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Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur

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<SPAN name="Page_001" id="Page_001"></SPAN>[001]</div> <hr style="width: 65%;" /> <h2>CHAPTER I</h2> <h4>INTRODUCTORY</h4> <p><br />There are already many and excellent books about gardening; but the love of a garden, already so deeply implanted in the English heart, is so rapidly growing, that no excuse is needed for putting forth another.</p> <p>I lay no claim either to literary ability, or to botanical knowledge, or even to knowing the best practical methods of cultivation; but I have lived among outdoor flowers for many years, and have not spared myself in the way of actual labour, and have come to be on closely intimate and friendly terms with a great many growing things, and have acquired certain instincts which, though not clearly defined, are of the nature of useful knowledge.</p> <p>But the lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives. I rejoice when I see any one, and especially children, inquiring about flowers, and wanting gardens of their own, and carefully working <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_002" id="Page_002"></SPAN>[002]</span>in them. For the love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but always grows and grows to an enduring and ever-increasing source of happiness.</p> <p>If in the following chapters I have laid special stress upon gardening for beautiful effect, it is because it is the way of gardening that I love best, and understand most of, and that seems to me capable of giving the greatest amount of pleasure. I am strongly for treating garden and wooded ground in a pictorial way, mainly with large effects, and in the second place with lesser beautiful incidents, and for so arranging plants and trees and grassy spaces that they look happy and at home, and make no parade of conscious effort. I try for beauty and harmony everywhere, and especially for harmony of colour. A garden so treated gives the delightful feeling of repose, and refreshment, and purest enjoyment of beauty, that seems to my understanding to be the best fulfilment of its purpose; while to the diligent worker its happiness is like the offering of a constant hymn of praise. For I hold that the best purpose of a garden is to give delight and to give refreshment of mind, to soothe, to refine, and to lift up the heart in a spirit of praise and thankfulness. It is certain that those who practise gardening in the best ways find it to be so.</p> <p>But the scope of practical gardening covers a range of horticultural practice wide enough to give play to every variety of human taste. Some find their greatest pleasure in collecting as large a number as possible of <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_003" id="Page_003"></SPAN>[003]</span>all sorts of plants from all sources, others in collecting them themselves in their foreign homes, others in making rock-gardens, or ferneries, or peat-gardens, or bog-gardens, or gardens for conifers or for flowering shrubs, or special gardens of plants and trees with variegated or coloured leaves, or in the cultivation of some particular race or family of plants. Others may best like wide lawns with large trees, or wild gardening, or a quite formal garden, with trim hedge and walk, and terrace, and brilliant parterre, or a combination of several ways of gardening. And all are right and reasonable and enjoyable to their owners, and in some way or degree helpful to others.</p> <p>The way that seems to me most desirable is again different, and I have made an attempt to describe it in some of its aspects. But I have learned much, and am always learning, from other people's gardens, and the lesson I have learned most thoroughly is, never to say "I know"&mdash;there is so infinitely much to learn, and the conditions of different gardens vary so greatly, even when soil and situation appear to be alike and they are in the same district. Nature is such a subtle chemist that one never knows what she is about, or what surprises she may have in store for us.</p> <p>Often one sees in the gardening papers discussions about the treatment of some particular plant. One man writes to say it can only be done one way, another to say it can only be done quite some other <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_004" id="Page_004"></SPAN>[004]</span>way, and the discussion waxes hot and almost angry, and the puzzled reader, perhaps as yet young in gardening, cannot tell what to make of it. And yet the two writers are both able gardeners, and both absolutely trustworthy, only they should have said, "In my experience <i>in this place</i> such a plant can only be done in such a way." Even plants of the same family will not do equally well in the same garden. Every practical gardener knows this in the case of strawberries and potatoes; he has to find out which kinds will do in his garden; the experience of his friend in the next county is probably of no use whatever.</p> <p>I have learnt much from the little cottage gardens that help to make our English waysides the prettiest in the temperate world. One can hardly go into the smallest cottage garden without learning or observing something new. It may be some two plants growing beautifully together by some happy chance, or a pretty mixed tangle of creepers, or something that one always thought must have a south wall doing better on an east one. But eye and brain must be alert to receive the impression and studious to store it, to add to the hoard of experience. And it is important to train oneself to have a good flower-eye; to be able to see at a glance what flowers are good and which are unworthy, and why, and to keep an open mind about it; not to be swayed by the petty tyrannies of the "florist" or show judge; for, though some part of his judgment may be sound, he is himself a slave to rules, and must <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_005" id="Page_005"></SPAN>[005]</span>go by points which are defined arbitrarily and rigidly, and have reference mainly to the show-table, leaving out of account, as if unworthy of consideration, such matters as gardens and garden beauty, and human delight, and sunshine, and varying lights of morning and evening and noonday. But many, both nurserymen and private people, devote themselves to growing and improving the best classes of hardy flowers, and we can hardly offer them too much grateful praise, or do them too much honour. For what would our gardens be without the Roses, P´┐Żonies, and Gladiolus of France, and the Tulips and Hyacinths of Holland, to say nothing of the hosts of good things raised by our home growers, and of the enterprise of the great firms whose agents are always searching the world for garden treasures?</p> <p>Let no one be discouraged by the thought of how much there is to learn. Looking back upon nearly thirty years of gardening (the earlier part of it in groping ignorance with scant means of help), I can remember no part of it that was not full of pleasure and encouragement. For the first steps are steps into a delightful Unknown, the first successes are victories all the happier for being scarcely expected, and with the growing knowledge comes the widening outlook, and the comforting sense of an ever-increasing gain of critical appreciation. Each new step becomes a little surer, and each new grasp a little firmer, till, little by little, comes the power of intelligent combination, the <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_006" id="Page_006"></SPAN>[006]</span>nearest thing we can know to the mighty force of creation.</p> <p>And a garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all, it teaches entire trust. "Paul planteth and Apollos watereth, but God giveth the increase." The good gardener knows with absolute certainty that if he does his part, if he gives the labour, the love, and every aid that his knowledge of his craft, experience of the conditions of his place, and exercise of his personal wit can work together to suggest, that so surely as he does this diligently and faithfully, so surely will God give the increase. Then with the honestly-earned success comes the consciousness of encouragement to renewed effort, and, as it were, an echo of the gracious words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."</p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /><div class="pagenum">
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