Whenever I arrive in my garden, I Make The Tour. Is this a personal idiosyncracy, or do all good gardeners do it? It would be interesting to know. By Making The Tour, I mean only that I step from the front window, turn to the right, and make an infinitely detailed examination of every foot of ground, every shrub and tree, walking always over an appointed course.
There are certain very definite rules to be observed when you are Making The Tour. The chief rule is that you must never take anything out of its order. You may be longing to see if a crocus has come out in the orchard, but it is strictly forbidden to look before you have inspected all the various beds, bushes and trees that lead up to the orchard.
You must not look at the bed ahead before you have finished with the bed immediately in front of you. You may see, out of the corner of your eye, a gleam of strange and unsuspected scarlet in the next bed but one, but you must steel yourself against rushing to this exciting blaze, and you must stare with cool eyes at the earth in front, which is apparently blank, until you have made certain that it is not hiding anything. Otherwise you will find that you rush wildly round the garden, discover one or two sensational events, and then decide that nothing else has happened. Which means that you miss all the thrill of tiny shoots, the first lifting of the lids of the wallflowers, the first precious gold of the witch-hazel, the early spear of the snowdrop. Which recalls one of the loveliest conceits in English poetry, Coventry Patmore’s line about the snowdrop . . . .
‘And hails far summer with a lifted spear!’
It would require at least sixteen thick volumes bound in half calf, with bevelled edges, to contain a full account of a typical Tour round any garden. There is so much history in every foot of soil.