The methods that the gardener pursues are the fundamental beginnings of scientific research. The principles that he discovers for combatting destructive agents are the very principles underlying forest and wild life protection. Thus the planting and tending of a garden is the expression of Nature Instinct found in varying degrees in every human being. We can carry it as far as we like, we can stop at any stage of expression, as the limitations our time and our own natures may demand.
The instinct to become a naturalist or investigator is a phase in the development of every child between the ages of four and fourteen. It may last longer or recur later. School gardening is an effective means of utilizing the instinct in the interests of primary education. The life history of the bean or the narcissus bulb is the most perfect and simple object lesson in the ways of Nature. But gardening for children is more than this-it is a practical method of general Nature Study suitable to urban conditions where trips afield and direct contact with forests and wild life are too difficult.
For fathers and mothers, gardening is a true and healthful form of play or recreation. It is creative, not merely in the sense of the creation of new flowers such as advanced gardeners attempt, but in the sense of artistic development. The great pleasure and satisfaction derived from growing flowers lies in the study of location, mass and color effects.
Heavy spires of Foxglove, Phlox, and other tall stiff perennials are best offset with border groupings of lower delicate blossoms. A single beautiful plant of Aquilegia or Columbine may be lost against the riotous splash of Peonies in full bloom. Dianthus or hardy pinks, no matter how free from weeds, seem disappointing if overtopped with showy oriental poppies, yet the pink blossoms come into their own when picked and placed in a small vase by themselves.
A rose bush seldom has a place in a bed of other flowers. It will not only bloom better, but also look better in a bed by itself or with other roses. If someone could write a garden book so complete that the gardener could make no mistakes, more than half the fun of gardening would be lost.
Besides, no one would read the book except the poor devil who had to read the proof. The joy of gardening for the amateur lies in saying, “Next year I will move these plants together and scatter those-next year I will have the best garden yet.”