Among the features of our gardens for which I am not responsible, is the grass walk alongside the Castle Wall, where it descends on one side, by the remains of the terraces of the Duke's hanging gardens, fifty feet into the original fosse, while on the other it breasts the ancient Saxon earthwork, which reduces its height to something under fifteen, so that the wall on our side is quite a low one, but happily of a breadth that allows of a growth of wild things—lilacs and veronicas and the like—in beautiful luxuriance, while the face is in itself a garden of crevices where the wallflowers last long enough to mix with the snapdragons and scores of modest hyssops and mosses and ferns that lurk in every cranny.

Was it beneath such a wall that Tennyson stood to wonder how he should fulfil the commission he had received from Good Words—or was it Once a Week?—for any sort of poem that would serve as an advertisement of magazine enterprise, and he wrote that gem to which Mr. Gilbert had referred?—

“Flower in the crannied wall,

I pluck you out of the crannies;

Hold you here, stem and all in my hand.

Little flower; but if I could understand

What you are, stem and all and all in all,

I should know what God and man is,”

I should like equal immortality to be conferred upon the parody which is of far greater merit than the original:—

'Terrier in my granny's hall,

I whistle you out of my granny's;

Hold you here, tail and all in my hand.

Little terrier; but if I could understand

What you are, tail and all and all in all,

I should know what black-and-tan is.”

I could understand the inspiration that should result in sermons from stones—such as the poet's forgetting that his mission was not that of the sermonising missionary, but of the singer of such creations of beauty as offer themselves to nestle to the heart of man—when walking round the gracious curve that the grass path makes till it is arrested by the break in the wall where the postern gate once hung, guarded by the sentinel whose feet must have paced this grass path until no blade of grass remained on it.

Early every summer the glory of the snapdragons and the wallflowers is overwhelmed for a time by the blossom of the pear-trees and the plums which spread themselves abroad and sprawl even over the top of the wall. By their aid the place is transformed for a whole month in a fruitful year. In 1917 it was as a terrific snowstorm had visited us. It was with us as with all our neighbours, a wonderful year for pears, apples, and plums. Pink and white and white and pink hid the world and all that appertained to it from our eyes, and when the blossoms were shed we were afraid to set a foot upon the grass path: it would have been a profanity to crush that delicate embroidery. It seemed as if Nature had flung down her copious mantle of fair white satin before our feet; but we bowed our heads conscious of our unworthiness and stood motionless in front of that exquisite carpeting.


And then day after day the lovely things of the wall that had been hidden asserted themselves, and a soft wind swept the path till all the green of the new grass path flowed away at our feet, and Nature seemed less virginal. Then came the babes—revealed by the fallen blossoms—plump little cherubic faces of apples, graver little papooses of the russet Indian tint, which were pears, and smaller shy things peeping out from among the side shoots, which we could hardly recognise as plums; rather a carcanet of chrysoprase they seemed, so delicately green in their early days, before each of them became like the ripe Oriental beauty, the nigra sed formoasa, of the Song of Solomon, and for the same reason: “Because the sun hath looked upon me,” she cried. When the sun had looked upon the fruit that clustered round the clefts in our wall, he was as one of the sons of God who had become aware for the first time of the fact that the daughters of men were fair; and the whole aspect of the world was changed.

Is there any part of a garden that is more beautiful than the orchard? At every season it is lovely. I cannot understand how it is that the place for fruitgrowing is in so many gardens kept away from what is called the ornamental part. I cannot understand how it has come about that flowering shrubs are welcomed and flowering apples discouraged in the most favoured situations. When a considerable number of the former have lost their blossoms, they are for the rest of the year as commonplace as is possible for a tree to be; but when the apple-blossom has gone, the houghs that were pink take on a new lease of beauty, and the mellow glory of the season of fruitage lasts for months. The berry of the gorse which is sometimes called a gooseberry, is banished like a Northumberland cow-pincher of the romantic period, beyond the border; but a well furnished gooseberry bush is as worthy of admiration as anything that grows in the best of the borders, whether the fruit is green or red. And then look at the fruit of the white currant if you give it a place where the sun can shine through it—clusters shining with the soft light of the Pleiades or the more diffuse Cassiopea; and the red currants—well, I suppose they are like clusters of rubies; but everything that is red is said to be like a ruby; why not talk of the red currant bush as a firmament that holds a thousand round fragments of a fractured Mars?

There was a time in England when a garden meant a place of fruit rather than flowers, but by some freak of fashion it was decreed that anything that appealed to the sense of taste was “not in good taste”—that was how the warrant for the banishment of so much beauty was worded—“not in good taste.” I think that the decree is so closely in harmony with the other pronouncements of the era of mauvaise honte—the era of affectations—when the “young lady” was languid and insipid—“of dwarf habit,” as the catalogues describe such a growth, and was never allowed to be a girl—when fainting was esteemed one of the highest accomplishments of the sex, and everything that was natural was pronounced gross—when the sampler, the sandal, and the simper wexe the outward and visible signs of an inward and affected femininity: visible? oh, no; the sandal was supposed to be invisible; if it once appeared even to the extent of a taper toe, and attention was called to its obtrusion, there was a little shriek of horror, and the “young lady” was looked at askance as demie-vierge. It was so much in keeping with the rest of the parcel to look on something that could be eaten as something too gross to be constantly in sight when growing naturally, that I think the banishment of the apple and the pear and the plum and the gooseberry to a distant part of the garden must be regarded as belonging to the same period. But now that the indelicacy of the super-delicacy of that era has passed—now that the shy sandal has given place to the well-developed calf above the “calf uppers” of utilitarian boots—now that a young man and a young woman (especially the young woman) discuss naturally the question of eugenics and marriage with that freedom which once was the sole prerogative of the prayerbook, may we not claim an enlargement of our borders to allow of the rehabilitation of the apple and the repatriation of the pear in a part of the garden where all can enjoy their decorative qualities and anticipate their gastronomic without reproach? Let us give the fruit its desserts and it will return the compliment.

The Saxon earthwork below the grass walk is given over to what is technically termed “the herbaceous border,” and over one thousand eight hundred square feet there should be such a succession of flowers growing just as they please, as should delight the heart of a democracy. The herbaceous border is the democratic section of a garden. The autocrat of the Dutch and the Formal gardens is not allowed to carry out any of his foul designs of clipping or curtailing the freedom of Flora in this province. There should be no reminiscences of the tyrant stake which in far-distant days of autocracy was a barrier to the freedom of growth, nor should the aristocracy of the hot-house or even the cool greenhouse obtrude its educated bloom among the lovers of liberty. They must be allowed to do as they damplease, which is a good step beyond the ordinary doing as they please. The government of the herbaceous border is one whose aim is the glorification of the Mass as opposed to the Individual.

It is not at all a bad principle—for a garden—this principle which can best be carried out by the unprincipled. English democracy includes princes and principles: but there is a species which will have nothing to do with principles because they reckon them corrupted by the first syllable, and hold that the aristocrat is like Hamlet's stepfather, whose offence was “rank and smells to heaven.” I have noticed, however, in the growth of my democratic border that there are invariably a few pushing and precipitate individuals who insist on having their own way—it is contrary to the spirit of Freedom to check them—and the result is that the harmony of the whole ceases to exist. But there are some people who would prefer a Bolshevist wilderness to any garden.

I have had some experience of Herbaceous Borders of mankind....

The beauty of the border is to be found in the masses, we are told in the Guides to Gardening. We should not allow the blues to mix with the buffs, and the orange element should not assert its ascendancy over the green. But what is the use of laying down hard and fast rules here when the essence of the constitution of the system is No Rule. My experience leads me to believe that without a rule of life and a firm ruler, this portion of the garden will become in the course of time allied to the prairie or the wilderness, and the hue that will prevail to the destruction of any governing scheme of colour or colourable scheme of government will be Red.

Which things are an allegory, culled from a garden of herbs, which, as we have been told, will furnish a dinner preferable to one that has for its pièce de resistance the stalled ox, providing that it is partaken of under certain conditions rigidly defined.

We have never been able to bring our herbaceous border to the point of perfection which we are assured by some of those optimists who compile nurserymen's catalogues, it should reach. We have massed our colours and nailed them to the mast, so to speak—that is, we have not surrendered our colour schemes because we happen to fall short of victory; but still we must acknowledge that the whole border has never been the success that we hoped it would be. Perhaps we have been too exacting—expecting over much; or it may be that our standard was too Royal a one for the soil; but the facts remain and we have a sense of disappointment.

It seems to me that this very popular feature depends too greatly upon the character of the season to be truly successful as regards ensemble. Our border includes many subjects which have ideas of their own as regards the weather. A dry spring season may stunt (in its English sense) the growth of some dowers that occupy a considerable space, and are meant to play an important part in the design; whereas the same influence may develop a stunt (in the American sense) in a number of others, thereby bringing about a dislocation of the whole scheme, when some things will rush ahead and override their neighbours some that lasted in good condition up to the October of one year look shabby before the end of July the next. One season differs from another on vital points and the herbs differ in their growth had almost written their habit—in accordance with the differences of the season. We have had a fine show in one place and a shabby show next door; we have had a splendid iris season and a wretched peony season—bare patches beside luxuriant patches. The gailardias have broken out of bounds one summer, and when we left “ample verge and room enough” for them the next, they turned sulky, and the result was a wide space of soil on which a score of those gamins of the garden, chickweed and dandelion, promptly began operations, backed up by those apaches of a civilised borderland, the ragged robin, and we had to be strenuous in our surveillance of the place, fearful that a riot might ruin all that we had taken pains to bring to perfection. So it has been season after season—one part quite beautiful, a second only middling, and a third utterly unresponsive. That is why we have taken to calling it the facetious border.

Our experience leads us to look on this facetious herbaceous border as the parson's daughter looks on the Sunday School—as a place for the development of all that is tricky in Nature, with here and there a bunch of clean collars and tidy trimmings—something worth carrying on over, but not to wax enthusiastic over. So we mean to carry on, and take Flora's “buffets and awards” “with equal thanks.” We shall endeavour to make our unruly tract in some measure tractable; and, after all, where is the joy of gardening apart from the trying? It was a great philosopher who affirmed at the close of a long life, that if he were starting his career anew and the choice were off not to wax enthusiastic over. So we mean to carry on, and take Flora's “buffets and awards” “with equal thanks.” We shall endeavour to make our unruly tract in some measure tractable; and, after all, where is the joy of gardening apart from the trying? It was a great philosopher who affirmed at the close of a long life, that if he were starting his career anew and the choice were offered to him between the Truth and the Pursuit of Truth, he would certainly choose the latter. That man had the true gardening spirit.

Any one who enters a garden without feeling that he is entering a big household of children, should stay outside and make a friend of the angel who was set at the gate of the first Paradise with a flaming sword, which I take it was a gladiolus—the gladiolus is the gladius of flowerland—to keep fools on the outside. The angel and the proper man will get on very well together at the garden gate, talking of things that are within the scope of the intelligence of angels and men Who think doormats represent Nature in that they are made of cocoa-nut fibre. We have long ago come to look on the garden as a region of living things—shouting children, riotous children, sulky children; children who are rebellious, perverse, impatient at restriction, bad-tempered, quarrelsome, but ever ready to “make it up,” and fling themselves into your arms and give you a chance of sharing with them the true joy of life which is theirs.

This is what a garden of flowers means to any one who enters it in a proper spirit of comradeship, and not in the attitude of a School Inspector. We go into the garden not to educate the flowers, but to be beloved by them—to make companions of them and, if they will allow us, to share some of the secrets they guard so jealously until they find some one whom they feel they can trust implicitly. A garden is like the object of Dryden's satire, “Not one, but all mankind's epitome,” and a knowledge of men that makes a man a sympathetic gardener. I think that Christ was as fond of gardens as God ever was. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”


There is the glorious charter of the garden, the truth of which none can dispute—there is the revelation of the spirit of the garden delivered to men by the wisest and the most sympathetic garden-lover that ever sought a Gethsemane for communion With the Father of all, in an hour of trial.

I wonder what stores of knowledge of plant-life existed among the wise Orientals long ago. Were they aware of all that we suppose has only been revealed to us—“discovered” by us within recent years? Did they know that there is no dividing line between the various elements of life—between man, who is the head of “the brute creation,” and the creatures of what the books of my young days styled “the Vegetable Kingdom”? Did they know that it is possible for a tree to have a deeper love for its mate than a man has for the wife whom he cherishes? I made the acquaintance some years ago of an Eastern tree which was brought away from his family in the forest and, though placed in congenial sod, remained, for years making no advance in growth—living, but nothing more—until one day a thoughtful man who had spent years studying plants of the East, brought a female companion to that tree, and had the satisfaction of seeing “him” assume a growth which was maintained year by year alongside “her,” until they were both shown to me rejoicing together, the one vieing, with the other in luxuriance of foliage and fruit. Every one who has grown apples or plums has had the same experience. We all know now of the courtship and the love and the marriage of things in “the Vegetable Kingdom,” and we know that there is no difference in the process of that love which means life in “the Animal Kingdom” and “the Vegetable Kingdom.” In some directions their “human” feelings and emotions and passions have been made plain to us; how much more we shall learn it is impossible to tell; but we know enough to save us from the error of fancying that they have a different existence from ours, and every day that one spends in a garden makes us ready to echo Shelley's lyrical shout of “Beloved Brotherhood!”

That is what 1 feel when I am made the victim of some of the pranks of the gay creatures of the herbaceous border, who amuse themselves at our expense, refusing to be bound down to our restrictions, to travel the way we think good plants should go, and declining to be guided by an intelligence which they know to be inferior to their own. The story of the wilful gourd which would insist on crossing a garden path in the direction it knew to be the right one, though a human intelligence tried to make it go in another, was told by an astonished naturalist in the pages of Country Life a short time ago. I hope it was widely read. The knowledge that such things can be will give many thousand readers access to a held of study and of that legitimate speculation which is the result of study and observation. It will ever tend to mitigate the disappointment some of us may be inclined to harbour when we witness our floral failures, though it is questionable if the recognition of the fact that our failures are due to our own stupid bungling, will diminish the store of that self-conceit which long ago induced us to think of ourselves as the sole raison d'être of all Creation.

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