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The Midwinter Gardens Of New Orleans
by [?]

If the following pages might choose their own time and place they would meet their reader not in the trolley-car or on the suburban train, but in his own home, comfortably seated. For in order to justify the eulogistic tone of the descriptions which must presently occupy them their first word must be a conciliatory protest against hurry. One reason we Americans garden so little is that we are so perpetually in haste. The art of gardening is primarily a leisurely and gentle one.

And gentility still has some rights. Our Louisiana Creoles know this, and at times maintain it far beyond the pales of their evergreen gardens.

“‘Step lively’?” one of them is said to have amazedly retorted in a New York street-car. “No, the lady shall not step lively. At yo’ leisure, madame, entrez!” In New Orleans the conductors do not cry “Step lively!” Right or wrong, the cars there are not absolutely democratic. Gentility really enjoys in them a certain right to be treated gently.

If democracy could know its own tyrants it would know that one of them is haste–the haste, the hurry of the crowd; that hurry whose cracking whip makes every one a compulsory sharer in it. The street-car conductor, poor lad, is not to blame. The fault is ours, many of us being in such a scramble to buy democracy at any price that, as if we were belatedly buying railway tickets, we forget to wait for our change.

Now one of this tyrant’s human forms is a man a part of whose tyranny is to call himself a gardener, though he knows he is not one, and the symbol of whose oppression is nothing more or less than that germ enemy of good gardening, the lawn-mower. You, if you know the gardening of our average American home almost anywhere else, would see, yourself, how true this is, were you in New Orleans. But you see it beautifully proved not by the presence but by the absence of the tyranny. The lawn-mower is there, of course; no one is going to propose that the lawn-mower anywhere be abolished. It is one of our modern marvels of convenience, a blessed release of countless human backs from countless hours of crouching, sickle-shaped, over the sickle. It is not the tyrant, but only like so many other instruments of beneficent democratic emancipation, the tyrant’s opportunity. A large part of its convenience is expedition, and expedition is the easiest thing in the world to become vulgarized; vulgarized it becomes haste, and haste is the tyrant. Such arguing would sound absurdly subtle aimed against the uncloaked, barefaced tyranny of the street-car conductor, but the tyranny of the man with the lawn-mower is itself subtle, masked, and requires subtlety to unmask it.

See how it operates. For so we shall be the better prepared for a generous appreciation of those far Southern gardens whose beauty has singled them out for our admiration. We know, of course, that the “formal garden,” by reason of its initial and continuing costliness, is, and must remain, the garden of the wealthy few, and that the gardening for the great democracy of our land, the kind that will make the country at large a gardened land, is “informal,” freehand, ungeometrical gardening. In this sort, on whatever scale, whether of the capitalist or of the cottager, the supreme feature is the lawn; the lawn-mower puts this feature within the reach of all, and pretty nearly every American householder has, such as it is, his bit of Eden.

But just in that happy moment the Tempter gets in. The garden’s mistress or master is beguiled to believe that one may have a garden without the expense of a gardener and at the same time without any gardening knowledge. The stable-boy, or the man-of-all-work, or the cook, or the cottager himself, pushes the lawn-mower, and except for green grass, or changeable brown and green, their bit of Eden is naked and is not ashamed.