Gardener and the family
By Hans Christian Andersen
Four or five miles from the capital stood an
old manor, with thick walls, tower, and
Here lived, but only in the summer-time, a
noble family : this manor was the best and
most beautiful of all the estates they
possessed : outside, it looked as if it were
newly built, and inside was very comfortable
and cosy. The family coat of arms was carved
in stone over the door,
lovely roses twined themselves over the coat
of arms and over the balcony, and a
beautiful lawn stretched out before the
house : there were red thorns and white
thorns, and rare flowers even outside of the
hot-house. The family had a very good
gardener ; it was a treat to see the flower
garden, the fruit and kitchen gardens. Up to
this time there was still a part of the
original old garden, with some box hedges,
cut in the shapes of crowns and pyramids.
Behind these stood two old trees : they were
nearly always leafless, and one could easily
believe that a wind storm or a water-spout
had strewn them over with great clumps of
manure, but every clump was a bird's nest.
Here from time immemorial a swarm of
screaming crows and rooks had built their
nests. It was a whole bird town and the
birds were the proprietors, the eldest
branch of the family, the real masters of
the estate. None of the people down there
concerned them, but they tolerated these low
walking creatures, although they sometimes
shot with guns, so that it gave the birds
shivers along the spine, and every bird flew
up in a fright and shrieked ' Rak ! Rak ! '
The gardener talked often to his master
about cutting down the old trees, they did
not look well, and if they were taken away,
one would most probably be free from the
screaming birds they would search for
another place then. But the master would
neither be free from the trees nor the
of birds it was something which the estate
could not lose, it was something from the
old times, and one ought not to wipe that
The trees are now the birds' inheritance,
let them keep it, my good Larsen ! '
The gardener was called Larsen, but that is
of no further importance.
Have you, little Larsen, not enough room for
working the whole of the flower garden, the
greenhouses, the fruit and kitchen gardens ?
These he had, and nursed them, loved them,
and cared for them with earnestness and
capability, and the family knew that, but
they did not hide from him that when
visiting they often ate fruit and saw
flowers which excelled what they had in
their own garden, and that distressed the
gardener, for he wished to do his best and
he did his best. He was good of heart, and
good in his work.
One day the master called him and said in
all mildness and dignity that the day before,
when with distinguished friends, they had
got a variety of apples and pears, so juicy
and so well flavoured that all the guests
had exclaimed in admiration. The fruit was
certainly not native, but it ought to be
brought in and made at home here if the
climate allowed it. One knew that it had
been bought in town at the principal
fruiterer's : the gardener should ride in
and get to know where these apples and pears
came from and order cuttings.
The gardener knew the fruiterer very well,
for it was to him that he sold, on the
proprietor's account, the surplus of the
fruit which was grown in the gardens of the
And the gardener went to town and asked the
fruiterer where he got these highly prized
apples and pears.
6 They are from your own garden ! ' said the
fruiterer, and showed him both apples and
pears, which he knew again.
How delighted the gardener was ! He hurried
home and told the family that both the
apples and pears were from their own garden.
The family could not believe that. ' That is
impossible, Larsen ! Can you get a written
assurance from the fruiterer ? '
And that he could, and so he brought a
1 That is extraordinary ! ' said the master.
Every day now great dishes of these lovely
apples and pears from their own garden were
brought to the table, baskets and barrels of
these fruits were sent to friends in the
town and country and even to other countries.
It was tt great joy ! It must be said,
however, that these had been two remarkable
summers for fruit trees ; over all the
country these had succeeded well.
Time passed ; the family one day dined with
the court. The day after, the gardener was
sent for by his master. They had at dinner
got melons from His Majesty's greenhouse
which were so juicy and so full of flavour.
You must go to His Majesty's gardener, good
Larsen, and get for us some of the seeds of
these precious melons.'
' But His Majesty's gardener has got the
seeds from us ! ' said the gardener, quite
' Then the man has known how to bring them
to a higher development,' answered the
master ; ' every melon was excellent ! '
' Yes, then I may be proud ! ' said the
gardener. ' I may tell your lordship that
the court gardener this year has not been
successful with his melons, and when he saw
how lovely ours were, and tasted them, he
ordered three of them to be sent up to the
' Larsen ! don't imagine that they were the
melons from our garden ! '
I believe it ! ' said the gardener, and he
went to the court gardener and got from him
a written assurance that the melons at the
king's table had come from the gardens of
It was really a great surprise for the
family, and they did not keep the story a
secret ; they showed the assurance, and they
sent melon seeds far and wide, just as they
had. sent cuttings before.
About these they got news that they caught
on and set quite excellent fruit, and it was
called after the family's estate, so that
the name could now be read in English,
German, and French. They had never thought
of that before.
' If only the gardener won't get too great
an opinion of himself ! ' said the family. -
But he took it in another manner : he would
only jalace now to bring forward his name as
one of the bestiid become in the country,
and tried every year to briryjne family. The
excellent in the gardening line, and 'old
box-hedges with heard that the very first
fruits here a thicket of plants,
and pears, were really the forest. below.
The melons had really been very good, but
quite another thing ; the strawberries could
also be called excellent, but still no
better than those on other estates ; and
when the radishes one year were a failure,
they only talked about the unfortunate
radishes and not about any other good thing
which he had produced.
It was almost as if the family felt a relief
in saying, ' It didn't succeed this year,
little Larsen ! ' They were very glad to be
able to say, ' It didn't succeed this year !
Twice a week the gardener brought fresh
flowers for the rooms, always so beautifully
arranged ; the colours came as it were into
a stronger light with the contrasts.
' You have taste, Larsen,' said the family ;
' it is a gift which is given to you from
our Father, not of yourself ! '
One day he came with a big crystal bowl in
which lay a water-lily leaf ; on it was laid,
with its long, thick stalk down in the water,
a brilliant blue flower, as big as a
' The lotus flower of India,' exclaimed the
family. They had never seen such a flower ;
and it was placed in the sunshine by day and
in the evening in a reflex light. Every one
who saw it found it both remarkable and
rare, yes, even the highest young lady of
the land, and she was the princess ; she was
both wise and good.
The family did itself the honour of
presenting it to the princess, and it went
with her up to the castle.
Now the master went down into the garden to
pluck for himself a flower of the same kind,
if such a one could be found, but there was
not such a thing. So he called the gardener
and asked him where he got the blue lotus
' We have sought in vain,' said he ; 'we
have been in the greenhouse and all round
about ! '
'No, it is certainly not there ! ' said the
gardener ; ' it is only a common flower from
the kitchen-garden ! but, indeed, isn't it
lovely ! it looks like a blue cactus, and
yet it is only the flower of the artichoke.'
' You should have told us that at once ! '
said the master. ' We imagined that it was a
strange, rare flower. You have made fools of
us before the princess ! She saw the flower
and thought it beautiful, but did not know
it, and she is well up in botany, but that
science has nothing
to do with vegetables. How could it have
entered your head, good Larson, to send such
a flower up to the house ? It will make us
look ridiculous ! '
And the lovely blue flower which was brought
from the kitchen-garden was put out of the
drawing-room, where it was not at home. The
master made an apology to the princess and
told her that the flower was only a
vegetable which the gardener had taken the
idea to present, but for which he had been
given a good scolding.
' That was a sin and a shame ! ' said the
princess. ' He has opened our eyes to a
beautiful flower we had not noticed, he has
shown us beauty where we did not expect to
find it ! The court gardener shall bring one
up to my room every day, so long as the
artichoke is in flower ! '
And so it was done.
The family then told the gardener that he
could again bring them a fresh artichoke
'It is really beautiful!' they said, and
praised the gardener.
' Larsen likes that,' said the family. ' He
is a spoilt child.'
In the autumn there was a terrible storm. It
got so violent during the night that many of
the big trees in the outskirts of the wood
were torn up by the roots, and to the great
sorrow of the family, but to the joy of the
gardener, the two big trees with all the
birds' nests were blown down. During the
storm one heard the screaming of the rooks
and the crows ; they beat the windows with
their wings, the people in the house said.
1 Now you are glad, Larsen,' said the
master, ' the storm has blown down the trees
and the birds have gone to the woods. There
are no more signs of old times ; every sign
and every allusion has gone ; it has
troubled us ! '
The gardener said nothing, but he thought of
what he had long intended to do to use the
lovely sunshiny place which formerly he had
no control over. It should become the pride
of the garden and the delight of the family.
The great trees had crushed and broken the
old box-hedges with
all their cut shapes. He raised here a
thicket of plants, home-plants from field
What no other gardener had thought of
planting in the flower-garden, he set here
in the kind of soil each should have, and in
shade or sunshine as every kind required. He
tended it in love, and it grew in
Snow-berry bushes from the heath in Jutland,
in form and colour like Italian cypress ;
the smooth, prickly holly, always green, in
winter's cold and summer's sun, stood there
lovely to look at. In front grew ferns, many
different kinds, some looked as if they were
the children of palm trees, and some as if
they were the parents of the fine, lovely
plant we call Venus's hair. Here stood the
slighted burdock, which in its freshness is
so beautiful that it can be put in a
bouquet. The burdock stood on dry ground,
but lower down in the damper soil grew the
colt's-foot, also a despised plant, and yet
with its fine height and huge leaves so
picturesquely beautiful. Fathom high, with
flower above flower, like a huge, many-armed
candelabrum, the cow's lung-wort lifted
itself. Here stood the wood-ruff, the
marsh-marigold, and the lily of the valley,
the wild calla, and the fine threeleaved
wood-sorrel. It was a delight to see.
In front, supported on wire fences, little
French pear trees grew in rows ; they got
sun and good care, and very soon they bore
big, juicy fruit, as in the country they
In place of the two leafless trees, there
was a big flagstaff on which waved the
Danish flag, and close beside it a pole, on
which in summer and autumn hops with heir
sweet-smelling clusters twined themselves,
but where in the winter, according to old
custom, a sheaf of oats was raised
that the birds of the air could have their
meal at the joyous Christmas time.
* The good Larsen is growing sentimental in
his old age,' said the family ; but he is
faithful and devoted to us.'
At New Year time, one of the illustrated
papers of the capital had a picture of the
old manor ; one saw the flagstaff and the
sheaf of oats for the birds, and it was
spoken of as a beautiful thought that an old
custom should be brought into recognition
and honour ; so distinctive for
the old manor.
' All that Larsen does/ said the family,
they beat the drum for. He is a lucky man !
we must almost be proud that we have him ! '
But they were not proud of it ! They felt
that they were the owners, they could give
Larsen his dismissal ; but they did not do
that, they were good people, and there are
so many good people of their class, that it
is a good thing for every Larsen.
Yes, that is the story of * The Gardener and
the Family.' Now you can think it over !