A wise gardener it is who thinks of the winter in springtime and plants for it as surely as he thinks of spring in the winter season and longs for it! If, in the many ways by which the affairs of daily life are re-enforced, the saying is true that “forethought is coin in the pocket, quiet in the brain, and content in the heart,” doubly does it apply to the pleasures of living, of which the outdoor life of working side by side with nature, called gardening, is one of the chief. When a garden is inherited, the traditions of the soil or reverence for those who planned and toiled in it may make one blind to certain defects in its conception, and beginning with a priori set by another one does as one can.
But in those choosing site, and breaking soil for themselves, inconsistency is inexcusable. Follow the lay of the land and let it lead. Nature does not attempt placid lowland pictures on a steep hillside, nor dramatic landscape effects in a horizonless meadow, therefore why should you? For one great garden principle you will learn from nature’s close companionship—consistency!
You who have a bit of abrupt hillside of impoverished soil, yet where the sky-line is divided in a picture of many panels by the trees, you should not try to perch thereon a prim Dutch garden of formal lines; neither should you, to whom a portion of fertile level plain has fallen, seek to make it picturesque by a tortuous maze of walks, curving about nothing in particular and leading nowhere, for of such is not nature. Either situation will develop the skill, though in different directions, and do not forget that in spite of better soil it takes greater individuality to make a truly good and harmonious garden on the flat than on the rolling ground.
I always tremble for the lowlander who, down in the depth of his nature, has a prenatal hankering for rocks, because he is apt to build an undigested rockery! These sort of rockeries are wholly separate from the rock gardens, often majestic, that nowadays supplement a bit of natural rocky woodland, bringing it within the garden pale. The awful rockery of the flat garden is like unto a nest of prehistoric eggs that have been turned to stone, from the interstices of which a few wan vines and ferns protrude somewhat, suggesting the garnishing for an omelet.
Also, if you follow Nature and study her devices, you will alone learn the ways of the winds and how to prepare for them. Where does Spring set her first flag of truce—out in the windswept open?
No! the arbutus and hepatica lie bedded not alone in the fallen leaves of the forest but amid their own enduring foliage. The skunk cabbage raises his hooded head first in sheltered hollows. The marsh marigold lies in the protection of bog tussocks and stream banks. The first bloodroot is always found at the foot of some natural windbreak, while the shad-bush, that ventures farther afield and higher in air than any, is usually set in a protecting hedge, like his golden forerunner the spice-bush.