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Scottish Gardens
Auchencruive, Ayrshire

O one can realise, until he tries it, the difficulty of making a small selection from the many beautiful gardens to be found in every Scottish county. There are famous gardens, such as those at Dalkeith, Drumlanrig, Preston Hall, Drummond Castle, Terregles, and many other places, to which we would fain have given a place in these pages, had they not been described and depicted in so many previous publications. Our purpose has been, not to present the well-known and distinguished, but rather to point out in how many gardens, humble as well as lordly, beauty is to be found by anybody who cares to look for it.

Many charming homes have been built and many delightful pleasure grounds laid out in the immediate neighbourhood of

"Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses
For honest men and bonny lasses,"

but there is no garden in that district to be compared with that of Auchencruive for natural charm of rock and river, sequestered glades and shaggy cliffs. There are gardens elsewhere more noteworthy than this one for their contents—for extensive collections of exotics or remarkable specimens of individual species. It cannot be denied that the owners of Auchencruive, past and present, have displayed little ambition in these respects, and this the enthusiast may feel inclined to regret, for undoubtedly there are the means here, on a friable soil in a western climate, with abundant shelter from violent winds, of cultivating the choicer kinds of trees and shrubs mentioned in Appendices A and B.

Nevertheless, natural features have not been neglected ; breadth of effect has been well secured by contrast of massive woodland with liberal spaces of turf; brightness has been obtained by beds of roses and the ordinary border flowers ; and through this fair scene flows the river Ayr, here churning into foam among reefs of red sandstone, there sweeping in glassy reaches under the shade of venerable trees.

Miss Wilson has chosen for her subject the cliff which falls sheer from the bluff whereon the mansion-house is built, and which has been skilfully wrought into a banging garden in a series of galleries rather than terraces. It is a notable feature, and confers an air of distinction upon what might otherwise be remembered as merely a very pretty garden. Sameness is not so prevalent a vice in decorative horticulture as it was five-and-twenty years ago. It is the

exception now to meet with a lady presiding over a country house who feels indifferent to the contents of her flower-beds. Most ladies, and many men, now take an active interest in cultivating a variety of flowering things. Disraeli had a hand in turning the attention of people of leisure to this source of enjoyment and perennial occupation. Probably no subject of Queen Victoria was more ignorant of the processes of horticulture. Had he been asked the definition of a herbaceous plant he would have found refuge in an epigram. But he had the saving grace of imagination which enabled him to perceive that beds of "Mrs. Pollock" geranium and "Countess of Stair" ageratum were no more capable than a Brussels carpet of inspiring affection. Pereunt et non imputantur. They carry with them no associations—are redolent with no tender memories. Therefore, desiring to depict Corisande as devoted to her flowers, Disraeli filled her garden with old-world perennials—plants more abiding than the generations of men, yielding blossoms year by year to the children's children of those who set them in the borders. And, when Disraeli had stirred people's fancy with a longing for the old flowers that they could love, Mr. William Robinson began to teach them how that longing might be realised, and he has lived to see the revolution complete.

There is an end to sameness in gardens, but the risk of tameness is as great as ever. A dominant feature, like the flowery cliff at Auchencruive, preserves a garden from the one defect as much as from the other. I remember the Auchencruive garden thirty years ago when sameness and tameness were at their height, and that cliff stands out in memory, wreathed with bright flowers, the broad river at its foot sparkling in the sunlight and glimmering in green gloom of old oaks on the further shore.

At Auchencruive one is in the very heart of what railway companies and hotel managers never weary of proclaiming as the Land of Burns. Very characteristic of the vates lacer, though hardly creditable to his sense of delicacy, are the verses in which two successive mistresses of the house of Auchencruive are commemorated. The first of these was wife of that Richard Oswald whom Shelburne appointed in 1782 as Minister-Plenipotentiary to negotiate the treaty with the United States. Burns never met her living, but in January, 1789, when riding through Nithsdale, he stopped for the night at Sanquhar.

"The frost was keen," he wrote to Dr. Moore, "and the grim evening and howling wind were ushering in a night of snow and drift. My horse and I were both much fatigued with the labours of the day; and just as my friend the bailie [Whigham] and I were bidding defiance to the storm over a smoking bowl, in wheels the funeral pageantry of the late Mrs Oswald; and poor I am forced to brave all the terrors of the tempestuous night, and jade my horse—my young favourite horse whom I had just christened Pegasus—further on, through the wildest hills and moors of Ayrshire, to New Cumnock, the next inn! The powers of poesy and prose sink under me when I would describe what I felt. Suffice it to say that, when a good fire at New Cumnock had so far recovered my frozen sinews, I sat down and wrote the enclosed ode."

Dr. Moore had done well for his friend if he had suppressed the said ode, for slander grosser and more gratuitous was never penned than this lampoon upon a lady, who, during her life, had never given the writer cause of offence. Nevertheless, his case was a bard one; he did but express in stinging verse the irritation which one of us lesser mortals would have vented in bad language.

The other composition was of a very different character, and, in its later form, celebrated the charms of the wife of the first lady's grandson, M.P. for Ayrshire. Her name was Louisa, which, for the sake of metre, was altered to Lucy in the poem. The husband is supposed to be singing the praises of his wife.

"O, wat ye wha's in you town,
Ye see the e'enin' sun upon?
The fairest dame's in you town
That e'enin' sun is shining on."

Such is the refrain of eight fervent stanzas; but woe's me for Robin's constancy! The verses were originally addressed to Jean Armour—the "bonnie Jean " of many an ode. To adapt them to another fair one's acceptance, "maid" had to be altered to "dame," and "Jeannie" to "Lucy!" Conscientious editors have duly chronicled in footnotes the variant readings.

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