Happy art thou, whom God docs bless With the foil choke of thine own happiness; And happier yet, because thou'rt blest With prudence how to choose the best: In books and gardens thou hast placed aright (Things which thou well dost understand, And both dost make with thy laborious hand) Thy noble, innocent delight.
The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind, If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
IN spite of all the moral effects of the garden upon the philosopher within us, I am constrained to confess that it has its trials for the average temper, and that in that development of patience for which it works, there is a good deal of stumbling by the way, during the battle between the useful and the ornamental; for on any moderate-sized place, with only a man or two to do the necessary work, there is a constant conflict between what is of present importance, and what serves for future adornment.
This is one reason why we like to have as many things done in the autumn as can safely be accomplished at that time, because of all seasons of the year the spring is the one when everything comes at once, and your factotum is more than ever distracted by the various calls upon his time and attention.
I used to wonder why farmers were always behindhand with their work, and, while apparently idle part of their time, were driven to death for about two thirds of the year; but I have discovered that the weather is responsible for a good deal, first by being cold and perhaps wet in the spring, so that the ground cannot be tilled until late, and then suddenly sending everything ahead by a few unseasonable days of heat and sunshine. Then there is a scurry for the hitherto impracticable digging of the vegetable-garden, a headlong rush to get the seeds in; the grass, which always interferes at unseasonable moments, demands the lawn-mower, and will not wait a minute. The shrubs that you have been waiting to move until the weather should be mild enough to permit your superintending the operation (one can cope with a piercing east wind for this purpose, but not with a northwest snowstorm) shake off their icicles, and all at once begin to leave out; in a day or two it will be too late. If there is a tree that you have intended to plant at this season the complications are increased, for setting a tree properly is a work of time, and delay here is dangerous.
The perennials need overhauling and replanting in the flower-garden; the weeds are rushing ahead and choking everything; you want your man to attend to them when he has to be putting in peas and potatoes for your future sustenance.
The whole spring is one breathless moment, through which you are rushed helter-skelter, leaving half your needs unattended to; and while you are still endeavoring to catch up with the work, all of a sudden our headlong summer bounces into haying time, and the hapless beautifier is worse off than ever.
Of what account are trees and shrubs and flowers, or even the ever-clamoring lawn itself, when the fields are to be shorn, and possible thunderstorms lurk low along the horizon? This is the weeds' moment, and they avail themselves of it promptly. Up comes the Chickweed among the peas and corn; the flowergarden fairly bristles with Plantains and Mallows, and the paths are slippery with Purslane. On the lawn the Dandelions begin to intrude, and go to seed when they are only an inch high, lying down deceitfully under the lawn-mower, and poking up their white plumes the minute it has passed in the most imperturbable manner.