This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Since my return from Philadelphia, where I had the pleasure of examining Mr. Meehan's Arboretum, in the Centennial grounds, an idea has presented itself to my mind in connection therewith, that the more I reflect upon, the more convinced have I become of its feasibility and its importance. The plan which I propose is simply the formation of collections of trees or shrubs by private individuals, and so arranged as not only to be a pleasure to themselves, but a source of profit and enjoyment to their friends.
So long as Arboretums in their true sense must in this country be confined principally to institutions of learning like our Universities or large public parks, or belong to the government like the one at Washington - just so long will the majority of our people learn but little about the culture, growth or value of many of the trees, the timber of which is used in the arts. Any one who has paid even the slightest attention to the fine exhibits of the various kinds of wood, the production not only of our own, but of other countries at the Centennial, cannot fail to appreciate my remarks. Hence what is really required to render this interesting subject more popular with the masses is a diffusion of more general knowledge of the proper culture and use of trees, through the establishment of private collections, containing one or more of the natural orders, with genera, species and varieties. Having made the culture and science of trees a study, I feel that the importance of such collections cannot be too strongly urged upon such gentlemen as not only have the means but the taste and ground requisite to form such collections. Some men will spend thousands of dollars in forming a collection of antique china, or of old coins or minerals.
If such things become interesting and valued, as they generally are by the collector and his friends, surely a fine collection of trees, which are yearly growing in beauty, must to a lover of nature, become infinitely more so. For instance, Mr. A. may form a collection of willows like the Woburn collection in England. Willows are simple appearing things in themselves, yet when planted in the aggregate, are highly interesting. In the collection just named, there are one hundred and fifty-nine kinds, which are described and named in the Salicaetum Woburniensis. Or suppose Mr. B. desires to make a collection of oaks; he will be astonished at the vast number of species and varieties that will be brought to notice, and so of other, through the long list of natural orders to the end of the catalogue. Thus, if a number of these collections, each different in itself, be started in any one place, like the suburbs of a large town or city, they would in the aggregate form an Arboretum of grand proportions, that if scientifically arranged would afford instruction and amusement to a large number of people.
Being called in consultation a short time since in regard to some improvements now in progress on a large estate situated in the midst of some of the grandest scenery in the State of New York, I suggested among other things to the proprietor the formation of an Arboretum. The idea pleased him much, and it was decided that as there were a great number of large and beautiful pines growing on the place, to add to these all the different kinds of hardy coniferae and form a Pinetum, scientifically arranged, properly labelled, and catalogued with a description of each species and variety, so that any friends visiting the grounds could be presented with a catalogue, from which they could learn the name and use of each tree, thus making the collection as complete in its character as possible. The location of the place just mentioned is on a branch of the Erie Railroad, where it crosses the Genesee River by an iron bridge which is raised 235 feet above the bed of the river. Immediately below the bridge there is a fall in the river of 66 feet, and a short distance beyond there is another fall of 110 feet, where the water is so broken in its descent as to give it the appearance of fine lace.
The improvements which are being made are on a level piece of land along the river bank, between the two falls, and from whence the bridge above, appears so light and airy that a passing train seems as it were gliding through the air; truly a charming spot,
Down in the glen where laughing waters play, And stately Pines lift up their heads in light of day; There graceful Spruces spread their branches wide, That with the odorous Fir the magic of the scene divide.
No one need imagine from the foregoing description that it is one of those places kept up in the highest style of art, with the accessories of hot-houses, graperies, and numerous flower beds, for it is nothing of the sort; everything being plain but neat; simply Nature, assisted by Art, only to such an extent as becomes necessary in the arrangement of the various objects, and in such a way as to harmonize with the surroundings; nothing incongruous but every where showing the hand of taste of the proprietor. And this is a style which must obtain to a great ex- tent in this country in the future. Trees are both beautiful and interesting objects for study. They are the glory and delight of nature, and yet how few there are that understand anything about arranging them when planting, in such a way as to produce anything like a pleasing effect, an error which it becomes the province of the initiated to correct, and a knowledge of which it is also designed that a study of these private collections shall impart.