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The Landscape Gardener
by [?]

Really I know nothing about flowers. By a bit of luck, James, my gardener, whom I pay half a crown a week for combing the beds, knows nothing about them either; so my ignorance remains undiscovered. But in other people’s gardens I have to make something of an effort to keep up appearances. Without flattering myself I may say that I have acquired a certain manner; I give the impression of the garden lover, or the man with shares in a seed company, or–or something.

For instance, at Creek Cottage, Mrs. Atherley will say to me, “That’s an Amphilobertus Gemini,” pointing to something which I hadn’t noticed behind a rake.

“I am not a bit surprised,” I say calmly.

“And a Gladiophinium Banksii next to it.”

“I suspected it,” I confess in a hoarse whisper.

Towards flowers whose names I know I adopt a different tone.

“Aren’t you surprised to see daffodils out so early?” says Mrs. Atherley with pride.

“There are lots out in London,” I mention casually. “In the shops.”

“So there are grapes,” says Miss Atherley.

“I was not talking about grapes,” I reply stiffly.

However, at Creek Cottage just now I can afford to be natural; for it is not gardening which comes under discussion these days, but landscape-gardening, and any one can be an authority on that. The Atherleys, fired by my tales of Sandringham, Chatsworth, Arundel, and other places where I am constantly spending the week-end, are readjusting their two-acre field. In future it will not be called “the garden,” but “the grounds.”

I was privileged to be shown over the grounds on my last visit to Creek Cottage.

“Here,” said Mrs. Atherley, “we are having a plantation. It will keep the wind off; and we shall often sit here in the early days of summer. That’s a weeping ash in the middle. There’s another one over there. They’ll be lovely, you know.”

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a bit of black stick on the left; which, even more than the other trees, gave the impression of having been left there by the gardener while he went for his lunch.

“That’s a weeping willow.”

“This is rather a tearful corner of the grounds,” apologized Miss Atherley. “We’ll show you something brighter directly. Look there–that’s the oak in which King Charles lay hid. At least, it will be when it’s grown a bit.”

“Let’s go on to the shrubbery,” said Mrs. Atherley. “We are having a new grass path from here to the shrubbery. It’s going to be called Henry’s Walk.”

Miss Atherley has a small brother called Henry. Also there were eight Kings of England called Henry. Many a time and oft one of those nine Henrys has paced up and down this grassy walk, his head bent, his hands clasped behind his back; while behind his furrowed brow, who shall say what world-schemes were hatching? Is it the thought of Wolsey which makes him frown–or is he wondering where he left his catapult? Ah! who can tell us? Let us leave a veil of mystery over it … for the sake of the next visitor.

“The shrubbery,” said Mrs. Atherley proudly, waving her hand at a couple of laurel bushes and a–I’ve forgotten its name now, but it is one of the few shrubs I really know.

“And if you’re a gentleman,” said Miss Atherley, “and want to get asked here again, you’ll always call it the shrubbery.”

“Really, I don’t see what else you could call it,” I said, wishing to be asked down again.

“The patch.”

“True,” I said. “I mean, Nonsense.”

I was rather late for breakfast next morning; a pity on such a lovely spring day.

“I’m so sorry,” I began, “but I was looking at the shrubbery from my window and I quite forgot the time.”

“Good,” said Miss Atherley.

“I must thank you for putting me in such a perfect room for it,” I went on, warming to my subject. “One can actually see the shrubs–er–shrubbing. The plantation, too, seems a little thicker to me than yesterday.”