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.
Last fall the writer chanced to get to New Orleans, and the temptations to visit that section again when the spring should start vegetation into new life was so great that he took another run in February last especially to look at things. The most striking horticultural feature on entering the city is the use of the Stillingia sebifera as a shade tree. It is called here tallow tree. The leaves are very much like those of the common aspen, but the dense, twiggy growth is very peculiar. It is very much valued for its rapid growth when young, but does not grow to a size ultimately that would render it out of character in a narrow street. It moreover bears trimming as well as the Linden trees of Germany. It is deciduous. The Fig grows to a fair size, but not near so large as they do in the south of Europe. The largest reached about to the second story windows. They are without leaves six months in the year and yet bear two good crops a year. No attempt is made to dry them as in Europe. The Pomegranate and Crape Myrtle also take a long repose, and though of large size do not seem so much at home as we have seen them in Kentucky and Virginia. The most striking tree at the end of February is the Loquat or Japan plum, as it is commonly known here, botanically, the japonica. _ It grows to about 20 feet high, with a large round head, the leaves and general character reminding one of the large Rhododendron arboreums of the East Indies. The fruit is borne in large clusters at the ends of the branches, each fruit about the size of a small fig, and of a golden yellow color now when ripe.
The fruit varies very little in shape or size, but there is a great difference in the quality of the fruit on different seedling trees. Some are hardly worth eating, while others have a subacid flavor peculiarly agreeable. The Banana fruits in the open air abundantly, but the leaves have a battered and torn appearance by the winds, very different from the noble character they present in our hot-houses. The kind usually grown is the Musa paradisiaca. The Papaw tree is rather uncommon. This grows up with a single stem like a Palm, though belonging to a very different tribe of plants. The male trees of course bear no fruit, but the female trees have the fruit of several pounds weight, touching each other for a considerable space up the stem, like a lot of oval-shaped melons. The tree is the Carica papaya, and is quite ornamental in addition to its valuable fruit. The great feature of New Orleans is, however, its orange trees. Every small yard and garden has its orange trees, under the fragrant shade of which the people sit at even. Large orchards of them exist in some places, some of them evidently of great age.
Near the old Spanish Fort, now nearly two hundred years old, was a plantation, the trees set 20 feet apart and the branches nearly touching each other, and the stem of one of which measured three feet in circumference. There was no fruit on these trees, but myriads of blossoms; and as we cat under the shade of one, with the little rippling waves of Lake Pontchartrain whispering at our feet, and the balmy spring breeze coming up south from the Gulf of Mexico, it was easy to understand the poetic exultation with which such scenes and circumstances have so often been described. In various parts of the city were trees many feet high of the Myrtle-leaved orange, the fruit no larger than pigeons' eggs, and making a very striking appearance. On the grounds of Dr. Richardson were trees of the Shaddock, with three generations thereon. There were the large ripe fruit, fruit just forming, and flowers. Dr. R. is a lover of rare plants, and his greenhouses are filled with Orchids, Palms, and other plants of the most valuable character.
Perhaps the most striking evergreen of New Orleans is the Pittosporum. These grow to the size of an ordinary log cabin, and will bear any amount of shearing and still keep their foliage vigorous and healthy down to the ground. It is extensively used for topiary work, as the yew is in Europe. The Chinese Viburnum, as well as some others, are used also for this purpose, but none is so charming as the Pittosporum. Sometimes the winters kill the oranges even here, but not often, and never so thoroughly but what some escape, as in the case of those referred to at the Spanish Fort; but this season has been remarkably open, and even the tender Salvia splendens was in full scarlet feather, making everything look gorgeous with its gay beauty. The immense bushes of Lantanas in full flower were also exceedingly attractive. Roses, both Hybrid Perpetual Chinas and Teas were everywhere in full blossom, and would' excite the envy of the bouquet makers North, who at the same time would be buying the " buds " at immense prices.
Our party bought large bunches of them made into tolerable bouquets for 50 cts. each.
We were fortunate in meeting at New Orleans with Col. M. B. Hillyard, the Secretary of the Mississippi Valley Company, which has at McComb City made a very prosperous settlement, already claiming a population of nearly 1500. Col. Hillyard has, perhaps, done more than any other person in the South to draw the attention of Northern men and others to the great natural advantages which the South possesses; and whenever this section of the country shall have risen to that prosperity which we feel in time will be its just fate, this gentleman's name will stand prominently forward as having been one of the pioneers in the good work. Under his guidance our little party visited the markets, the Fair grounds, and other prominent points calculated to give us a good view of the horticultural advantages and products. The vegetable and fruit markets were particularly attractive, all our spring vegetables being in great abundance, and charming the heart of the writer's good wife, who regards herself as a particularly good judge as to what is perfection in that line. The new potatoes really did look excellent.
The strawberries were not abundant, and though they are often spoken of as among the great achievements of the Southern winters, neither in quality or appearance were they equal to our Northern fruit.
The great Southern exposition, which has been so extensively advertised, was being held, but there was not much to interest the horticulturist, though in agriculture and the mechanic arts it was particularly attractive; but this was more than made up in the horticulture of the Fair ground itself, which gave us a treat which, had we seen nothing else, it would have paid us well alone to see.
Here were specimens of rare plants, which for years we had known only as rare things, coddled up in pots and tubs in hot-houses, growing to majestic proportions in the open air. There were also greenhouses with plants which thrive ' better there than in the open ground, though, perhaps, hardy in the main, forming small trees of large size. The curious Carolina princeps and the Astrapaea Wallichh, which now and then flower in our conservatories, were here in magnificent blossom. Huge Eaphiolepis and other winter-blooming shrubs were covered with blossom, and among the out-door things, Cu-pressus torulosa, and others of this class, tender with us, made pictures of beauty we shall never forget. Best of all here was to find in the gardener, Mr. Muller, one of whom the profession may be proud. We so often meet with "gardeners" who are mere pretenders, and who get into good places by mere luck, while real sound men of modest worth are left out in the cold, that it was a real treat to find so intelligent a gentleman in charge here, and we cannot help making a note thereof.
Our liimits are too cramped to make any extended notice of our long trip in this for'mal way. From time to time we hope to benefit our readers by what we have seen. We will only offer our best thanks to our numerous Southern friends, by whose urgent invitations we were tempted to take the trip, and to whose generous and warm-hearted attentions we are indebted in so many States for pleasures we shall not soon forget. We cannot, however, close these notes without a brief reference to the beautiful grounds of Mr. Nelson, of the Magnolia Nurseries, on which the Deodar cedars, Torreyas, Cupressus, and many other plants, were grown into specimens of more than striking beauty.
A Few Suggestions on Tree Planting, by Prof. C. S. Sargent, of Harvard University. - This is a plea for forest tree planting, and a plea urged with great ability. He gives an account of the plantations of Mr. Richard Fay, near Lynn, in Essex Co., Mass., of two hundred acres, in 1846, mostly European Larch. There are now some of them fifty feet high and fifteen inches in diameter. Seven hundred cords of firewood have been cut at various times, besides all the fencing material for the vast estate. Thousands of dollars worth could be cut to-day. The land was excessively poor when planted.
Another gentleman, J. S. Fay, Larch and Scotch pine set out in 1853 are now 40 feet high, and 10 to 12 inches in diameter one foot from the ground, and this in the poorest kind of huckleberry ground.
Mr. Sargent then goes into a large number of facts and figures to show that even from the earliest stages of forest tree planting in most places a profit may be made, and that one need not feel that in planting trees for posterity nothing is to be made at once for oneself. We are sure many will be startled by the good case for tree culture made out by Mr. Sargent, and yet we are sure that he has rather under than over stated the case, and that if anyone who truly understood the business of forest tree culture, and united with this knowledge, ordinary tact and business prudence, he could make even considerably more out of the business than Mr. Sargent puts it, favorable as his statement is.
The contribution to arboriculture is timely, and we are sure will do an immense amount of good.