Three Elephant Power and Other Stories
The Amateur Gardener
The first step in amateur gardening is to sit down and consider what good you are going
to get by it. If you are only a tenant by the month, as most people are, it is obviously not
of much use for you to plant a fruit orchard or an avenue of oak trees. What you want is
something that will grow quickly, and will stand transplanting, for when you move it
would be a sin to leave behind you the plants on which you have spent so much labour
and so much patent manure.
We knew a man once who was a bookmaker by trade -- and a Leger bookmaker at that --
but had a passion for horses and flowers. When he "had a big win", as he occasionally
did, it was his custom to have movable wooden stables, built on skids, put up in the yard,
and to have tons of the best soil that money could buy carted into the garden of the
premises which he was occupying.
Then he would keep splendid horses, and grow rare roses and show-bench
chrysanthemums. His landlord passing by would see the garden in a blaze of colour, and
promise himself to raise the bookmaker's rent next quarter day.
However, when the bookmaker "took the knock", as he invariably did at least twice a
year, it was his pleasing custom to move without giving notice. He would hitch two cart-
horses to the stables, and haul them right away at night. He would not only dig up the
roses, trees, and chrysanthemums he had planted, but would also cart away the soil he
had brought in; in fact, he used to shift the garden bodily. He had one garden that he
shifted to nearly every suburb in Sydney; and he always argued that the change of air was
invaluable for chrysanthemums.
Being determined, then, to go in for gardening on common-sense principles, and having
decided on the shrubs you mean to grow, the next consideration is your chance of
If your neighbour keeps game fowls, it may be taken for granted that before long they
will pay you a visit, and you will see the rooster scratching your pot plants out by the
roots as if they were so much straw, just to make a nice place to lie down and fluff the
dust over himself. Goats will also stray in from the street, and bite the young shoots off,
selecting the most valuable plants with a discrimination that would do credit to a
It is therefore useless to think of growing delicate or squeamish plants. Most amateur
gardeners maintain a lifelong struggle against the devices of Nature; but when the forces
of man and the forces of Nature come into conflict Nature wins every time. Nature has
decreed that certain plants shall be hardy, and therefore suitable to suburban amateur
gardeners; the suburban amateur gardener persists in trying to grow quite other plants,
and in despising those marked out by Nature for his use. It is to correct this tendency that
this article is written.