'Seeing Gardens in the Spring'
NOTHING is seasonal any more except the seasons themselves. By December the shops are full of summer clothes and the fruit stores overstocked with strawberries. By August the shops are full of fur coats, and holly is such an amusing table decoration. You can ski in the Andes in the summer, and sail off Cat Quay in the winter. Enough money and energy will give you clothes, or food, or sports at any season. But not gardens. You and your garden have to play the calendar straight through in the most mediæval way Gardeners spend the cold months wrapped in a bright fantasy of how much bigger and better than last year’s crop this year’s will be — or tinkering something — or looking at books.
A random clutch of new garden books sits here on the desk. The one most calculated to give a gardener something to do at once is Sundials: How to Know, use and Make Them, by R. Newton Mayall and Margaret L. Mayall. The Mayalls are equipped to tell you, because he is a landscape gardener and she is a Harvard College Observatory researcher. The book is nice to look at and nice to read, with a history of dials and beautiful photographs, including one of the Broug dial, which a man I like very much has for fifteen covetous years wanted to reproduce. The technical directions for making and setting dials are specific, and the mathematics simple enough for anyone who can balance a checkbook. I personally shall need help on the figures, but am starting a wall dial to-morrow.
Also, a book to take a little time over is Hedges, Screens and it Windbreaks, by Donald Wyman. This is not for those who want to furbish up the rented grounds for a couple of years, — though, at that, Mr. Wyman points out that some nurserymen will set big established hedges for you, by the yard and at a price, — but here are scores of inspiring alternates to barberry and privet, vines to do the work of poplars, trees to focus your vista or to keep out your neighbors or your too-prevailing wind. Hardiness zones are carefully listed, and setting and pruning are made foolproof. Maybe amateurs would like to know more definitely how long it would take to get results, but Mr. Wyman is horticulturist at the Arnold Arboretum, where a year is as a minute gone, and landscape and nursery people will clasp him to their denim chests.
A man who would appreciate this long-time view is the author ofA Gardener’s Progress,Fred Stoker. Another doctor, this time an Englishman, turns to literature. The book amounts to thirty years of autobiography. Now and again Dr. Stoker apologizes for getting so far from his garden, but he need n’t. His patients, his wife and friends, the house agents and the gardeners, and the innkeeper in the Dolomites who knew where the orchids were, are all fun. There is infinite, leisurely, witty garden information. The line drawings by H. A. Thomerson are charming. The doctor, by the way, goes all out for bamboo hedges, and Mr. Wyman does n’t list them. Timidly, I introduce the two to each other. Well, so far no journalist on record has done an appendectomy, though the medical profession again tosses off a good book, and a good garden book to boot.
But the literary touch in informative books is a tricky thing, and Bees in the Garden and Honey in the Larder, by Mary Louise Coleman, reads, especially in the preface, like something hand-illuminated and framed to hang in the guestroom. There is honey in the author’s style as well as in her larder — recipes for honey soap, honey furniture polish, honey cocktails, and lots of honeyed philosophic asides. If you like that sort of thing, it’s all very sweet.
Harper and Brothers have added to their ‘Hobby’ books Gardening as a Hobby, by Allen W. Edminster. The book is addressed to amateurs, though happily not to morons, and is especially compact and intelligent, with clear, full listings and good cataloguing. A lot of useful ground is covered in a small book, even including such newfangled ideas as glass wool for winter mulch and the Boyce Thompson method of chemical propagation.
You may already have seen The Garden Dictionary, edited by Norman Taylor. This greenbound giant has been compiled, cross-indexed, cheeked, and edited so superbly that it amounts to a ‘must’ for a garden library. With so much included in the encyclopædia, perhaps it’s ungratefully captious to remark that soilless growth, for example, is not mentioned. Maybe it does n’t need to be. When all the present formulas are proved obsolete, the wealth of basic information in the Dictionary will still be accurate.
The Gardener’s Omnibus, gathered by E. I. Farrington, certainly beats out the Dictionary. Short essays on special subjects by hundreds of authorities are bound together by the author’s comment. (Incidentally, there are several pieces by the lady who once did a book on crossbreeding which seemed to have been written by Freud and Boccaccio in collaboration and is still standard reference.) Comparing the Dictionary and the Omnibus is invidious. They both have everything from kneeling mats to greenhouses. The only choice is to buy the two of them.
Well, good luck. Always cull your Heavenly Blue seeds and put soap under your fingernails.
Sundials: How to Know, Use and Make Them, by R. Newton Mayall and Margaret L. Mayall. Hale, Cushman & Flint, $2.00.
Hedges, Screens and Windbreaks,by Donald Wyman. Whittlesey House, $2.75.
A Gardener’s Progress, by Fred Stoker. Putnam, $5.00.
Bees in the Garden and Honey in the Larder,by Mary Louise Coleman. Doubleday, Doran, $1.75.
Gardening as a Hobby,by Allen W. Edminster. Harpers, $2.00.
The Garden Dictionary,edited by Norman Taylor. Houghton Mifflin, $7.50.
The Gardener’s Omnibus,edited by E. I. Farrington. Hale, Cushman & Flint, $3.75.