Gardens - In Lilac Tide
( Originally Published 1901 )
" Ere Man is aware That the Spring is here
The Flowers have found it out."
—Ancient Chinese Saying.
FLOWER opens, and lo! another Year," is the beautiful and suggestive legend on an old vessel found in the Catacombs. Since these words were written, how many years have begun ! how many flowers have opened! and yet nature has never let us weary of spring and spring flowers. My garden knows well the time o' the year. It needs no almanac to count the months.
"The untaught Spring is wise
While I sit shivering, idling, wondering when I can "start the garden " — lo, there are Snowdrops and spring starting up to greet me.
Ever in earliest spring are there days when there is no green in grass, tree, or shrub ; but when the garden lover is conscious that winter is gone and spring is waiting. There is in every garden, in every dooryard, as in the field and by the roadside, in some indefinable way a look of spring. One hint of spring comes even before its flowers — you can smell its coming. The snow is gone from the garden walks and some of the open beds ; you walk warily down the softened path at midday, and you smell the earth as it basks in the sun, and a faint scent comes from some twigs and leaves. Box speaks of summer, not of spring ; and the fragrance from that Cedar tree is equally suggestive of summer. But break off that slender branch of Calycanthus-- how fresh and welcome its delightful spring scent. Carry it into the house with branches of Forsythia, and how quickly one fills its leaf buds and the other blossoms.
For several years the first blossom of the new year in our garden was neither the Snowdrop nor Crocus, but the Ladies' Delight, that laughing, speaking little garden face, which is not really a spring flower, it is a stray from summer ; but it is such a shrewd, intelligent little creature that it readily found out that spring was here ere man or other flowers knew it. This dear little primitive of the Pansy tribe has become wonderfully scarce save in cherished old gardens like those of Salem, where I saw this year a space thirty feet long and several feet wide, under flowering shrubs and bushes, wholly covered with the everyday, homely little blooms of Ladies' Delights. They have the party-colored petal of the existing strain of English Pansies, distinct from the French and German Pansies, and I doubt not are the descendants of the cherished garden children of the English settlers. Gerarde describes this little English Pansy or Heartsease in 1587 under the name of Viola tricolor: —
"The flouers in form and figure like the Violet, and for the most part of the same Bignesse, of three sundry colours, purple, yellow and white or blew, by reason of the beauty and braverie of which colours they are very pleasing to the eye, for smel they have little or none."
In Breck's Book of Flowers, 1851, is the first printed reference I find to the flower under the name Ladies' Delight. In my childhood I never heard it called aught else ; but it has a score of folk names, all testifying to an affectionate intimacy: Bird's-eye ; Garden-gate ; Johnny-jump-up ; None-so-pretty ; Kitty-come ; Kit-run-about; Three-faces wider-a-hood ; Come-and-cuddle-me ; Pink-of-my Joan ; Kiss-me; Tickle-my-fancy; Kiss-me-ere-I rise ; Jump-up-and-kiss-me. To our little flower has also been given this folk name, Meet-her-in-the-entry-kiss-her-in-the-buttery, the longest plant name in the English language, rivalled only by Miss Jekyll's triumph of nomenclature for the Stone-crop, namely: Welcome-home-husband-be-he-ever-so-drunk.
These little Ladies' Delights have infinite variety or expression ; some are laughing and roguish, some sharp and shrewd, some surprised, others worried, all are animated and vivacious, and a few saucy to a degree. They are as companionable as people — nay, more; they are as companionable as children. No wonder children love them.; they recognize kindred spirits. I know a child who picked unbidden a choice Rose, and hid it under her apron. But as she passed a bed of Ladies' Delights blowing in the wind, peering, winking, mocking, she suddenly threw the Rose at them, crying out pettishly, " Here ! take your old flower ! "
The Dandelion is to many the golden seal of spring, but it blooms the whole circle of the year in sly garden corners and in the grass. Of it might have been written the lines:
"It smiles upon the lap of May,
I have picked both Ladies' Delights and Dandelions every month in the year.
I suppose the common Crocus would not be deemed a very great garden ornament in midsummer, in its lowly growth ; but in its spring blossoming it is — to use another's words — " most gladsome of the early flowers." A bed of Crocuses is certainly a keen pleasure, glowing in the sun, almost as grateful to the human eye as to the honey-gathering bees that come unerringly, from somewhere, to hover over the golden cups. How welcome after winter is the sound of that humming.
In the garden's story, there are ever a few pictures which stand out with startling distinctness. When the year is gone you do not recall many days nor many flowers with precision; often a single flower seems of more importance than a whole garden. In the day book of 1900 I have but few pictures; the most vivid was the very first of the season. It could have been no later than April, for one or two Snowdrops still showed white in the grass, when a splendid ribbon of Chionodoxa— Glory of the Snow — opened like blue fire burning from plant to plant, the bluest thing I ever saw in any garden. It was backed with solid masses of equally vivid yellow Alyssum and chalk-white Candy-tuft, both of which had had a good start under glass in a temporary forcing bed. These three solid masses of color surrounded by bare earth and showing little green leafage made my eyes ache, but a picture was burnt in which will never leave my brain. I always have a sense of importance, of actual ownership of a plant, when I can recall its introduction — as I do of the Chionodoxa, about 1871. It is said to come up and bloom in the snow, but I have never seen it in blossom earlier than March, and never then unless the snow has vanished. It has much of the charm of its relative, the Scilla.
We all have flower favorites, and some of us have flower antipathies, or at least we are indifferent to certain flowers ; but I never knew any one but loved the Daffodil. Not only have poets and dramatists sung it, but it is a common favorite, as shown by its homely names in our everyday speech. I am always touched in Endymion that the only flowers named as " a thing of beauty that is a joy forever " are Daffodils " with the green world they live in."
In Daffodils I like the "old fat-headed sort with nutmeg and cinnamon smell and old common English names Butter-and-eggs, Codlins-and-cream, Bacon and eggs." The newer ones are more slender in bud and bloom, more trumpet-shaped, and are commonplace of name instead of common. In Virginia the name of a variety has become applied to a family, and all Daffodils are called Butter-and-eggs by the people.
On spring mornings the Tulips fairly burn with a warmth, which makes them doubly welcome after winter. Emerson—ever able to draw a picture in two lines—to show the heart of everything in a single sentence — thus paints them :
"The gardens fire with a joyful blaze Of Tulips in the morning's rays."
" Tulipase do carry so stately and delightful a form, and do abide so long in their bravery, that there is no Lady or Gentleman of any worth that is not caught with this delight," — wrote the old herbalist Parkinson. Bravery is an ideal expression for Tulips.
It is with something of a shock that we read the words of Philip Hamerton in The Sylvan rear, that nature is not harmonious in the spring, but is only in the way of becoming so. He calls it the time of crudities, like the adolescence of the mind. He says,
" The green is good for us, and we welcome it with uncritical gladness ; but when we think of painting, it may be doubted whether any season of the year is less propitious to the broad and noble harmonies which are the secrets of all grand effects in art." And he compares the season to the uncomfortable hour in a household when the early risers are walking about, not knowing what to do with themselves, while others have not yet come down to breakfast.
I must confess that an undiversified country landscape in spring has upon me the effect asserted by Hamerton. I recall one early spring week in the Catskills, when I fairly complained, " Everything is so green here." I longed for rocks, water, burnt fields, bare trees, anything to break that glimmering green of new grass and new Birches. But in the spring garden there is variety of shape and color ; the Peony leaf buds are red, some sprouting leaves are pink, and there are vast varieties of brown and gray and gold in leaf.
Let me give the procession of spring in the gar-den in the words of a lover of old New England flowers, Dr. Holmes. It is a vivid word picture of the distinctive forms and colors of budding flowers and leaves.
" At first the snowdrop's bells are seen,
"The golden-chaliced crocus burns;
The willow's whistling lashes, wrung
"See the proud tulip's flaunting cup,
When wake the violets, Winter dies ;
The universal flower in the old-time garden was the Lilac ; it was the most beloved bloom of spring, and gave a name to Spring—Lilac tide. The Lilac does not promise "spring is coming"; it is the emblem of the presence of spring. Dr. Holmes says, " When Lilacs blossom, Summer cries, ' Spring is here' " in every cheerful and lavish bloom. Lilacs shade the front yard ; Lilacs grow by the kitchen doorstep; Lilacs spring up beside the barn ; Lilacs shade the well ; Lilacs hang over the spring house ; Lilacs crowd by the fence side and down the country road. In many colonial dooryards it was the only shrub—known both to lettered and unlettered folk as Laylock, and spelt Laylock too. Walter Savage Landor, when Laylock had become antiquated, still clung to the word, and used it with a stubborn persistence such as he alone could compass, and which seems strange in the most finished classical scholar of his day.
" I shall not go to town while the Lilacs bloom," wrote Longfellow ; and what Lilac lover could have left a home so Lilac-embowered as Craigie House! A view of its charms in Lilac tide is given in outline on this page ; the great Lilac trees seem wondrously suited to the fine old Revolutionary mansion.
There is in Albany, New York, a lovely gar-den endeared to those who know it through the memory of a presence that lighted all places associated with it with the beauty of a noble life. It is the garden of the home of Mrs. Abraham Lansing, and was planted by her father and mother, General and Mrs. Peter Gansevoort, in 1846, having been laid out with taste and an art that has borne the test of over half a century's growth. In the garden are scores of old-time favorites : Flower de Luce, Peonies, Daffodils, and snowy Phlox; but instead of bending over the flower borders, let us linger awhile in the wonderful old Lilac walk. It is a glory of tender green and shaded amethyst and grateful hum of bees, the very voice of Spring. Every sense is gratified, even that of touch, when the delicate plumes of the fragrant Lilac blossoms brush your cheek as you walk through its path ; there is no spot of fairer loveliness than this Lilac walk in May. It is a wonderful study of flickering light and grateful shade in midsummer. Look at its full-leaf charms opposite page 13 8 ; was there ever anything lovelier in any gar-den, at any time, than the green vista of this Lilac walk in July ? But for the thoughtful garden-lover it has another beauty still, the delicacy and refinement of outline when the Lilac walk is bare of foliage, as is shown on page 220 and facing page 154. The very spirit of the Lilacs seems visible, etched with a purity of touch that makes them sentient, speaking beings, instead of silent plants. See the outlines of stem and branch against the tender sky of this April noon. Do you care for color when you have such beauty of outline ? Surely this Lilac walk is loveliest in April, with a sensitive etherealization beyond compare. How wonderfully these pictures have caught the look of tentative spring—spring waiting for a single day to burst into living green. There is an ancient Saxon name for springtime — Opyn-tide — thus defined by an old writer, " Whenne that flowres think on blowen " — when the flowers begin to think of budding and blowing; and so I name this picture Opyn-tide, the Thought of Spring.
For many years Lilacs were planted for hedges ; they were seldom satisfactory if clipped, for the broad-spreading leaves were always gray with dust, and they often had a "rust" which wholly destroyed their beauty. The finest clipped Lilac hedge I ever saw is at Indian Hill, Newburyport. It was set out about 1850, and is compact and green as Privet ; the leaves are healthy, and the growth perfect down to the ground ; it is an unusual example of Lilac growth —a perfect hedge. An unclipped Lilac hedge is lovely in its blooming; a beautiful one grows by the side of the old family home of Mr. Mortimer Howell at West Hampton Beach, Long Island. To this hedge in May come a-begging dusky city flower venders, who break off and carry away wagon loads of blooms. As the fare from and to New York is four dollars, and a wagon has to be hired to convey the flowers from the hedge two miles to the railroad station, there must be a high price charged for these Lilacs to afford any profit; but the Italian flower sellers appear year after year.
Lilacs bloom not in our ancient literature ; they are not named by Shakespeare, nor do I recall any earlier mention of them than in the essay of Lord Bacon on "Gardens," published about 1610, where he spelled it Lelacke. Blue-pipe tree was the ancient name of the Lilac, a reminder of the time when pipes were made of its wood ; I heard it used in modern speech once. An old Narragansett coach driver called out to me, " Ye set such store on flowers, don't ye want to pick that Blue-pipe in Pender Zeke's garden ? "—a deserted garden and home at Pender Zeke's Corner. This man had some of the traits of Mrs. Wright's delightful " Time-o'-Day," and he knew well my love of flowers ; for he had been my charioteer to the woods where Rhododendron and Rhodora bloom, and he had revealed to me the pond where grew the pink Water Lilies. And from a chance remark of mine he had conveyed to me a wagon load of Joepye-weed and Boneset, to the dismay of my younger children, who had apprehensions of unlimited gallons of herb tea therefrom. Let me steal a few lines from my spring Lilacs to write of these two " Sisters of Healing," which were often planted in the household herb garden. From July to September in the low lying meadows of every state from the Bay of Fundy to the Gulf of Mexico, can be found Joepye-weed and Boneset. The dull pink clusters of soft fringy blooms of Joepye-weed stand up three to eight feet in height above the moist earth, catching our eye and the visit of every passing butterfly, and commanding attention for their fragrance, and a certain dignity of carriage notable even among the more striking hues of the brilliant Goldenrod and vivid Sunflowers. Joe Pye was an Indian medicine-man of old New England, famed among his white neighbors for his skill in curing the devastating typhoid fevers which, in those days of no drainage and ignorance of sanitation, vied with so-called "hereditary" consumption in exterminating New England families. His cure-all was a bit-ter tea decocted from leaves and stalks of this Eupatorium purpureum, and in token of his success the plant bears every-where his name, but it is now wholly neglected by the simpler and herb-doctor. The sister plant, the Eupatorium perfoliatum, known as Thorough-wort, Boneset, Ague-weed, or Indian Sage, grows everywhere by its side, and is also used in fevers. It was as efficacious in "break bone fever" in the South a century ago as it is now for the grippe, for it still is used, North and South, in many a country home. Neltje Blanchan and Mrs. Dana Parsons call Thoroughwort or Boneset tea a "nauseous draught," and I thereby suspect that neither has tasted it. I have many a time, and it has a clear, clean bitter taste, no stronger than any bitter beer or ale. Every year is Boneset gathered in old Narragansett; but swamp edges and meadows that are easy of access have been depleted of the stately growth of saw-edged wrinkled leaves, and the Boneset gatherer must turn to remote brooksides and inaccessible meadows for his harvest. The flat-topped terminal cymes of leaden white blooms are not distinctive as seen from afar, and many flowers of similar appearance lure the weary simpler here and there, until at last the welcome sight of the connate perfoliate leaves, surrounding the strong stalk, distinctive of the Boneset, show that his search is rewarded.
After these bitter draughts of herb tea, we will turn, as do children, to sweets, to our beloved Lilac blooms. The Lilac has ever been a flower welcomed by English-speaking folk since it first came to England by the hand of some mariner. It is said that a German traveller named Busbeck brought it from the Orient to the continent in the sixteenth century. I know not when it journeyed to the new world, but long enough ago so that it now grows cheerfully and plentifully in all our states of temperate clime and indeed far south. It even grows wild in some localities, though it never looks wild, but plainly shows its escape or exile from some garden. It is specially beloved in New England, and it seems so much more suited in spirit to New England than to Persia that it ought really to be a native plant. Its very color seems typical of New England ; some parts of celestial blue, with more of warm pink, blended and softened by that shading of sombre gray ever present in New England life into a distinctive color known everywhere as lilac —a color grateful, quiet, pleasing, what Thoreau called a " tender, civil, cheerful color." Its blossoming at the time of Election Day, that all-important New England holiday, gave it another New England significance.
There is no more emblematic flower to me than the Lilac ; it has an association of old homes, of home-making and home interests. On the country farm, in the village garden, and in the city yard, the lilac was planted wherever the home was made, and it attached itself with deepest roots, lingering some-times most sadly but sturdily, to show where the home once stood.
Let me tell of two Lilacs of sentiment. One of them is shown on page 149 ; a glorious Lilac tree which is one of a group of many full-flowered, pale-tinted ones still growing and blossoming each spring on a deserted homestead in old Narragansett. They bloom over the grave of a fine old house, and the great chimney stands sadly in their midst as a gravestone. " Hopewell," ill-suited of name, was the home of a Narragansett Robinson famed for good cheer, for refinement and luxury, and for a lovely garden, laid out with cost and care and filled with rare shrubs and flowers. Perhaps these Lilacs were a rare variety in their day, being pale of tint ; now they are as wild as their companions, the Cedar hedges.
Gathering in the front dooryard of a fallen farm-house some splendid branches of flowering Lilac, I found a few feet of cellar wall and wooden house side standing, and the sills of two windows. These window sills, exposed for years to the bleaching and fading of rain and sun and frost, still bore the circular marks of the flower pots which, filled with house-plants, had graced the kitchen windows for many a winter under the care of a flower-loving house mistress. A few days later I learned from a woman over ninety years of age — an inmate of the " Poor House " - the story of the home thus touchingly indicated by the Lilac bushes and the stains of the flower pots. Over eighty years ago she had brought the tiny Lilac-slip to her childhood's home, then standing in a clearing in the forest. She carried it carefully in her hands as she rode behind her father on a pillion after a visit to her grandmother. She and her little brothers and sisters planted the tiny thing " of two eyes only," as she said, in the shadow of the house, in the little front yard. And these children watered it and watched it, as it rooted and grew, till the house was surrounded each spring with its vivacious blooms, its sweet fragrance. The puny slip has outlived the house and all its inmates save herself, outlived the brothers and sisters, their children and grandchildren, outlived orchard and garden and field. And it will live to tell a story to every thoughtful passer-by till a second growth of forest has arisen in pasture and garden and even in the cellar-hole, when even then the cheerful Lilac will not be wholly obliterated.
A bunch of early Lilacs was ever a favorite gift to "teacher," to be placed in a broken-nosed pitcher on her desk. And Lilac petals made such lovely necklaces, thrust within each other or strung with needle and thread. And there was a love divination by Lilacs which we children solemnly observed. There will occasionally appear a tiny Lilac flower, usually a white Lilac, with five divisions of the petal instead of four — this is a Luck Lilac. This must be solemnly swallowed. If it goes down smoothly, the dabbler in magic cries out, " He loves me ; " if she chokes at her floral food, she must say sadly, " He loves me not." I remember once calling out, with gratification and pride, " He loves me !
" Who is he ? " said my older companions. " Oh, I didn't know he had to be somebody," I answered in surprise, to be met by derisive laughter at my satisfaction with a lover in general and not in particular. It was a matter of Lilac-luck-etiquette that the lover's name should be pronounced mentally before the petal was swallowed.
In the West Indies the Lilac is a flower of mysterious power ; its perfume keeps away evil spirits, ghosts, banshees. If it grows not in the dooryard, its protecting branches are hung over the doorway. I think of this when I see it shading the door of happy homes in New England.
In our old front yards we had only the common Lilacs, and occasionally a white one ; and as a rarity the graceful, but sometimes rather spindling, Persian Lilacs, known since 1650 in gardens, and shown on page 151. How the old gardens would have stared at the new double Lilacs, which have luxuriant plumes of bloom twenty inches long.
The "pensile Lilac" has been sung by many poets ; but the spirit of the flower has been best portrayed in verse by Elizabeth Akers. I can quote but a single stanza from so many beautiful ones.
" How fair it stood, with purple tassels hung,
Another poet of the Lilac is Walt Whitman. He tells his delight in " the Lilac tall and its blossoms of mastering odor." He sings : "with the birds a warble of joy for Lilac-time." That noble, heroic dirge, the Burial Hymn of Lincoln, begins : —
When Lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd."
The poet stood under the blossoming Lilacs when he learned of the death of Lincoln, and the scent and sight of the flowers ever bore the sad association. In this poem is a vivid description of—
"The Lilac bush, tall growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
Thomas William Parsons could turn from his profound researches and loving translations of Dante to write with deep sympathy of the Lilac. His verses have to me an additional interest, since I believe they were written in the house built by my ancestor in 174o, and occupied still by his descendants. In its front dooryard are Lilacs still standing under the windows of Dr. Parsons' room, in which he loved so to write.
Hawthorne felt a sort of "ludicrous unfitness in the idea of a time-stricken and grandfatherly Lilac bush." He was dissatisfied with aged Lilacs, though he knew not whether his heart, judgment, or rural sense put him in that condition. He felt the flower should either flourish in immortal youth or die. Apple trees could grow old and feeble without his reproach, but an aged Lilac was improper.
I fancy no one ever took any care of Lilacs in an old garden. As soon water or enrich the Sumach and Elder growing by the roadside ! But care for your Lilacs nowadays, and see how they respond. Make them a garden flower, and you will never regret it. There be those who prefer grafted Lilacs—the stock being usually a Syringa ; they prefer the single trunk, and thus get rid of the Lilac suckers. But compare a row of grafted Lilacs to a row of natural fastigate growth, as shown on page 220, and I think nature must be preferred.
"Methinks I see my contemplative girl now in the garden watching the gradual approach of Spring," wrote Sterne. My contemplative girl lives in the city, how can she know that spring is here ? Even on those few square feet of mother earth, dedicated to clotheslines and posts, spring sets her mark. Our Lilacs seldom bloom, but they put forth lovely fresh green leaves; and even the unrolling of the leaves of our Japanese ivies are a pleasure.
Our poor little strips of back yard in city homes are apt to be too densely shaded for flower blooms, but some things will grow, even there. Some wild flowers will live, and what a delight they are in. spring. We have a Jack-in-the-pulpit who comes up just as jauntily there as in the wild woods; Dog-tooth Violet and our common wild Violet also bloom. A city neighbor has Trillium which blossoms each year; our Trillium shows leaves, but no blossoms, and does not increase in spread of roots. Bloodroot, a flower so shy when gathered in the woods, and ever loving damp sites, flourishes in the dryest flower bed, grows coarser in leaf and bloom, and blossoms earlier, and holds faster its snowy petals. Corydalis in the garden seems so garden-bred that you almost forget the flower was ever wild.
The approach of spring in our city parks is marked by the appearance of the Dandelion gatherers. It is always interesting to see, in May, on the closely guarded lawns and field expanses of our city parks, the hundreds of bareheaded, gayly-dressed Italian and Portuguese women and children eagerly gathering the young Dandelion plants to add to their meagre fare as a greatly-loved delicacy. They collect these "greens" in highly-colored kerchiefs, in baskets, in squares of sheeting ; I have seen the women bearing off a half-bushel of plants ; even their stumpy little children are impressed to increase the welcome harvest, and with a broken knife dig eagerly in the greensward. The thrifty park commissioners, in Dandelion-time, relax their rigid rules, " Keep Off the Grass," and turn the salad-loving Italians loose to improve the public lawns by freeing them from weeds.
The earliest sign of spring in the fields and woods in my childhood was the appearance of the Willow catkins, and was heralded by the cry of one child to another, —" Pussy-willows are out." How eagerly did those who loved the woods and fields turn, after the storm, whiteness, and chill of a New England winter, to Pussy-willows as a promise of summer and sunshine. Some of their charm ever lingers to us as we see them in the baskets of swarthy street venders in New York.
Magnolia blossoms are sold in our city streets to remind city dwellers of spring. Every flower its own bow-kwet," is the call of the vender. Bunches of Locust blossoms follow, awkwardly tied together. Though the Magnolia is earlier, I do not find it much more splendid as a flowering tree for the garden than our northern Dogwood ; and the Dogwood when in bloom seems just as tropical. It is then the glory of the landscape ; and its radiant starry blossoms turn into ideal beauty even our sombre cemeteries.
The Magnolia has been planted in northern gardens for over a century. Gardens on Long Island have many beautiful old specimens, doubt-less furnished by the Prince Nurseries. These seem thoroughly at home ; just as does the Locust brought from Virginia, a century ago, by one Captain Sands of Sands Point, to please his Virginia bride with the presence of the trees of her girlhood's home. These Locusts have spread over every rood of Long Island earth, and seem as much at home as Birch or Willow. The three Magnolia trees on Mr. Brown's lawn in Flatbush are as large as any I know in the North, and were exceptionally full of bloom this year, this photograph (shown facing page 148) being taken when they were past their prime. I saw children eagerly gathering the waxy petals which had fallen, and which show so plainly in the picture. But the flower is not common enough here for northern children to learn the varied attractions of the Magnolia.
The flower lore of American children is nearly all of English derivation; but children invent as well as copy. In the South the lavish growth of the Magnolia affords multiform playthings. The beautiful broad white petals give a snowy surface for the inditing of messages or valentines, which are written with a pin, when the letters turn dark brown. The stamens of the flower — waxlike with red tips — make mock illuminating matches. The leaves shape into wonderful drinking cups, and the scarlet seeds give a glowing necklace.
The glories of a spring garden are not in the rows of flowering bulbs, beautiful as they are ; but in the flowering shrubs and trees. The old gar-den had few shrubs, but it had unsurpassed beauty in its rows of fruit trees which in their blossoming give the spring garden, as here shown, that lovely whiteness which seems a blending of the seasons —a thought of winter's snows. The perfection of Apple blossoms I have told in another chapter. Earlier to appear was the pure white, rather chilly, blooms of the Plum tree, to the Japanese "the eldest brother of an hundred flowers." They are faintly sweet-scented with the delicacy found in many spring blossoms. A good example of the short verses of the Japanese poets tells of the Plum blossom and its perfume.
In springtime, on a cloudless night,
The lovely family of double white Plum blossoms which now graces our gardens is varied by tinted ones; there are sixty in all which the nineteenth century owes to Japan.
The Peach tree has a flower which has given name to one of the loveliest colors in the world. The Peach has varieties with wonderful double flowers of glorious color. Cherry trees bear a more cheerful white flower than Plum trees.
" The Cherry boughs above us spread
I do not recall the Judas tree in my childhood. I am told there were many in Worcester ; but there were none in our garden, nor in our neighborhood, and that was my world. Orchids might have hung from the trees a mile from my home, and would have been no nearer me than the tropics. I had a small world, but it was large enough, since it was bounded by garden walls.
Almond trees are seldom seen in northern gar-dens ; but the Flowering Almond flourishes as one of the purest and loveliest familiar shrubs. Silvery pink in bloom when it opens, the pink darkens till when in full flower it is deeply rosy. It was, next to the Lilac, the favorite shrub of my childhood. I used to call the exquisite little blooms "fairy roses," and there were many fairy tales relating to the Almond bush. This made the flower enhaloed with sentiment and mystery, which charmed as much as its beauty. The Flowering Almond seemed to have a special place under a window in country yards and gardens, as it is shown on page 39. A fitting spot it was, since it never grew tall enough to shade the little window panes.
With Pussy-willows and Almond blossoms and Ladies' Delights, with blossoming playhouse Apple trees and sweet-scented Lilac walks, spring was certainly Paradise in our childhood. Would it were an equally happy season in mature years; but who, garden-bred, can walk in the springtime through the garden of her childhood without thought of those who cared for the garden in its youth, and shared the care of their children with the care of their flowers, but now are seen no more.
" Oh, far away in some serener air,
I have written of the gladness of spring, but I know nothing more overwhelming than the heartache of spring, the sadness of a fresh-growing spring garden. Where is the dear one who planted it and loved it, and he who helped her in the care, and the loving child who played in it and left it in the springtime ? All that is good and beautiful has come again to us with the sunlight and warmth, save those whom we still love but can see no more. By that very measure of happiness poured for us in childhood in Lilac tide, is our cup of sadness now filled.