Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Purpose of a Garden

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"I asked a schoolboy, in the sweet summertide, "what he thought a garden was for?" and he said Strawberries. His younger sister suggested Croquet and the elder Garden Parties. The brother from Oxford made a prompt declaration in favor of Lawn Tennis and Cigarettes, but he was rebuked by a solemn senior, who wore spectacles, and a more back hair than is usual with males, and was told that "a garden was designed for botanical research, and for the classification of plants."

"I repeated my question to a middle-aged nymph, who wore a feathered hat of noble proportions over a loose green tunic with a silver belt, and she replied, with a rapturous disdain of the ignorance which presumed to ask--

"'What's a garden for? For the soul, sir, for the soul of the poet! For visions of the invisible, for grasping the intangible, for hearing the inaudible, for exaltations above the miserable dullness of common life into the splendid regions of imagination and romance...'

"A capacious gentleman informed me that nothing in horticulture touched him so sensibly as green peas and new potatoes, and he spoke with so much cheerful candor that I could not get angry, but my indignation was roused by a morose millionaire, when he declared that of all his expenses he grudged most the outlay on his confounded garden.

"I began to fear that my intense love of a garden might be a mere hallucination, an idiosycrasy, a want of manliness, a softening of the brain. Nevertheless I persevered in my inquiries, until I found that which I sought--the sympathy of an enthusiasm as hearty as my own, a brotherhood and a sisterhood, who, amid all the ignorance and pretence of which I have given examples, were devoted to the culture of flowers, and enjoyed from this occupation a large portion of the happiness, which is the purest and the surest we can know on earth...the happiness of Home.

--from Our Gardens, 1899, Samuel Reynolds Hole

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