This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Horticultural Societies in rural situations are often established for the sole benefit of cottagers, whether mechanics or labourers; in other instances they contemplate all classes of society, and admit cottagers to compete with one another in those articles which come within their capacity. The society to which allusion was made in the former paper adopted this plan, and the cottagers' exhibition always formed an interesting feature of the show-day. In this case they were not members, and their productions were allowed to be sent free of charge, and the prizes were paid out of the general subscriptions. This plan worked very well, and gave great satisfaction; but, at the same time, it is worthy of consideration, whether the independence of character of this interesting portion of society would not be better promoted by a small payment for membership, so as to divest the rewards of the aspect of mere charity. However, this is a matter to be decided by local peculiarities, since no general rule can be given regarding it.
In any way, such a mode of drawing out the resources of our humble neighbours must be beneficial in more ways than one.
The attention paid by mechanics and labourers to floral cultivation is a most interesting trait in their character, from which the happiest results may be anticipated when it is encouraged and rightly-directed. In the crowded streets of Spitalfields, the silk-weavers grow Auriculas, Polyanthuses, etc.; and in Lancashire the same order of men is famous for skill in most horticultural operations. The cottage of a spinner in that district was lately entered by a clergyman, who was surprised to see a number of bright copper kettles hanging in a row, and he expressed his astonishment, and begged to be informed whether he dealt in that article, as he could have no use for so many vessels of a similar character. With a broad grin, the mechanic informed the inquirer that these were prizes gained at exhibitions of Gooseberries, Tulips, etc. The idea seems ludicrous at first, yet it is not really more so than that suggested by the sideboard of a great wool-leger or agriculturist, where we have seen a number of silver cups and flagons, gained as prizes, of as little use to the owner as the copper kettles of the weaver.
In both cases an honest pride may be properly felt, and around the respective vessels, whether silver or a baser metal, associations of honest endeavour and persevering industry will linger.
Apart from the influence of these pursuits on the mind of a poor man, they can scarcely fail to make his home more happy; for whether the garden joins the homestead or not, the wife and children are made to share in his labours, his ambition, and his triumphs. Many a thrifty housewife has had to thank God that her husband took to flowers and gardening, not only because they keep him from the ale-house, but also on account of the facilities afforded for getting the little ones out of her way when they accompany the good man to his allotment. She may be sometimes a little vexed when too many of the neighbours are brought over her clean floor to look at an Auricula just being kept back for the show, or a Gooseberry larger than was ever known in the memory of man; yet, on the whole, she is thankful. Her table is supplied with good fruit and vegetables; some comforts are purchased by the prizes received (for they are often given in money as well as kettles); while an air of superior intelligence is diffused over the whole household by the intellectual pursuit of its head.
Then there is the intercourse created by these occupations between the lower, middle, and higher classes, - a benefit which cannot be too highly prized. We are taught that, however we may differ in outward circumstances, there are more points of resemblance than of dissimilitude between all men. What philanthropist or right-minded person who has learned on the highest authority to " honour all men," will not rejoice in such a result as this?