This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Now then let us enter and stroll through the Gardens pleasantly, easily, gently; sit where we like, lie where we like, and do as we like; which, I am sure, cannot be otherwise than the Director, Sir William Hooker, himself would like; for indeed we owe him much - an entrance at one o'clock every day of the week, and a book for sixpence, full of good information, and woodcuts to assist the visitor. But why no admission till one o'clock? you ask; and well you may. Shame on the "Woods and Forests" that it is not at nine instead; and we should like John Bull to tell them so in his own civil, undeniable way. But, foolish fellow, he allows thousands to be squandered in numberless senseless ways; yet whenever he is asked to spend money on a gallery for pictures, statuary, or a double relay of men for a place like this, to form a sufficient staff and allow of the Gardens being open at all hours and times, then he buttons up his pockets and finds a hundred excuses, as if, what a company or a private party can do for a pecuniary advantage cannot be done for the intellectual instruction of such a nation as ours.
But let us move on, for I feel "my dander rising," as Brother Jonathan would say; and for the great improvements made and making in this department "let us be thankful." We'll not enter the orangeries, conservatories, and hot-houses to-day; and so, leaving the one to the right, let us follow this pathway leading off to the left. We are allowed to walk on the grass if we avoid the edge; and to us, that are so much on the pave, this is no small luxury. You observe every tree has its name on a label at its foot: how grateful is their shade! How nicely mown and swept is the turf, tempting us to recline on its verdant carpet; so let us stretch ourselves at length on this gentle slope, and for awhile watch the visitors as they enter or retire. Genteel persons in plenty, as we might have guessed by the assembly of carriages on the outside, - many resident in the neighbourhood, no doubt; and great is the advantage to them in having such a place of resort. Happily too for the mechanic and his family, the Loop-line, now open to Kew Bridge, affords a speedy and cheap conveyance.
How agreeable to watch that party of men, their wives and children! See how the latter are enjoying the exchange from London's dirty, crowded, pestiferous courts and alleys to this, in comparison, perfect paradise! Think of the Saint Monday these men are making of it compared with the poor tippling mechanic sitting; it may be in a pot-house in town, or taking part in a game of skittles! 'Tis to tempt them away from the gin-palace, the public house, and the beer-shop, that we would have these delightful Gardens opened at nine o'clock; ay, and we would add to the beautifully kept ladies' cloak-room a building, where they should have an opportunity of partaking of any refreshments they might bring. As to misconduct, there are plenty of ways to prevent that; and we are happily getting repeated proofs, that the more our countrymen are trusted the better they behave. All these things will come in time; and we do not despair of seeing them in our day, if peace continue; and it will be the fault of us of the middle classes if it does not. Time moves on as we lie here; so let us strike off a little to the right, and make for the more open part of the grounds.
What charming park-scenery, is it not? Only that light iron fence separates us from the Royal Pleasure-grounds, with which we have no communication but by turning into the road, and walking nearly a mile in the dust, and which are only open two days in the week: the why and the wherefore we know not. There is a beautiful group of elms! lit study for any painter; and now turn your eyes to the left, and you see an erection matchless in the world, and worthy of Old England and her true greatness. On some future occasion we will visit its inside, - a tropical country in miniature, - walk beneath the palms of the East, whet our appetite with a sight of the plantains hanging in long: bunches beneath the broad green foliage unknown to our colder climates, and admire the gigantic ferns which, transplanted there from our Australian colonies, fill the mind with noble conceptions of those distant lands.
Let us keep straight along this broad gravel-path; - the turf on each side laid out, you see, in beds of evergreens, flowers, and flowering shrubs: that chimney-shaft is an unsightly termination, is it not? I wish it could change places with the fine old trees in its rear.
As we walk on, see how the splendid Palm-house opens upon us, like a mountain of glass glittering and blazing in the light of this afternoon sun! how gladly we turn from it, and rest our eyes upon the surface of this fine sheet of water in its front! how calm and clear and cool it is, reflecting the green slopes and broad flights of steps around it! I like, too, to watch the graceful movements of the water-fowl, most of which you see are foreign varieties. From this terrace-walk, can any garden-scenery be more perfect? On our right, these trim fantastic beds filled with the gayest, choicest flowers; and on our left the lake, the formality of its smooth banks elegantly broken by those willows, whose boughs really lie upon the surface of the water. How well those fine old elms rise up behind, with their dark massive foliage! how pleasing too are the undulations of the ground, covered as it is with the finest, softest turf! here a sunny slope, there an opening glade: really, we might fancy ourselves in Eden!
But we must not linger, for there is a most interesting museum, towards which this fine sweeping path will lead us, and into which we must just peep; and then, by the time we have looked at the arrangement of the glass erections, which are grouped together in our track towards the gate, our superficial visit will have ended. You will agree with me, that every one should come to these Gardens, - no one should visit London without running down to see them; one visit will not suffice, save for a cursory glance like this; but once seen, they will be remembered, and induce repeated visits for the purpose of examining this vast and interesting collection in detail. Nor can the visitor depart without an abiding impression of the talent displayed by the Director in the arrangements and order pervading the whole. It is evident in every department that, if the means be supplied, Sir William Hooker will provide most effectually for every deficiency. Now let us home, for the bell rings announcing six o'clock. At the bridge we shall find a steamer, and so vary our return to the metropolis after as pleasantly spent an afternoon as any rational being could expect in company with August 1849. An Erratic Man.