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An essay by George Washington Cable

The Midwinter Gardens Of New Orleans

Title:     The Midwinter Gardens Of New Orleans
Author: George Washington Cable [More Titles by Cable]

If the following pages might choose their own time and place they would meet their reader not in the trolley-car or on the suburban train, but in his own home, comfortably seated. For in order to justify the eulogistic tone of the descriptions which must presently occupy them their first word must be a conciliatory protest against hurry. One reason we Americans garden so little is that we are so perpetually in haste. The art of gardening is primarily a leisurely and gentle one.

And gentility still has some rights. Our Louisiana Creoles know this, and at times maintain it far beyond the pales of their evergreen gardens.

"'Step lively'?" one of them is said to have amazedly retorted in a New York street-car. "No, the lady shall not step lively. At yo' leisure, madame, entrez!" In New Orleans the conductors do not cry "Step lively!" Right or wrong, the cars there are not absolutely democratic. Gentility really enjoys in them a certain right to be treated gently.

If democracy could know its own tyrants it would know that one of them is haste--the haste, the hurry of the crowd; that hurry whose cracking whip makes every one a compulsory sharer in it. The street-car conductor, poor lad, is not to blame. The fault is ours, many of us being in such a scramble to buy democracy at any price that, as if we were belatedly buying railway tickets, we forget to wait for our change.

Now one of this tyrant's human forms is a man a part of whose tyranny is to call himself a gardener, though he knows he is not one, and the symbol of whose oppression is nothing more or less than that germ enemy of good gardening, the lawn-mower. You, if you know the gardening of our average American home almost anywhere else, would see, yourself, how true this is, were you in New Orleans. But you see it beautifully proved not by the presence but by the absence of the tyranny. The lawn-mower is there, of course; no one is going to propose that the lawn-mower anywhere be abolished. It is one of our modern marvels of convenience, a blessed release of countless human backs from countless hours of crouching, sickle-shaped, over the sickle. It is not the tyrant, but only like so many other instruments of beneficent democratic emancipation, the tyrant's opportunity. A large part of its convenience is expedition, and expedition is the easiest thing in the world to become vulgarized; vulgarized it becomes haste, and haste is the tyrant. Such arguing would sound absurdly subtle aimed against the uncloaked, barefaced tyranny of the street-car conductor, but the tyranny of the man with the lawn-mower is itself subtle, masked, and requires subtlety to unmask it.

See how it operates. For so we shall be the better prepared for a generous appreciation of those far Southern gardens whose beauty has singled them out for our admiration. We know, of course, that the "formal garden," by reason of its initial and continuing costliness, is, and must remain, the garden of the wealthy few, and that the gardening for the great democracy of our land, the kind that will make the country at large a gardened land, is "informal," freehand, ungeometrical gardening. In this sort, on whatever scale, whether of the capitalist or of the cottager, the supreme feature is the lawn; the lawn-mower puts this feature within the reach of all, and pretty nearly every American householder has, such as it is, his bit of Eden.

But just in that happy moment the Tempter gets in. The garden's mistress or master is beguiled to believe that one may have a garden without the expense of a gardener and at the same time without any gardening knowledge. The stable-boy, or the man-of-all-work, or the cook, or the cottager himself, pushes the lawn-mower, and except for green grass, or changeable brown and green, their bit of Eden is naked and is not ashamed.

Or if ashamed, certain other beguilements, other masked democratic tyrannies, entering, reassure it; bliss of publicity, contempt of skill, and joy in machinery and machine results. An itinerant ignoramus comes round with his own lawn-mower, the pushing of which he now makes his sole occupation for the green half of the year, and the entire length, breadth and thickness of whose wisdom is a wisdom not of the lawn but only of the lawn-mower; how to keep its bearings oiled and its knives chewing fine; and the lawn becomes staringly a factory product.

Then tyranny turns the screw again, and in the bliss of publicity and a very reasonable desire to make the small home lot look as large as possible, down come the fences, side and front, and the applauding specialist of the lawn-mower begs that those obstructions may never be set up again, because now the householder can have his lawn mowed so much _quicker_, and he, the pusher, can serve more customers. Were he truly a gardener he might know somewhat of the sweet, sunlit, zephyrous, fragrant outdoor privacies possible to a real garden, and more or less of that benign art which, by skilful shrubbery plantings, can make a small place look much larger--as well as incomparably more interesting--than can any mere abolition of fences, and particularly of the street fence. But he has not so much as one eye of a genuine gardener or he would know that he is not keeping your lawn but only keeping it shaven. He is not even a good garden laborer. You might as well ask him how to know the wild flowers as how to know the lawn pests--dandelion, chickweed, summer-grass, heal-all, moneywort and the like--with which you must reckon wearily by and by because he only mows them in his blindness and lets them flatten to the ground and scatter their seed like an infantry firing-line. Inquire of him concerning any one of the few orphan shrubs he has permitted you to set where he least dislikes them, and which he has trimmed clear of the sod--put into short skirts--so that he may run his whirling razors under (and now and then against) them at full speed. Will he know the smallest fact about it or yield any echo of your interest in it?

There is a late story of an aged mother, in a darkened room, saying falteringly to the kind son who has brought in some flowers which she caresses with her soft touch, "I was wishing to-day--We used to have them in the yard--before the lawn-mower--" and saying no more. I know it for a fact, that in a certain cemetery the "Sons of the American Revolution" have for years been prevented from setting up their modest marks of commemoration upon the graves of Revolutionary heroes, because they would be in the way of the sexton's lawn-mower.

Now in New Orleans the case is so different that really the amateur gardener elsewhere has not all his rights until he knows why it is so different. Let us, therefore, look into it. In that city one day the present writer accosted an Irishman who stood, pruning-shears in hand, at the foot of Clay's statue, Lafayette Square. It was the first week of January, but beside him bloomed abundantly that lovely drooping jasmine called in the books _jasminum multiflorum_.

"Can you tell me what shrub this is?"

"That, sor, is the _monthly flora!_ Thim as don't know the but-hanical nayum sometimes calls it the stare jismin, but the but-hanical nayum is the _monthly flora_."

The inquirer spoke his thanks and passed on, but an eager footfall overtook him, his elbow felt a touch, and the high title came a third time: "The but-hanical nayum is the _monthly flora_."

The querist passed on, warmed by a grateful esteem for one who, though doubtless a skilled and frequent tinkler of the lawn-mower within its just limitations, was no mere dragoon of it, but kept a regard for things higher than the bare sod, things of grace in form, in bloom, in odor, and worthy of "but-hanical nayum." No mere chauffeur he, of the little two-wheeled machine whose cult, throughout the most of our land, has all but exterminated ornamental gardening.

In New Orleans, where it has not conquered, there is no crowding for room. A ten-story building is called there a sky-scraper. The town has not a dozen in all, and not one of that stature is an apartment or tenement house. Having felled her surrounding forests of cypress and drained the swamps in which they stood, she has at command an open plain capable of housing a population seven times her present three hundred and fifty thousand, if ever she chooses to build skyward as other cities do.

But this explains only why New Orleans _might_ have gardens, not why she chooses to have them, and has them by thousands, when hundreds of other towns that have the room--and the lawns--choose not to have the shrubberies, vines and flowers, or have them without arrangement. Why should New Orleans so exceptionally choose to garden, and garden with such exceptional grace? Her house-lots are extraordinarily numerous in proportion to the numbers of her people, and that is a beginning of the explanation; but it is only a beginning. Individually the most of those lots are no roomier than lots elsewhere. Thousands of them, prettily planted, are extremely small.

The explanation lies mainly in certain peculiar limitations, already hinted, of her--democracy! That is to say, it lies in her fences. Her fences remain, her democracy is different from the Northern variety. The difference may consist only in faults both there and here which we all hope to see democracy itself one day eliminate; but the difference is palpable. The fences mean that the dwellers behind them have never accorded to each other, as neighbors, that liberty-to-take-liberties of which Northern householders and garden-holders, after a quarter-century's disappointing experiment, are a bit weary.

In New Orleans virtually every home, be it ever so proud or poor, has a fence on each of its four sides. As a result the home is bounded by its fences, not by its doors. Unpleasant necessities these barriers are admitted to be, and those who have them are quite right in not liking them in their bare anatomy. So they clothe them with shrubberies and vines and thus on the home's true corporate bound the garden's profile, countenance and character are established in the best way possible; without, that is, any impulse toward embellishment _insulated_ from utility. Compelled by the common frailties of all human nature (even in a democracy) to maintain fortifications, the householder has veiled the militant aspect of his defences in the flowered robes and garlandries of nature's diplomacy and hospitality. Thus reassured, his own inner hospitality can freely overflow into the fragrant open air and out upon the lawn--a lawn whose dimensions are enlarged to both eye and mind, inasmuch as every step around its edges--around its meandering shrubbery borders--is made affable and entertaining by Flora's versatilities.

[Illustration: "In New Orleans the home is bounded by its fences, not by its doors--so they clothe them with shrubberies and vines."

It is pleasant to notice how entirely the evergreen-vine-covered wall preserves the general air of spaciousness. The forest tree at the front and right (evergreen magnolia) is covered with an evergreen vine from the turf to its branches.]

[Illustration: "The lawn ... lies clean-breasted, green-breasted, from one shrub-and-flower-planted side to the other, along and across."

A common garden feature in New Orleans is the division fence with front half of wire, rear half of boards, both planted out with shrubs. The overhanging forest tree is the evergreen magnolia (_M. grandiflora_).]

At the same time, let us note in passing, this enlargement is partly because the lawn--not always but very much oftener than where lawns go unenclosed--lies clean-breasted, green-breasted, from one shrub-and-flower-planted side to the other, along and across; free of bush, statue, urn, fountain, sun-dial or pattern-bed, an uninterrupted sward. Even where there are lapses from this delightful excellence they often do not spoil, but only discount, more or less, the beauty of the general scheme, as may be noted--if without offence we may offer it the homage of criticism--in one of the gardens we have photographed [page 176] to illustrate these argumentations. There eight distinct encumbrances narrow the sward without in the least adding to the garden's abounding charm. The smallest effort of the reader's eye will show how largely, in a short half-day's work, the fair scene might be enhanced in lovely dignity simply by the elimination of these slight excesses, or by their withdrawal toward the lawn's margins and into closer company with the tall trees.

In New Orleans, where, even when there are basements, of which there are many, the domains of the cook and butler are somewhere else, a nearly universal feature of every sort of dwelling--the banker's on two or three lots, the laborer's on half a one--is a paved walk along one side of the house, between the house and the lawn, from a front gate to the kitchen. Generally there is but the one front gate, facing the front door, with a short walk leading directly up to this door. In such case the rear walk, beginning at the front door-steps, turns squarely along the house's front, then at its corner turns again as squarely to the rear as a drill-sergeant and follows the dwelling's ground contour with business precision--being a business path. In fact it is only the same path we see in uncrowded town life everywhere in our land.

[Illustration: "There eight distinct encumbrances narrow the sward.... In a half-day's work, the fair scene might be enhanced in lovely dignity by the elimination of these excesses."

The sky-line of this beautiful garden becomes a part of the garden itself, a fact of frequent occurrence in New Orleans. The happy contrast of rearmost oak and palm is also worthy of notice.]

But down there it shows this peculiarity, that it is altogether likely to be well bordered with blooming shrubs and plants along all that side of it next the lawn. Of course it is a fault that this shrubbery border--and all the more so because it is very apt to be, as in three of our illustrations [pages 174,178, 180], a rose border--should, so often as it is, be pinched in between parallel edges. "No pinching" is as good a rule for the garden as for the kindergarten. Manifestly, on the side next the house the edge between the walk and the planted border should run parallel with the base line of the house, for these are business lines and therefore ever so properly lines of promptitude--of the shortest practicable distance between two points--lines of supply and demand, lines of need. For lines of need, business speed!

But for lines of pleasure, grace and leisure. It is the tactful office of this shrubbery border to veil the business path from the lawn--from the pleasure-ground. Therefore its _outside_, lawn-side edge should be a line of pleasure, hence a line of grace, hence not a straight line (dead line), nor yet a line of but one lethargic curve, but a line of suavity and tranquil ongoing, a leisurely undulating line.

[Illustration: "The rear walk ... follows the dwelling's ground contour with business precision--being a business path."]

Not to have it so is an error, but the error is an inoffensive one easily corrected and the merit is that the dwelling's business path is greenly, bloomingly screened from its pleasure-ground by a lovely natural drapery which at the same time furnishes, as far as the path goes, the house's robes of modesty. Indeed they are furnished farther than the path goes; for no good work gathers momentum more readily than does good gardening, and the householder, having begun so rightly, has now nothing to do to complete the main fabric of his garden but to carry this flow of natural draperies on round the domicile's back and farther side and forward to its front again. Thus may he wonderfully extenuate, even above its reach and where it does not conceal, the house's architectural faults, thus winsomely enhance all its architectural charm; like a sweet human mistress of the place, putting into generous shadow all the ill, and into open sunshine all the best, of a husband's strong character. (See both right and left foreground of illustration on page 178, and right foreground on page 180.)

And now if this New Orleans idea--that enough private enclosure to secure good home gardening is not incompatible with public freedom, green lawns, good neighborship, sense of room and fulness of hospitality, and that a house-lot which is a picture is worth more to everybody (and therefore is even more democratic) than one which is little else than a map--if this idea, we say, finds any credence among sister cities and towns that may be able to teach the Creole city much in other realms of art and criticism, let us cast away chalk and charcoal for palette and brush and show in floral, arborescent, redolent detail what is the actual pictorial excellence of these New Orleans gardens.

For notwithstanding all their shut-in state, neither their virtues nor their faults are hid from the passing eye. The street fence, oftenest of iron, is rarely more than breast-high and is always an open fence. Against its inner side frequently runs an evergreen hedge never taller than the fence's top. Commonly it is not so tall, is always well clipped and is so civil to strangers that one would wish to see its like on every street front, though he might prefer to find it not so invariably of the one sort of growth--a small, handsome privet, that is, which nevertheless fulfils its office with the perfection of a solid line of palace sentries. Unluckily there still prevails a very old-fashioned tendency to treat the front fence as in itself ornamental and to forget two things: First, that its nakedness is no part of its ornamental value; that it would be much handsomer lightly clothed--underclothed--like, probably, its very next neighbor; clothed with a hedge, either close or loose, and generously kept below the passer's line of sight. And, second, that from the householder's point of view, looking streetward from his garden's inner depth, its fence, when unplanted, is a blank interruption to his whole fair scheme of meandering foliage and bloom which on the other three sides frames in the lawn; as though the garden were a lovely stage scene with the fence for footlights, and some one had left the footlights unlit.

[Illustration: "Thus may he wonderfully extenuate, even ... where it does not conceal, the house's architectural faults."]

A lovely stage scene, we say, without a hint of the stage's unreality; for the side and rear fences and walls, being frankly unornamental, call for more careful management than the front and are often charmingly treated. (Page 174.) (See, for an example of a side fence with front half of wire and rear half of boards, page 174, and for solid walls, pages 180 and 184.) Where they separate neighbors' front lawns they may be low and open, but back of the building-line, being oftenest tight and generally more than head-high, they are sure to be draped with such climbing floral fineries as honeysuckles, ivies, jasmines white and yellow, lantanas, roses or the Madeira vine. More frequently than not they are planted also, in strong masses, with ever so many beautiful sorts of firmer-stemmed growths, herbaceous next the sod, woody behind, assembled according to stature, from one to twelve feet high, swinging in and out around the lawn until all stiffness of boundaries is waved and smiled away.

[Illustration: " ... a lovely stage scene without a hint of the stage's unreality."

The beauty of this spot could be enhanced in ten minutes by taking away the planted urns which stand like gazing children in the middle of the background.]

In that first week of January already mentioned the present writer saw at every turn, in such borders and in leaf and blossom, the delicate blue-flowered plumbago; two or three kinds of white jasmine, also in bloom; and the broad bush-form of the yellow jasmine, beginning to flower. With them were blooming roses of a dozen kinds; the hibiscus (not althaea but the _H. rosasinensis_ of our Northern greenhouses), slim and tall, flaring its mallow-flowers pink, orange, salmon and deep red; the trailing-lantana, covering broad trellises of ten feet in height and with its drooping masses of delicate foliage turned from green to mingled hues of lilac and rose by a complete mantle of their blossoms. He saw the low, sweet-scented geraniums of lemon, rose and nutmeg odors, persisting through the winter unblighted, and the round-leaved, "zonal" sorts surprisingly large of growth--in one case, on a division fence, trained to the width and height of six feet. There, too, was the poinsettia still bending in its Christmas red, taller than the tallest man's reach, often set too forthpushingly at the front, but at times, with truer art, glowing like a red constellation from the remoter bays of the lawn; and there, taller yet, the evergreen _Magnolia fuscata_, full of its waxen, cream-tinted, inch-long flowers smelling delicately like the banana. He found the sweet olive, of refined leaf and minute axillary flowers yielding their ravishing tonic odor with the reserve of the violet; the pittosporum; the box; the myrtle; the camphor-tree with its neat foliage answering fragrantly the grasp of the hand. The dark camellia was there, as broad and tall as a lilac-bush, its firm, glossy leaves of the deepest green and its splendid red flowers covering it from tip to sod, one specimen showing by count a thousand blossoms open at once and the sod beneath innumerably starred with others already fallen. The night jasmine, in full green, was not yet in blossom but it was visibly thinking of the spring. The Chinese privet, of twenty feet stature, in perennial leaf, was saving its flowers for May. The sea-green oleander, fifteen feet high and wide (see extreme left foreground, page 176), drooped to the sward on four sides but hoarded its floral cascade for June. The evergreen loquat (locally miscalled the mespilus plum) was already faltering into bloom; also the orange, with its flower-buds among its polished leaves, whitening for their own wedding; while high over them towered the date and other palms, spired the cedar and arborvitae, and with majestic infrequency, where grounds were ample, spread the lofty green, scintillating boughs of the magnolia grandiflora (see left foregrounds on pages 174, 182 and 184), the giant, winter-bare pecan and the wide, mossy arms of the vast live-oak.

[Illustration: "Back of the building-line the fences ... generally more than head-high ... are sure to be draped."]

[Illustration: " ... from the autumn side of Christmas to the summer side of Easter."

In any garden as fair as this there should be some place to sit down. This deficiency is one of the commonest faults in American gardening.]

Now while the time of year in which these conditions are visible heightens their lovely wonder, their practical value to Northern home-lovers is not the marvel and delight of something inimitable but their inspiring suggestion of what may be done with ordinary Northern home grounds, to the end that the floral pageantry of the Southern January may be fully rivalled by the glory of the Northern June.

For of course the Flora of the North, who in the winter of long white nights puts off all her jewelry and nearly all her robes and "lies down to pleasant dreams," is the blonde sister of, and equal heiress with, this darker one who, in undivested greenery and flowered trappings, persists in open-air revelry through all the months from the autumn side of Christmas to the summer side of Easter. Wherefore it seems to me the Northern householder's first step should be to lay hold upon this New Orleans idea in gardening--which is merely by adoption a New Orleans idea, while through and through, except where now and then its votaries stoop to folly, it is by book a Northern voice, the garden gospel of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Wherever American homes are assembled we may have, all winter, for the asking--if we will but ask ourselves instead of the lawn-mower man--an effect of home, of comfort, cheer and grace, of summer and autumn reminiscences and of spring's anticipations, immeasurably better than any ordinary eye or fancy can extort from the rectangular and stiffened-out nakedness of unplanted boundaries; immeasurably better than the month-by-month daily death-stare of shroud-like snow around houses standing barefooted on the frozen ground. It may be by hearty choice that we abide where we must forego outdoor roses in Christmas week and broad-leaved evergreens blooming at New Year's, Twelfth-night or Carnival. Well and good! But we can have even in mid-January, and ought to allow ourselves, the lawn-garden's surviving form and tranced life rather than the shrubless lawn's unmarked grave flattened beneath the void of the snow. We ought to retain the sleeping beauty of the ordered garden's unlost configuration, with the warm house for its bosom, with all its remoter contours--alleys, bays, bushy networks and sky-line--keeping a winter share of their feminine grace and softness. We ought to retain the "frozen music" of its myriad gray, red and yellow stems and twigs and lingering blue and scarlet berries stirring, though leaflessly, for the kiss of spring. And we ought to retain the invincible green of cedars, junipers and box, cypress, laurel, hemlock spruce and cloaking ivy, darkling amid and above these, receiving from and giving to them a cheer which neither could have in their frostbound Eden without mutual contrast.

[Illustration: "The sleeping beauty of the garden's unlost configuration ... keeping a winter's share of its feminine grace and softness."

This picture was taken in the first flush of spring. The trees in blossom are the wild Japanese cherry.]

Eden! If I so recklessly ignore latitude as to borrow the name of the first gardener's garden for such a shivering garden as this it is because I see this one in a dream of hope--a diffident, interrogating hope--really to behold, some day, this dream-garden of Northern winters as I have never with actual open eyes found one kept by any merely well-to-do American citizen. If I describe it I must preface with all the disclaimers of a self-conscious amateur whose most venturesome argument goes no farther than "Why not?" yet whom the evergreen gardens of New Orleans revisited in January impel to protest against every needless submission to the tyrannies of frost and of a gardening art--or non-art, a submission which only in the outdoor embellishment of the home takes winter supinely, abjectly.

This garden of a hope's dream covers but three ordinary town lots. Often it shrinks to but one without asking for any notable change of plan. Following all the lines, the hard, law lines, that divide it from its neighbors and the street, there runs, waist-high on its street front, shoulder-high on its side bounds, a close evergreen hedge of hemlock spruce. In its young way this hedge has been handsome from infancy; though still but a few years old it gives, the twelvemonth round, a note both virile and refined in color, texture and form, and if the art that planted it and the care that keeps it do not decay neither need the hedge for a century to come. Against the intensest cold this side of Labrador it is perfectly hardy, is trimmed with a sloping top to shed snows whose weight might mutilate it, and can be kept in repair from generation to generation, like the house's plumbing or roof, or like some green-uniformed pet regiment with ranks yet full after the last of its first members has perished.

Furthermore, along the inner side of this green hedge (sometimes close against it, sometimes with a turfed alley between), as well as all round about the house, extend borders of deciduous shrubs, with such meandering boundaries next the broad white lawn as the present writer, for this time, has probably extolled enough. These bare, gray shrub masses are not wholly bare or gray and have other and most pleasingly visible advantages over unplanted, pallid vacancy, others besides the mere lace-work of their twigs and the occasional tenderness of a last summer's bird's nest. Here and there, breaking the cold monotone, a bush of moose maple shows the white-streaked green of its bare stems and sprays, or cornus or willow gives a soft glow of red, purple or yellow. Only here and there, insists my dream, lest when winter at length gives way to the "rosy time of the year" their large and rustic gentleness mar the nuptial revels of summer's returned aristocracy. Because, moreover, there is a far stronger effect of life, home and cheer from the broad-leaved evergreens which, in duly limited numbers, assemble with and behind these, and from the lither sorts of conifers that spire out of the network and haze of living things in winter sleep. The plantings at the garden's and dwelling's front being properly, of course, lower than those farther back, I see among them, in this dream, the evergreen box and several kinds of evergreen ferns. I see two or three species of evergreen barberries, not to speak of Thunberg's leafless one warm red with its all-winter berries, the winter garden's rubric. I see two varieties of euonymus; various low junipers; two sorts of laurel; two of andromeda, and the high-clambering evergreen ivy. Beginning with these in front, infrequent there but multiplying toward the place's rear, are bush and tree forms of evergreen holly, native rhododendrons, the many sorts of foreign cedars and our native ones white and red, their skyward lines modified as the square or pointed architecture of the house may call for contrasts in pointed or broad-topped arborescence. If, at times, I dream behind all this a grove, with now and then one of its broad, steepling or columnar trees pushed forward upon the lawn, it is only there that I see anything so stalwart as a pine or so rigid as a spruce.

Such is the vision, and if I never see it with open eyes and in real sunlight, even as a dream it is--like certain other things of less dignity--grateful, comforting. I warrant there are mistakes in it, but you will find mistakes wherever you find achievement, and there is no law against them--in well-meant dreams. Observe, if you please, this vision lays no drawback on the garden's summer beauty and affluence. Twelve months of the year it enhances its dignity and elegance. Both the numerical proportions of evergreens to other greens, and the scheme of their distribution, are quite as correct and effective for contrast and background to the transient foliage and countless flowers of July as amid the bare ramage of January. Summer and winter alike, the gravest items among them all, the conifers, retain their values even in those New Orleans gardens. When we remember that in New England and on all its isotherm it is winter all that half of the year when most of us are at home, why should we not seek to realize this snow-garden dream? Even a partial or faulty achievement of it will surely look lovelier than the naked house left out on its naked white lawn like an unclaimed trunk on a way-station platform. I would not, for anything, offend the reader's dignity, but I must think that this midwinter garden may be made at least as much lovelier than no garden as Alice's Cheshire cat was lovelier--with or without its grin--than the grin without the cat.

[Illustration: "It is only there that I see anything so stalwart as a pine or so rigid as a spruce."

The blossoming trees in this picture are a Chinese crab blooming ten days later than the Japanese wild cherry (see illustration facing p. 186), which is now in full leaf at their back.]

Shall we summarize? Our gist is this: that those gardens of New Orleans are as they are, not by mere advantage of climate but for several other reasons. Their bounds of ownership and privacy are enclosed in hedges, tight or loose, or in vine-clad fences or walls. The lawn is regarded as a ruling feature of the home's visage, but not as its whole countenance--one flat feature never yet made a lovely face. This lawn feature is beautified and magnified by keeping it open from shrub border to shrub border, saving it, above all things, from the gaudy barbarism of pattern-bedding; and by giving it swing and sweep of graceful contours. And lastly, all ground lines of the house are clothed with shrubberies whose deciduous growths are companioned with broad-leafed evergreens and varied conifers, in whatever proportions will secure the best midwinter effects without such abatement to those of summer as would diminish the total of the whole year's joy.

These are things that can be done anywhere in our land, and wherever done with due regard to soil as well as to climate will give us gardens worthy to be named with those of New Orleans, if not, in some aspects and at particular times of the year, excelling them. As long as mistakes are made in the architecture of houses they will be made in the architecture of gardening, and New Orleans herself, by a little more care for the fundamentals of art, of all art, could easily surpass her present floral charm. Yet in her gardens there is one further point calling for approval and imitation: the _very_ high trimming of the stems of lofty trees. Here many a reader will feel a start of resentment; but in the name of the exceptional beauty one may there see resulting from the practice let us allow the idea a moment's entertainment, put argument aside and consider a concrete instance whose description shall be our closing word.

Across the street in which, that January, we sojourned (we were two), there was a piece of ground of an ordinary town square's length and somewhat less breadth. It had been a private garden. Its owner had given it to the city. Along its broad side, which our windows looked out upon, stood perfectly straight and upright across the sky to the south of them a row of magnolias (grandiflora) at least sixty feet high, with their boles, as smooth as the beach, trimmed bare for two-thirds of their stature. The really decorative marks of the trimming had been so many years, so many decades, healed as to show that no harm had come of it or would come. The soaring, dark-green, glittering foliage stood out against the almost perpetually blue and white sky. Beyond them, a few yards within the place but not in a straight line, rose even higher a number of old cedars similarly treated and offering a pleasing contrast to the magnolias by the feathery texture of their dense sprays and the very different cast of their lack-lustre green. Overtopping all, on the farther line of the grounds, southern line, several pecan-trees of nearly a hundred feet in height, leafless, with a multitude of broad-spreading boughs all high in air by natural habit, gave an effect strongly like that of winter elms, though much enlivened by the near company of the evergreen masses of cedar and magnolia. These made the upper-air half of the garden, the other half being assembled below. For the lofty trim of the wintergreen-trees--the beauty of which may have been learned from the palms--allowed and invited another planting beneath them. Magnolias, when permitted to branch low, are, to undergrowth, among the most inhospitable of trees, but in this garden, where the sunlight and the breezes passed abundantly under such high-lifted arms and among such clean, bare stems, a congregation of shrubs, undershrubs and plants of every stature and breadth, arose, flourished and flowered without stint. Yonder the wind-split, fathom-long leaves of the banana, brightening the background, arched upward, drooped again and faintly oscillated to the air's caress. Here bloomed and smelled the delicate magnolia fuscata, and here, redder with flowers than green with shining leaves, shone the camellia. Here spread the dark oleander, the pittosporum and the Chinese privet; and here were the camphor-tree and the slender sweet olive--we have named them all before and our steps should not take us over the same ground twice in one circuit; that would be bad gardening. But there they were, under those ordinarily so intolerant trees, prospering and singing praises with them, some in full blossom and perfume, some waiting their turn, like parts of a choir. In the midst of all, where a broad path eddied quite round an irregular open space, and that tender quaintness of decay appeared which is the unfailing New Orleans touch, the space was filled with roses. This spot was lovely enough by day and not less so for being a haunt of toddling babes and their nurses; but at night--! Regularly at evening there comes into the New Orleans air, from Heaven knows whither, not a mist, not a fog nor a dampness, but a soft, transparent, poetical dimness that in no wise shortens the range of vision--a counterpart of that condition which so many thousands of favored travellers in other longitudes know as the "Atlantic haze." One night--oh, oftener than that, but let us say one for the value of understatement--returning to our quarters some time before midnight, we stepped out upon the balcony to gaze across into that garden. The sky was clear, the neighborhood silent. A wind stirred, but the shrubberies stood motionless. The moon, nearly full, swung directly before us, pouring its gracious light through the tenuous cross-hatchings of the pecans, nestling it in the dense tops of the cedars and magnolias and sprinkling it to the ground among the lower growths and between their green-black shadows. When in a certain impotence of rapture we cast about in our minds for an adequate comparison--where description in words seemed impossible--the only parallel we could find was the art of Corot and such masters from the lands where the wonderful pictorial value of trees trimmed high has been known for centuries and is still cherished. For without those trees so disciplined the ravishing picture of that garden would have been impossible.

Of course our Northern gardens cannot smile like that in winter. But they need not perish, as tens of thousands of lawn-mower, pattern-bed, so-called gardens do. They should but hibernate, as snugly as the bear, the squirrel, the bee; and who that ever in full health of mind and body saw spring come back to a Northern garden of blossoming trees, shrubs and undershrubs has not rejoiced in a year of four clear-cut seasons? Or who that ever saw mating birds, greening swards, starting violets and all the early flowers loved of Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley, Bryant and Tennyson, has not felt that the resurrection of landscape and garden owes at least half its glory to the long trance of winter, and wished that dwellers in Creole lands might see New England's First of June? For what says the brave old song-couplet of New England's mothers? That--

"Spring would be but wintry weather
If we had nothing else but spring."

Every year, even in Massachusetts--even in Michigan--spring, summer, and autumn are sure to come overladen with their gifts and make us a good, long, merry visit. All the other enlightened and well-to-do nations of the world entertain them with the gardening art and its joys and so make fairer, richer and stronger than can be made indoors alone the individual soul, the family, the social, the civic, the national life. In this small matter we Americans are at the wrong end of the procession. What shall we do about it?

[The end]
George Washington Cable's essay: The Midwinter Gardens Of New Orleans