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I can't get rid of the slugs around my yuccas.'
"I should never have a care in the world," she scorned me in turn, "if I waited until I smeared my thoughts with snails."
So there seem to be two ways of reckoning "one's few poor gratitudes."
April 4. The first rose, the common "pink daily." If it waited for its prettier companions it would not be noticed at all, so it triumphantly waves the first blossom. My dogwood trees are blooming rather scantily, so I went around to enjoy Louise's, which are indescribably exquisite. She planted her's wisely, because one can look through them into greenness beyond, while back of mine, a fence destroys all illusion of the woods. I shall move them another year and plant them nearer my red-buds (I cannot bear the name of Judas tree) which are a perfect delight now.
On the 12th the Marechal Neil bloomed, and now, just three days later, the flood of sunshine has made the rosebed rich in treasures of every shade and hue. But the prettiest thing in the garden is the long walk bordered with German iris. Last November more than a hundred clumps were set out, and today twice as many white fleur-delis are holding up their heads like standards of France. We call them birthday lilies, for they always are in bloom for my youngest's anniversary, and they have been on his birthday table as regularly as his candles.
The charm of a small garden in which one knows every shrub and plant is that one establishes a sense of personal relationship. There's an intimacy with the bit of ground to which one tends one's own self. That waving frond of maiden-hair fern came from beside a stream in the Blue Ridge, and
was brought home in a scorching spell of June weather, followed by a long drought. I take as much pride in it as if it were a foundling I had nursed through its second summer. The white and green plant which borders that shaded bed started in a single one which I brought by hand from the Pennsylvania hills. The Pullman porter thinks cut flowers aristocratic, and offers to
put one's violets in the refrigerator, but he scorns the plebian rooted plant. I had to change cars three times and bear the disdain of three successive porters to gain that addition to the garden.
The little lavender stock yonder may look sickly and uninteresting to the casual glance, but in reality it is an epitomized "Irish Emigrant's Lament." At Killarney Lake last summer I saw stocks growing in exquisite shades and bought some seed. This pallid, homesick flower feels out of place in my seed bed, and seems to pine for the purple shadow of Torc Mountain falling athwart the lake. But its seedlings will be naturalized, and I am expecting the second generation of Irish-American stock to be as fine in flower as it is in folk.
I've just finished cutting a million sweet peas-not by actual count, but judging from the way my hands feel after using the clippers. They are planted in separate colors and the silvery-lavender Grisel Hamilton is a pastel dream. There's one that is especially fascinating. Sometimes the wavy flowers are as deeply pink as a debutante's blush, again as softly seashell as a baby's cheek, sometimes there's a hint of red-I must suspect her of artificiality then. And this pea, so changeful, so charming, the catalogue coldly dubs: "Lady Caroline Spencer, inclined to sport."
King Edward VII. is a glorious red pea which I have planted for three years in the same spot, because it seemed to thrive well there.
This year the seed packet marked with his name came from the same reliable seed house. No blossom chanced to open until the day after the King's death, and then it was pure white. Not a red pea has come where they have bloomed so gaily before; the trellis is covered. with fluttering bits of snow. It can't be explained by the seedman's mistake. Let us leave it unexplained.
Two years ago I had a shelter built on the edge of my garden. The rough bark was left on its posts and its peaked roof. From May until October we have our meals out of doors. Nasturtiums, trumpet vines, cypress, and translucent blue Pride of Pekin morning glory riot over the shelter and bloom in turn. Just at present the bed of larkspurs nearby is filled with spears of blue and white. The humming birds are very partial to it and every day they are darting in and out among its flowers. Yesterday, while we were at breakfast, a humming bird flashed right in between one of the boys and me, and sipped from a nasturtium. Now, nothing can add more charm to a meal than an informal call from a humming bird, and the musical accompaniment of a cat bird. This one has notes which rival the mocking bird's, and he quite earns his breakfast upon my raspberries.
The garden is at its prettiest now. All the flowers that respond to the thrill of summer are awake. The spicy pink and white peonies are gone, and so has the flowering season of the privet hedge. But the humming birds' bed of larkspur is a feathery mass of blossoming, and the borders are blue and yellow (dear Cavalry colors which always grow somewhere together among my flowers) with corn flower and coreopsis. The nasturtiums are beginning, and the sweet alyssum, pansies and sweet peas keep on as if there was no stopping them. The marshalled lines of holly
hocks delight the eye. Yellow, white, crimson and rose they are; a deep red that's almost black, again an odd shade of saffron. As they seed themselves, every year there are fresh surprises of color.
It seemed an auspicious time to have a garden party for a June bride of twenty summers. Just the bride-elect and her bridesmaids were here this afternoon, a dozen human flowers, in colors as soft and dainty as the sweet peas which she had chosen to be her wedding flower.
I loved their brimming happiness, their young laughter, their pretty faces. It was in that soft aftermath which follows a summer sunset that they told me goodbye. One slender slip of a girl said impulsively, "It has been lovely. To make it perfect, may each of us choose a flower to pick for herself?"
Wasn't it a pleasing thought? She did not know how she gratified me.
After they had gone I sat there for a long while, and from out of the background of the years "our set of girls" began to gather. Their voices seemed to mingle with the light-hearted laughter which had just echoed around me, and I thought of the days when we, too, were sweet-and-twenty, and wholly unafraid.
There is a deeper joy in the deepening years than girlhood can know, but how good a thing it is that there is always girlhood upon earth. God bless you, little glad bride! Goodnight, my garden.
June 11. Yesterday I was introduced to a large, deep-voiced woman with a slight mustache. I am told she is much henpecked by her little Bantamy husband. "I understand you love flowers," she announced in impressive chest notes. I refused to admit it, though I felt like replying, "I am also fond of my children."
"I adore Nature, Beauty," she continued, in capitals. "My flowers under
stand me. If I am ill, they droop in sympathy; the wee leaves hang their heads disconsolately. Then as soon as I am well they revive again."
Obviously this lady waters her plants when she is well and forgets it when she is ill.
But the conversation has depressed me. Do I seem to anybody as sentimentally idiotic as she did to me? I have long since learned that when a woman says you are unconventional, it means that she suspects you are a poor housekeeper; and when a man says you are idealistic, he means that you wear unbecoming hats. As both of these ignominous adjectives have been directed against me recently, I decided to try to justify my garden to the most practical mind by making money out of it. I can't sell flowers, for there are never enough to fill the garden and the vases and to give to one's friends, so I wrote an article for the exchange column of a woman's magazine and gave directions for making a flower-bed under the kitchen window. I have one, gay with a succession of robust bloom, marigolds, scarlet sage, cut-and-come-again sunflower, and the cook has the privilege of cutting all the flowers she likes. It works like a charm in making her take pains to keep the back yard neat and not to throw things out of the window, and I can't see why it isn't as valuable a suggestion as "How to get the spots out of linoleum." But the Linoleum But the Linoleum Lady got her dollar and I didn't, so I shall abandon my idea at a self-sustaining paradise.
Dahlias and gladiolus fill in what would otherwise be a gap, but I don't care a great deal for either of them. The Texas lupine is in bloom, and it has that fascination which lies in a blue flower. I shall never forget the day. when walking alone on Bella Tola I came for the first time upon that wee ultramarine star which is called Alpine
gentian. The quintessential soul of a July sky.
Dear little Duchesse de Brabant! I wonder who you were, gracious prototype of this rose! Perhaps you belonged to the haute noblesse who went guillotine-way with such high courage. I know your twinkling feet never faltered, nor the shell-pink of your cheeks whitened to a fear. So the namesake rose is fairest when the world is dry and sterile and the October frosts which chill your sister roses merely touch your petals to a deeper pink. In May Ì exhibited my Paul Neyrons and Kaiserins with tremendous boastfulness, but they have long since stopped blooming, while these languid mornings find you daintily decked in pink. You're so unexpected, so sweetly capricious, giving your best at a time when you might be expected to withhold; and again having teasing, pouting spells when you won't vouchsafe a bud. You're a flirt, little Duchess, but so gay and so loyal withal, and so royally disdainful of frost and caterpillars! You're the only flower I know with the Gallic temperament. July 16.
Summer in the garden. The hardy phlox, in cherry and white, is at its best. I've at last managed to weed out the magenta. It's such a poor folks' color-and what's the use of being poor out-of-doors? Sweet lavender and mignonette lavish old-fashioned fragrance. A mauve centauria and the goldenorange African daisy prove successful experiments. Stokesia fails for the fifth year in succession. The huge blossoms of the Marvel Mallow caused a jolly little school girl to exclaim: "I'm just dippy over those red dinner plates!"
The blazing heat has driven us to the northern coast, but I have a sense of abandoning my poor, parched garden. Today an acquaintance here was speak
ing about flowers: "Some are highly cultivated, others have only a high school education, but zinnias are positively illiterate."
Home! The blue spirea (I can't remember its long Latin name) is delighting the "bumble" bees, and the shelter is bright with innumerable red cypress blossoms. The bed of ageratum is a blur of color, and soon there will be a wilderness of white cosmos. There is something about it as simple and as Greek as its name. Do you know the quaint spider lily which shoots straight up out of the bare earth and blooms in coral daintiness?
The Queen Charlotte anemone is as delicate as eglantine and the prettiest sight in the garden.
We spent Sunday in the country at Pine Ridge farm, and in the afternoon we drove to a scuppernong arbor which was planted fifty years ago. Is there any aroma so deliciously woodsy as that of the scuppernong? Wilted in quart baskets it is the dreariest of grapes, but out of doors on a golden September afternoon, gathered fresh from the vine, it is food for Bacchus. (Most of the Olympian deities are enjoying a well-earend rest, but poor Bacchus still has to work overtime on similes.) I lamented to our host that my own vine had borne exactly six grapes this year --though of exceptional fine flavor.