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The American Garden
by [?]

Almost any good American will admit it to be a part of our national social scheme, I think,–if we have a social scheme,–that everybody shall aspire to all the refinements of life.

Particularly is it our theory that every one shall propose to give to his home all the joys and graces which are anywhere associated with the name of home. Yet until of late we have neglected the art of gardening. Now and then we see, or more likely we read about, some garden of wonderful beauty; but the very fame of it points the fact that really artistic gardening is not democratically general with us.

Our cities and towns, without number, have the architect and the engineer, for house and for landscape, for sky-scrapers and all manner of public works; we have the nurseryman, the florist; we have parks, shaded boulevards and riverside and lakeside drives. Under private ownership we have a vast multitude of exactly rectilinear lawns, extremely bare or else very badly planted; and we have hundreds of thousands of beautiful dames and girls who “love flowers.” But our home gardens, our home gardeners, either professional or amateur, where are they? Our smaller cities by scores and our towns by hundreds are full of home-dwellers each privately puzzled to know why every one of his neighbors’ houses, however respectable in architecture, stares at him and after him with a vacant, deaf-mute air of having just landed in this country, without friends.

What ails these dwellings is largely lack of true gardening. They will never look like homes, never look really human and benign, that is, until they are set in a gardening worthy of them. For a garden which alike in its dignity and in its modesty is worthy of the house around which it is set, is the smile of the place.

In the small city of Northampton, Massachusetts, there has been for many years an annual prize competition of amateur flower-gardens. In 1913 there were over a thousand homes, about one-fourth of all the dwellings in the town, in this pretty contest. Not all, not half, these competitors could make a show worthy the name of good gardening, but every one of these households stood pledged to do something during the year for the outdoor improvement of the home, and hundreds of their house lots were florally beautiful. If I seem to hurry into a mention of it here it is partly in the notion that such a recital may be my best credentials as the writer of these pages, and partly in the notion that such a concrete example may possibly have a tendency to help on flower-gardening in the country at large and even to aid us in determining what American flower-gardening had best be.

For the reader’s better advantage, however, let me first state one or two general ideas which have given this activity and its picturesque results particular aspects and not others.

I lately heard a lady ask an amateur gardener, “What is the garden’s foundation principle?”

There was a certain overgrown pomp in the question’s form, but that is how she very modestly asked it, and I will take no liberty with its construction. I thought his reply a good one.

“We have all,” he said, “come up from wild nature. In wild nature there are innumerable delights, but they are qualified by countless inconveniences. The cave, tent, cabin, cottage and castle have gradually been evolved by an orderly accumulation and combination of defences and conveniences which secure to us a host of advantages over wild nature and wild man. Yet rightly we are loath to lose any more of nature than we must in order to be her masters and her children in one, and to gather from her the largest fund of profit and delight she can be made to yield. Hence around the cottage, the castle or the palace waves and blooms the garden.”