This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
"So you're come at last, and, as usual, at the last minute. Have I your ticket? Of course I have. Strange, that you cannot as easily be a few minutes before time, so as to avoid all this drive and hurry. Jump into the carriage, for the train moves; and now, where's our lunch? Not got any?" " No; for we are not allowed to eat in the gardens, so we must e'en visit ' mine host' of the Star and Garter, and assault his larder when we come out. There is a biscuit for you, such as an old sailor like yourself would have gone to the masthead for more than once in your life, I venture to say." "You're right; and some day, as you remind me of the salt water, perhaps when you are safe moored in that country-box of yours, and we are seated together in the pleasant arbour overlooking the hills, with the stream flowing through the valley below, I may spin you a yarn or two, and shew how a love of horticulture never forsook me, though for months together, on the trackless ocean, I saw nought but ' The perilous waters - with the mariners a fellow-mariner.'
How bright and cheerful every thing looks, after the pleasant rains we have had! But what a pace we have been going at for a stopping train!
" Hurry, hurry, we are gone; With whizzing speed we gallop on; Steam and engine pant and blow, Spurning the sparks and dust below. Now right and left on either hand We see with awe and wonder, How vanish corner, hedge, and land - Hark, how the bridges thunder I"
Capital description that in Leonora of railway-travelling; and I'd give you more of it, but here we are at the Kew Station, and most handy it is for visitors to the gardens. Since we were here last, you observe a steamboat-pier has been added to the bridge, - a great convenience to visitors, enabling them with ease, in the summer-time, to return to town by the river, a very pleasing variation, particularly in warm weather. Kew Green, with its simple church, has always struck me as an agreeable spot; and to those fond of seeing holiday-people, and of taking enjoyment without the inconvenience of additional expense, a residence here certainly affords, in the adjoining gardens, a desideratum not to be overlooked. But as we talk we are at the gates; and we will take our way direct to the Palm-house, an inspection of which and its tropical contents will fully occupy us till 'tis time to retire.
It is not only a noble house, but a noble collection. Let us, on entering, first walk round the entire building, and leisurely survey the whole, and then,when our eye is more at home, take the objects a little in detail. 'Tis a cloudy day, or rather cloud and sunshine, the most favourable of all weathers for its inspection; for though the deep green tinge of the glass tempers the sun's rays, it is rather too warm and close for Englishmen in pure unclouded sunshine.
Having now gone round, let us ascend to the gallery. From this point, about one-third of the way up the staircase, is the most truly tropical point of view to be obtained in the whole building. Observe, you have lost sight of the pavement and iron-gratings of the floor - all is in harmony, the graceful foliage of the magnificent arborescent ferns, the stems of trees and plants seen beyond, and, above all, the broad foliage so strongly indicative of distant lands and burning skies. Where would man and beast find shelter in such climes, were it not for the palm, the plantain, etc. affording it, as they do so liberally, and at the same time acting as fans in the surrounding air? From the gallery, you observe, we have a fine view over the gardens, and also over the tops of the highest plants; but 'tis too warm to remain long, so let us descend into the cooler stratum of air below.
Here is the Bread-fruit Tree; what associations have we with it! Bligh and the Bounty; the mutiny; the wonderful boat-voyage of the former; the miserable life and end of the mutineers, save Smith, the patriarch of Pitcairn's Island. Here is the Banyan Tree, of which you will find an excellent representation in the museum, and a very fine specimen in the Botanical Garden at Calcutta, unless it has died since I was there. How often have Moore's lines to his mother been repeated by youthful exiles, whose thoughts, when seated beneath its ample shade, have been far away in the land of their birth!
"They tell us of an Indian tree,
Which, howsoe'er the sun and sky May tempt its boughs to wander free,
And shoot and blossom wide and high, Far better loves to bend its arms
Downward again to that dear earth
From which the life, that fills and'warms Its grateful being, first had birth.
'Tis thus, though woo'd by flattering friends,
And fed with fame (if fame it be), This heart, my own dear mother, bends,
With love's true instinct, back to thee !"
Rely on it, when a man's half-fried with heat and stung with mosquitoes, it is a very favourable time to remember his mother.
The Erratic Man. [To be continued.]
How many plants are here surrounding us, the fruits of which are as familiar as our daily bread ! Here are all the varieties of the Tea-tree; there is the Coffee; and in yonder tub is the Sugar-cane. The Cocoa, the various spice-bearing shrubs, including the Nutmeg, are all here and flourishing; here also is the Cotton-tree, the Indigo-plant, and the Papyrus from which the Egyptian paper was made. Overhead wave the Cocoa-nut, the Mango, and the Fan-palms; whilst the magnificent Ferns of our Australian colonies shed an inexpressible air of elegance over the whole arrangement.
It is the work of days, not of hours, to examine the contents of this noble collection; the longer we stay, the more we find to admire; and few can depart without the acknowledgment that the nation's money has been well bestowed upon the whole establishment.
Nothing appears to us wanting but an importation of fire-flies. Nothing could possibly be more attractive than a late evening hour spent in this building, if it was well lit up with these natural lamps.
Is there no possibility of their introduction? We are no entomologists, and therefore are ignorant of the difficulties which lie in the way. Of tropical cockroaches we have imported an abundance, to the sad cost of many a beautiful orchidaceous flower in this and many other establishments; would that we could as easily obtain the interesting insect alluded to !
But the time has arrived for our departure; and so let us walk to Richmond, and from the public room of the Star and Garter, as we get our bodily refreshment, let us dwell upon some of the most charming features of our own dear Old England, spread out beneath the windows of our friend Ellis's hotel.
We shall find that, much as we have enjoyed the visit to the tropics in miniature, we should gain nothing by the exchange, if we were to transport ourselves to where, in the words of the poet,
"The Palm, the loftiest Dryad of the woods, Within whose bosom infant Bacchus broods; The Cava feast, the Yam, the Cocoa's root Which bears at once the cup and milk and fruit; The Bread-tree, which, without the ploughshare, yields The unreaped harvest of unfurrowed fields, And bakes its unadulterated loaves Without a furnace in unpurchased groves, And flings off famine from its fertile breast - A priceless market for the gathering guest".
The Erratic Man.