older middle States, cannot doubt that there, at least, the people truly love their gardens, and the house plants with which their windows, in winter, are stocked. Even the humblest dwelling has its row of flower pots, or tin cans, well filled with slips of Geranium, or other bright flowers; and the hours spent over their gardens by gentlewomen who cannot afford a gardener, are the best proof that the affection they have for them is a real and ardent one. I have known many a house mother, burdened with domestic cares, to rise before day to snatch an hour for weeding or watering her little border, that its fragrant contents might be of avail for a friendly gift, or an adornment for her own table. It is the rarest thing, in a New England village, to enter a room in summer and find no flowers disposed about it; and in the winter the eager question, "How are your plants prospering?" often comes before the conventional inquiries after the health of the members of the household. New varieties are discussed and exchanged; there are rare Chrysanthemums to talk about in autumn, and choice Tulips and Hyacinths to be complimented in the spring, and each one knows what her neighbor's garden is most famous for, and who is the most successful in her general management of her pets.