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In A London Garden
by [?]

CHAPTER I

THE RECLAMATION OF THE CAT-WALK: AND THE STORY OF “THE POOL IN THE DESERT”

My London garden is not really mine. I have it for a period of years on conditions arranged between two legal gentlemen, the tenant paying the landlord’s cost. Obviously the person who owns the property can better afford to pay those costs than the man who has to hire it. And similarly the man who is lending money on a mortgage can better afford to pay costs than the man who has to borrow it. But the tenant pays, and the borrower pays. It is a principle of the law that the poor man pays. But this reflection, into which bitterness of spirit has led me, has nothing whatever to do with my garden.

I wasted more than a year. The thing looked quite hopeless. I left my garden to the cats, the jobbing gardeners, the caterpillars, and the other pests.

Of these the worst and most dangerous is perhaps the jobbing gardener. As the law stands at present you may kill a caterpillar, but not a jobbing gardener.

Coming on the wrong day–and he never comes on the right day if he can avoid it–he brings with him a mixed scent of beer and lubricating oil. If the weather is wet, he sits in the potting-shed and smokes. If it is fine, he may possibly mow the lawn. He prefers to mow part of it and then to get on with something else, leaving it like a man with one side of his face shaved. He takes no sort of interest in the garden, and candidly there is no reason why he should take any interest. He only sees the place for a few hours every week, and he would not see it then if he were not paid for it. He has untruthful testimonials, very dirty and decomposed, in his coat pocket, and he is aggrieved when you sack him. This is quite reasonable. A jobbing gardener who attends to the gardens of A, B, and C naturally steals something from A’s garden to sell to B, something from B’s garden to sell to C, and something from C’s garden to sell to A, and thereout sucks he no small advantage. When he gets the sack there is nothing left for him but to steal your secators. He never forgets to do that. I will not say that even in my regenerate condition I never employ a jobbing gardener. There are days when it seems a fine, manly, and primitive thing to do a piece of digging or to mow the lawn. There are more days when such operations seem rather in the light of a nuisance. One would always sooner direct than perform. But the jobbing gardeners who come to me now are under supervision, and are compelled to do things that they hate most in the world–such as putting away their tools when they have finished with them.

I am not particularly fond of the expert and regular gardener either. Generally he has the luck to be a Scotchman and is a man of few words and great knowledge. But his knowledge is always better than his taste, and he debases an art into a science. His ideals would not fit a London garden, and his feeling for colour is often wrong and poisonous.

The horticulturist-and-florist debases a science into a commerce. I have found him useful and shall continue to do so. He saves me trouble. I will deal with him, but I absolutely refuse to admire him.

The amateur gardener would be pleasant if you could cut out his conceit, but it is ineradicable. He comes into my garden and points out my principal mistakes and tells me of the much better things which he has in his garden.

I myself am not a gardener at all. I admit it. I should imagine that there is no man in Great Britain and her Dependencies who knows as little about gardening as I do. But that is not the sole reason why I write about my London garden. We can distinguish between the dog lover and the dog fancier. In the same way we may distinguish between the garden lover and the gardener. It is an important distinction.