This section is from the "The New Student's Reference Work Volume 5: How And Why Stories" by Elinor Atkinson.
This is the story of a wild garden that was found near a public school on the edge of a big city. None of the children had the tiniest garden, and they were not allowed to pick flowers in the park, even to use in the school room for nature study. So this wild garden, where they could pick armsful of flowers, where they could pull plants up by the roots, where they could gather seed cases and cocoons, and watch insects at work, was a wonder and delight.
Even the teachers did not know it was a garden, at first. It was a vacant block of land two hundred feet square. All around it ran a new cement walk. The ground was two or three feet below the level of the street and would cost a good deal to fill in. Perhaps that was why there were no houses on it. The soil was very poor. From the walks the earth crumbled away in steep banks of gravel, sand and yellow clay. Water lay in sunken places, making frozen ponds for sliding in winter. There was a fallen tree-trunk and two or three rotting stumps of scrub oaks, around which mosses and low ferns grew. In the spring the ground was boggy, and scantily covered with ragged weeds and wire grass. Strips of blue grass turf below the walk, were dotted with the golden heads of the dandelion. In the wettest places a few clumps of blue flag lilies and pussy willows were found. Along one bank were brambles that, in June, blossomed the single pink flowers of the wild rose. And there were clover blossoms.
But that was all. When school closed in June the lot was covered with tall, coarse, ill-smelling weeds that gave no promise of flowers. But when school opened in September, the place was a jungle of purple and yellow, with swarms of winged visitors.
On the strip of green sod under the edge of the walks, the dandelions still showed bud and blossom and gauzy seed globe. But they did not take all the space. The grass was thick with the trefoil leaves and round buttons of white clover. And here and there was the glossy-leafed, pink-flowered spike of smart weed. Clambering up the bank grew a strong, rough-stemmed little vine with leaves like a wild strawberry. At every twisted whorl of leaves was a tiny, star-like flower, as yellow as a butter-cup. It was the cinquefoil. Cinquefoil means five-leafed, as trefoil means three, so the little vine really was a far away cousin of the strawberry. Among the cinquefoil were clumps of mint. Their long, hairy stems and fuzzy leaves were topped with frowzy heads of lavender-pink, fringed with silver and breathing spicy smells. In every corner, and in many a crack of the sloping bank, stout burdocks were rooted. The pinkish-purple-topped green burs, in heavy knots, leaned out over the walk to catch in the clothing of passersby.
Farther afield tall thistles lifted royal purple heads, crowned with plush. They had a soldier guard of sharp lances and spears set on stem and leaf and flower. But, unafraid, wild morning glory vines twined around their spiny columns and hung out delicate pink and red and white flower bells. The morning glories clambered up the dusty stalks, and bloomed among the small, pale, yellow flowers of the mulleins.
In that wild garden were four varieties of clover—the white, creeping clover of blue-grass lawns ; the pinkish purple-headed clover of farm meadows; the tall, shrub-like sweet clover, with tassel blossoms of white, and a blood-red clover, with pointed heads like pine cones. The crimson clover is a foreigner. Grown all over Europe, it is not often seen in America. In that wild garden it was a well-born emigrant among hardy and rough American weeds.
Except for the clovers, the smart weed, the morning glories, the white parasols of tansy, the mint and a few fiery spikes of the cardinal flower, the garden was a haze of yellow, spotted with purple. The long plumes of the golden-rod made a background for everything else. Against its feathery masses were set the dazzling yellow of the field sun flowers and black-eyed Susans. Much of the mustard had gone to seed. The tall plants were hung with tiny green pods, but there were still some clusters of yellow, cross-shaped flowers.