How Does Your Garden Grow?
I KNOW that I stand on debatable ground, on a crumbling wall with disintegrating foundations, when I mention the Garden of Eden.
Mr. Wells, with his drop of ooze, and terrific struggle through centuries of slime and muck up to the first slippery uncertain foothold of man, does not appeal to me. I prefer the short cut of the Hand of the Lord (I say it reverently), who recognized in the Beginning the need of the beauty and comfort of a garden for the soul of man.
The garden in which as a child I lived and moved and had my being was to me the veritable Garden of Eden. I was glad the angel with the flaming sword was removed from our front gate. I had a lurking fear of the serpent in certain shady spots, and I regretted the absence of Adam and Eve, but I hoped that the Lord would come again to walk in his Garden in the cool of the day. And then one day I knew better. Alas for the day when we know better!
I am writing no article of garden lore or instruction. He who runs —or walks for that matter — may read directions and instructions for formal and informal gardens. I aim only to tell a little about some gardens in an old New England village, remote from the highway, where the sweet smell of our posies is not mingled with gasolene.
Our Home Town occupies a place on the map, but we call it among ourselves Ville des Fleurs. We are bounded on the North by seed-catalogues, on the South by fertilizers, on the East by garden magazines, and on the West by an unsurpassed glow of love of gardens. We do not talk about the weather in our town — we talk about the gardens; and every woman in town is a member of the Flower Club. She who has the first snowdrop in the spring telephones the glad news and gives a Tea Party. Twice a year, in May and October, armed with trowel and pail, doughnuts and coffee, we go forth in search of plants for our wild gardens.
One of us has a rich relative whose garden is one of the show places of America, and who sends to her country cousin plants of the choicest and rarest peonies in the world. They are planted in a large semi-circle eight feet across, and when they are in bloom there cannot be many so beautiful sights in the country. Their owner gives a luncheon each year, and as we sit at little tables within the circle and around the outer edge, enjoying our hostess’s strawberries, our souls are filled with delight over the wonderful flowers. More than one of our club meetings has been devoted to the history and culture of the peony. Each of us gives a party of some kind at the height of the bloom of our particular pet flower, — for we are individualists in our gardens, — and we take turns in decorating the pulpit on Sunday. One of us cut two hundred and fifty canterbury bells for a recent Sunday, and they were not missed from the garden. Every Sunday afternoon someone carries the flowers of the day to a hospital in a neighboring town.
We specialize in flowers; ‘His own is beautiful to each.’ One of our gardens is all blue and yellow. Do you know it? The lovely blue scilla in the early spring, with yellow tulips, forget-menots and pale yellow polyanthus, blue and yellow lupin, anchusa, and yellow Chinese primrose, larkspur and yellow lilies, cornflowers and marigolds, yellow daisies and blue asters.
The French lady who spends her summers with us has a pink garden. Nothing but pink: pink tulips, lupine, peonies, sweet-william, mallow, rosy morn, Elizabeth Campbell phlox, and hollyhocks. Our youngest gardener grows nasturtiums. Not yet has she learned the joy of digging, and she claims that her flowers can safely be left to themselves. The whole place is a wild riot of reds, yellows, and orange.
There is a white garden in our town. It is a memorial, and for the one who tends it, the spirits of little children play among the lilies.
In the winter we study and read and tend our window gardens and plan for the coming summer. Not many of us can leave the cold of New England but we live in spirit in a land of perpetual summer, and sympathy is wanting for those who lament the winter.
Is there no serpent in our Garden of Eden? There are days when he and a long trail of descendants race triumphant through our gardens. There are days when mosquitoes bite, when cutworms cut, when borers bore, and all flesh is as grass; nevertheless there is a remedy in tabloid form for each invader.
I own a little book — it bears the date of 1843 — and it has a quaint dedication: —
May they gladden and brighten and bless your lot!