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The Cottage Gardens Of Northampton
by [?]

Adam and Eve, it is generally conceded, were precocious. They entered into the cares and joys of adult life at an earlier age than any later human prodigy. We call them the grand old gardener and his wife, but, in fact, they were the youngest gardeners the world has ever seen, and they really did not give entire satisfaction. How could they without tools?

Let it pass. The whole allusion is prompted only by the thought that youth does not spontaneously garden. If it was actually necessary that our first parents should begin life as gardeners, that fully explains why they had to begin it also as adults. Youth enjoys the garden, yes! but not its making or tending. Childhood, the abecedarian, may love to plant seeds, to watch them spring, grow, and flower, and to help them do so; but that is the merest a-b-c of gardening, and no more makes him an amateur in the art than spelling words of one letter makes him a poet. One may raise or love flowers for a lifetime, yet never in any art sense become a gardener.

In front of the main building of a public institution which we must presently mention again there is a sloping strip of sward a hundred feet long and some fifteen wide. A florist of fully half a century’s experience one day halted beside it and exclaimed to the present writer, “Only say the word, and I’ll set out the ‘ole len’th o’ that strip in foliage-plants a-spellin’ o’ the name: ‘People’s Hinstitute!'” Yet that gentle enthusiast advertised himself as a landscape-gardener and got clients. For who was there to tell them or him that he was not one?

Not only must we confess that youth does not spontaneously garden, but that our whole American civilization is still so lingeringly in its non-gardening youth that only now and then, here and there, does it realize that a florist, whether professional or amateur, or even a nurseryman, is not necessarily a constructive gardener, or that artistic gardening, however informal, is nine-tenths constructive.

Yet particularly because such gardening is so, and because some of its finest rewards are so slow-coming and long-abiding, there is no stage of life in which it is so reasonable for man or woman to love and practise the art as when youth is in its first full stature and may garden for itself and not merely for posterity. “John,” said his aged father to one of our living poets, “I know now how to transplant full-grown trees successfully. Do it a long time ago.” Let the stripling plant the sapling.

Youth, however, and especially our American youth, has his or her excuses, such as they are. Of the garden or the place to be gardened, “It’s not mine,” he or she warmly says; “it’s only my father’s,” or “my mother’s.”

Young man! Young maiden! True, the place, so pathetically begging to be gardened, may not be your future home, may never be your property, and it is right enough that a feeling for ownership should begin to shape your daily life. But let it not misshape it. You know that ownership is not all of life nor the better half of it, and it is quite as good for you to give the fact due recognition by gardening early in life as it was for Adam and Eve.

It is better, for you can do so in a much more fortunate manner, having tools and the first pair’s warning example. It is better also because you can do what to them was impossible; you can make gardening a concerted public movement.

That is what we have made it in Northampton, Massachusetts, whose curving streets and ancient elms you may have heard of as making it very garden-like in its mere layout; many of whose windows, piazzas, and hillside lawns look on across the beautiful Connecticut, winding broadly among its farmed meadows and vanishing southward through the towering gateway made for or by it millenniums ago between Mounts Tom and Holyoke.