A great deal is written about the flower-garden that fronts the street, or is so located that it will attract the passer-by, but it is seldom that we see any mention made of the garden in the back-yard. One would naturally get the idea that the only garden worth having is the one that will attract the attention of the stranger, or the casual visitor.
I believe in a flower-garden that will give more pleasure to the home and its inmates than to anyone else, and where can such a garden be located with better promise of pleasurable results than by the kitchen door, where the busy housewife can blend the brightness of it with her daily work, and breathe in the sweetness of it while about her indoor tasks? It doesn’t matter if its existence is unknown to the stranger within the gates, or that the passer-by does not get a glimpse of it. It works out its mission and ministry of cheer and brightness and beauty in a way that makes it the one garden most worth having. Ask the busy woman who catches fleeting glimpses of the beauty in it as she goes about her work, and she will tell you that it is an inspiration to her, and that the sight of it rests her when most weary, and that its nearness makes it a companion that seems to enter into all her moods.
Last year I came across such a garden, and it pleased me so much that I have often looked back to it with a delightful memory of its homeliness, its utter lack of formality, and wished that it were possible for me to let others see it as I saw it, for, were they to do so, I feel quite sure every home would have one like it.
“I never take any pains with it,” the woman of the home said to me, half apologetically. “That is, I don’t try to make it like other folks’ gardens. I don’t believe I’d enjoy it so much if I were to. You see, it hasn’t anything of the company air about it. It’s more like the neighbor that ‘just drops in’ to sit a little while, and chat about neighborhood happenings that we don’t dare to speak about when some one comes to make a formal call. I love flowers so much that it seemed as if I must have a few where I could see them, while I was busy in the kitchen. You know, a woman who does her own housework can’t stop every time she’d like to to run out to the front-yard garden. So I began to plant hardy things here, and I’ve kept on ever since, till I’ve quite a collection, as you see. Just odds and ends of the plants that seem most like folks, you know. It doesn’t amount to much as a garden, I suppose most folks would think, but you’ve no idea of the pleasure I get out of it. Sometimes when I get all fagged out over housework I go out and pull weeds in it, and hoe a little, and train up the vines, and the first I know I’m ready to go back to work, with the tired feeling all gone. And do you know—the plants seem to enjoy it as much as I do? They seem to grow better here than I could ever coax them to do in the front yard. But that’s probably because they get the slops from the kitchen, and the soap-suds, every wash-day. It doesn’t seem as if I worked among them at all. It’s just play. The fresh air of outdoors does me more good, I’m sure, than all the doctors’ tonics. And I’m not the only one in the family that enjoys them. The children take a good deal of pride in ‘mother’s garden,’ and my husband took time, one day, in the busiest part of the season, to put up that frame by the door, to train Morning Glories over.”
In this ideal home-garden were old-fashioned Madonna Lilies, such as I had not seen for years, and Bouncing Bets, ragged and saucy as ever, and Southernwood, that gave off spicy odors every time one touched it, and Aquilegias in blue and white and red, Life Everlasting, and Moss Pink, and that most delicious of all old-fashioned garden flowers, the Spice Pink, with its fringed petals marked with maroon, as if some wayside artist had touched each one with a brush dipped in that color for the simple mischief of the thing, and Hollyhocks, Rockets—almost all the old “stand-bys.” There was not one “new” flower there. If it had been, it would have seemed out of place. The Morning Glories were just getting well under way, and were only half-way up the door-frame, but I could see, with my mind’s eye, what a beautiful awning they would make a little later. I could imagine them peering into the kitchen, like saucy, fun-loving children, and laughing good-morning to the woman who “loved flowers so well she couldn’t get along without a few.”
You see, she was successful with them because she loved them. Because of that, the labor she bestowed upon them was play, not work. They were friends of hers, and friendship never begrudges anything that gives proof of its existence in a practical way. And the flowers, grateful for the friendship which manifested itself in so many helpful ways, repaid her generously in beauty and brightness and cheer by making themselves a part of her daily life.
By all means, have a back-yard garden.