" FOR the heath, which was the third part of our plot, I
wish it to be framed as much as may be to a natural -wildness." So writes Bacon, in his well-known essay. Mr. Francis George Heath—it would be undignified to say that we mean here no play upon words—has interested a large number of readers by his books about trees, ferns, and other such matters, and now he has set himself to describe a garden of his -own contriving, "framed as much as possible to a natural wild- ness." His new book—" My Garden Wild, and What I Grew 'There "—is hardly a volume for review. Even in case of strong difference of opinion, flowers are not creatures to quarrel over, and minute criticism about a multitude of them would be tedi- ous enough. The chief thing that strikes one is also the first and
most obvious. If we once try to set up a norm in such a matter, we have already imperilled the wildness. And few of those 'who would even go down on their knees to chickweed and groundsel, like Mr. Heath, would have the good-fortune which fell to him, in a stream of water and an avenue of limes all ready to hand ; or the time and money required in order to fetch the brook and build the grove. Meanwhile, it is not necessary that all wild gardens should start with the capital Mr. Heath happened to have, and in the majority of cases Lord Bacon's "heath "- which he lays out on a scale for princes and nobles—would have to come down to a mere adjunct to "garden," in the usual sense of that word. Mr. Heath does not appear to think much ,of the planting of wild-flowers here and there on impulse, in memory of what he calls "pleasant outings ;" but if this is carried out on a goodly scale during a few years, the result will not be unpleasant. And it will be much more agreeable if some of the treasures have other than egotistic or even friendly associations ; for instance, periwinkle gathered from a spot sacred to the memory of Charles Lamb, or wild-ivy plucked at Stoke-Pogis, or an oak-tree grown from an acorn taken at Chalfont.
It is by no means necessary to have Mr. Heath's tenderness for real weeds (which can and do take care of themselves) ; but .gardeners hate, under that name, many things of extreme beauty. A case is within our knowledge in which a gardener tore up some wild strawberry-plants, as "they weeds." And the enmity of these professional personages against clover- flowers and buttercups is shared by others who are not gardeners. Here and there, of course, there is a fresher, brighter taste. Notmany years ago the fore-court of a house near the Elephant and Castle was in spring and summer a mass of buttercups ; and the wild strawberries in question above, which had been fetched from Keston in a half-day's "outing," were grown in a very small garden, well within the four-mile circle. An ordinary florist thinks you silly, if you make a dash at a few cowslips which happen to be lying in a corner of his place. "How much for these ?" you ask. "Oh, anything you like ! Nothing ; I don't know how they ever came here."
There is a buying public for the treasures of the aged tramp, who haunts the suburbs with his basket of "wild things,"— primroses, snowdrops, hyacinths ; but as we Londoners see less and less of these men every year, we may suppose that they do not flourish as they once did. There used to be at least one man who hawked buttercups about, and nothing else. Daffodils you may still see in the tramp's basket, but not in large quan- tities; and the florist will only laugh at you, if you tell him you want the single, and not the double variety.
The gardeners, says Mr. Ruskin, spoil the flowers, and there is truth in that. At the present moment, happily, gardening is
very popular ; but it is usually gardening of one pattern, and every now and then there is a run upon particular flowers, which brings vividly before the mind one of the least agreeable tendencies of civilised crowds. Nobody wants to be ungrateful for the beauty of cultivated flowers or trees ; but that they come, and are not forced, is, after all, a chief part of our delight in them ; and the pleasure they give is one of the cheapest, as it is one of the most intense. Now-a-days, the gardening which goes on so busily is far too suggestive of wealth, artifice, and imitation. Let us, for a few sentences, keep clear of all this, and think chiefly of the small gardens of those who have but little time and no money, but who stand in need of all the refreshment they can get out of Nature day by day.
Three things are especially delightful and animating in flowers,—the sense of spontaneity which they give us ; the sense of freshness and relation to soft rain and sweet air ; the ex- hilaration attending bright colour, and, in a lesser degree, the exhilaration caused by beautiful form. The exhilaration caused by fine colour sometimes reaches a kind of half-divine delirium, a sort of intoxication ; that produced by beauty in form is calmer, and some flowers are not particularly beautiful in leaf or stem. Of course, we must by no means omit the exquisite sensations derived from sweet or pungent odours.
The delight we receive from trees, especially when growing together in large numbers, is similar to that which we derive from flowers, but more massive. The suggestion of spontaneity is the same, or greater, and that of boundless relation to light, rain, and air is, of course, much stronger. Trees and shrubs which flower, such as chestnuts, limes, and hawthorns, give intense de- light ; so, of course, do apple-trees, plum-trees, and their relatives ; but in them the bloom carries with it a hint of a purpose which is a little alien from the idea of wildness,—that is to say, if they are cultivated trees. But the most profound pleasure re- ceived from trees lies neither in sight nor scent, but in the whispering or clashing of the leaves (which is one pleasure by day, and quite another by night), and generally in their com- panionship with wind and rain. If any other element of our delight in trees can compare in freeness with these, it is that which we feel in watching the counter-change of their shadows in the sunlight, and even this has much to do with incalculable play of air.
Closely akin to the delight which trees give us is that which we get from grass ; but it must not be a "dry, smooth-shaven green,"—there must be the children's bread-and-cheese, clover, butter-cups, or whatever else may be in season growing wild. All these pleasures cannot be had everywhere, even if there is garden-ground, but some of them may, and certainly the more massive. Mr. Ruskin complained, in "Fors Clavigera," that wild-flowers would not grow well in his garden at Denmark Hill ; but they will grow fairly well much nearer the air of cities than that is,—a few will apparently grow anywhere. These things are very capricious. The present writer tried repeatedly, but in vain, to grow in a suburban garden a certain sea-side plant, and after all found it one day flourishing in a box close at the back of the Ludgate Hill railway-station. Odd, but not un- pleasantly odd, things in floriculture may be seen in London. Not long ago, in large window-boxes opposite the Admiralty, anybody might see the gadding, yellow-flowered, vegetable- marrow plant, of all things in the world !
Remembering that we are still thinking of what may be done in cases where there is little space, time, or money, we may note that besides wild-flowers proper, there are garden-flowers which give all the effect of wildness, such as some of the creepers. As for the exhilarating effect of bright colour, this is not to be had so easily from wild-flowers, unless they are grown in mass. Nothing can be more beautiful than the colours of the scarlet pimpernel, the ground-ivy, the speedwell, or the periwinkle; but the flowers are small. The ground-ivy, it may be noted in passing, gives out a very pleasant odour in the sun. The most easily accessible of wild-flowers, and the most easily grown in mass—the primrose—wants no praise, and it brings with it a high degree of the sense of spontaneity. No town-born human being above Peter Bell in quality can forget the first time he ever saw a clump of wild primroses. But we must go farther, if we want to get, without much trouble, the stimulating effect of gorgeous colour. There are the purple-pink foxgloves, which can be had for the trouble of fetching from many a common, and in them we have, of coarse, extreme beauty of form. But the best easy and cheap way to get colour in profusion, with an effect of wildness, is to grow on as large a scale as conveni- ent such creepers as nasturtium, canary-bird climber, and the large pink and purple convolvulus. These will look as wild as you please, and the nasturtium is very hardy. If we can get broom and gorse, as Mr. Heath did, so much the better ; but in a small garden, space must be economised. It would be impos- sible here to go through the list of likely wild-flowers, but the common willow-weed, which will grow handsomely everywhere to the height of a man, must not be omitted. If you can gather it at some place with an association, so mach the better,—say, by "the stripling Thames," so that it suggests " Thyrsis " and the" Scholar Gypsy." Yellow-rocket is easy to get, and so are crowsfoot, wild thyme, and wild geranium. Anything may be transplanted, if you only take away enough of the earth round the roots ; but Mr. Heath rightly repeats, what has been said before, that wild things (one may add, especially ferns) seem to like the company of their old acquaintances. Ferns, which droop when set by themselves, will pluck up an amazing spirit, if you give them a chance of waving their beautiful pennons over ground-ivy and speedwell. Harebells are " nesh " things to transplant.
In coming to trees, we must ask pardon for recalling an old, but capital story. There was a country household, in which dwelt three generations. Some one offered a lot of young apple-trees to the grandson, a youth ; and he said no, he would be in his grave before the trees came to anything. His father said he was too busy. The old grandfather chuckled, and said that, as he had nothing else to do, he would set them. He did so, and lived to drink cyder made from the apples. Trees grow up very quickly, and a little ingenuity enables one to evade the unjust Common-law obligation not to remove them on concluding a tenancy. The great thing is to have them as near to the ordinary dwelling-rooms as may be healthy, and the same thing applies to the flowers which are to give the masses of colour. Now, quick eyes and willing hands will suffice to make a pocket- park. Once upon a time, some dry-looking sticks, that had been flung over the wall of a large garden by the gardener, were picked up by a passer-by and set carefully. They yielded yards of white raspberry-brake, all for nothing. This is not wild gardening, but it is cheap, and you may happen to pick up sycamore or fig-trees, if you "notice." A fig-tree soon makes a large bower of thick shade and extreme beauty, to say nothing of its delicious odour in the sun. You may see fig-trees doing pretty well within a mile of St. Paul's. But there is always one resource,—setting fruit-stones and pips. Six years is not long to wait for a plum-tree or apple-tree in full leaf and bloom, and ten feet high. There is one resource, too, which must not be overlooked,—the willow, which, in all its varieties, may be got for nothing. It grows with incredible rapidity, and to say nothing of its graceful motion in the wind, and its tremulous sensibility to approaching change of weather, it makes delicious noises in a gale. Poplars are cheap, and they also grow quickly, as we all know. Of their twinkling and lisping there is no need to speak. You cannot have the full sense of spon- taneity in connection with wild-flowers, unless you have trees and shrubs ; and let us not forget the blackberry-bush, which also can be had for nothing. Like the large-leaved garden-cress, which also gives an air of wildness to the ground, the black- berry grows so profusely that it has to be discouraged where the space is small. Oak-trees can be grown for nothing, and the effect of a few saplings in hinting of the forest is delicious. So is that of wild mint, of which a little may be grown, even in the absence of Mr. Heath's stream of water and artificially- made marsh. Heaths and vetches also give wildness, and, of course, if there is room to grow wild thyme in any quantity, it yields colour in mass besides. But all along we have (it may be repeated) been thinking of those who can do but little in gardening of any sort, and who are suffi- ciently in love with freshness and freedom, and suggestions of boundless sweet air and green turf, to want trees and wild- flowers always near them, either alone, or in addition to other green things. Far too little is thought of the refreshment there is in the neighbourhood of trees and grass (both of which will grow anywhere), and also in free masses of colour. This,
however, concerns those who, whether from weariness or strong love, really need refreshment of that order, and not for those with whom gardening is mainly a question of button-hole and imitation.
There is a doleful side to the subject. Mr. Mill, whose love of wild-flowers is well known, has a lugubrious passage, in which he implores his countrymen to leave off multiplying, before they have improved these lovely creatures of God off the face of the earth. It is not long since the lady who wrote under the signature of " Silverpen" (invented and applied by Douglas Jerrold) was taken up and fined for plucking a sprig of tormentil, or some such trifle, on Hampstead Heath. Similar cases have occurred since, and they must become more frequent ; but there is something rather disheartening in the idea of putting wild-flowers under the care of a Board of Works and the police. 'Arry and 'Arriet are bad enough, but it seems az if we ought really to be able to spare even them a good many boughs of May from Epping Forest, before summoning and fining them as we have done. When all the ferns and blue- bells are under the care of Mr. Bumble, and the only wild- flowers we can see or touch—short of going to the world's end for them—are those that we cultivate by our own doors, the. situation will be something worse than ridiculous.