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.
New Zealand, from the insular position it occupies, although much nearer the equator than Great Britain, is said to much resemble it, in the mildness and moisture of its climate. Probably it does, but in no other respect will it bear comparison. Its topography, when compared with the wonderful continent of Australia, differs much in general appearances. The atmosphere is also much lower in temperature; while the paucity of its Flora is as remarkable as the meagreness of its Fauna. Perhaps no country having the same extent of area, 51,5S4,000 acres, contains a less variety of either plants or animals.
True, there is a vast interior as yet unexplored; and from the hostility of the natives, is likely to remain so for some time to come. The learned Bacon says; "Man is an animal as well as a brute, but he is something more." But, in the case of the ferocious New Zealander, man is nothing less. So devilishly full of evil are they as to be a terror to well doers. Many a harrowing tale could be told of their diabolical doings, to honest and brave men, fair and faithful women, innocent babes and children. As long as the "red handed" wretches continue to oppose the approach of the white man, with the war-club and spear, but little can be known of the hidden treasures which remain for the venturesome traveler to gather at some future time. The axe, the plough and the railroad, the three great civ-ilizers, are gradually bringing about the inevitable change which will people the wilderness, and make the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose. But why dwell upon blood-curdling themes, the gentle readers may inquire, when there are happier subjects to dilate upon? Surely there are pretty flowers, beautiful trees, and pleasure scenes to describe, without introducing us to nasty, naked, blood-thirsty cannibals.
With all due courtesy, let me inform them that my intentions are not to cause any needless pain. Be it known then, that I harbor no " bloody thoughts " or unkind feelings; God forbid. Yet, however painful it may be, the writer feels compelled to divulge the fact, that he has willingly associated, when in Europe, with bloody wall-flowers, Cheir-anthus Cheiri sanguineus, by name, and without a blush; and confess to having many times seen Love lies-bleeding on the ground without shedding a tear. And, although he well knew the unhappy East Indian's name, Amaranthus caudatus, he sorrowed not. Without remorse, or qualms of conscience, he has dug and delved among blood flowers, at the Cape of Good Hope. This bulbous rooted subject, Haemanthus sanguineus, with such a terribly bloody name, is, anomalous as it may seem, one of the most singular and beautiful occupants of the greenhouse, and should be in all collections. He has even taken pleasure in the handling of Blood-wort, the Sanguinaria canadensis (not meaning bloody Canadian), of the woods in this hemisphere.
Even the dark, bloody cinqnefoil of Nepal, Po-tentilla astrosanguinea, and Rubus sanguinolen-tus, of the Isle of France, well-named, the bloody bramble; an old acquaintance. However terribly portentous such technical appellations may seem, by no means are they intended to convey the idea that they are the names of herbaceous vampires or ligneous leeches. Believe me, there are no raw-head and bloody-bone posies in the greenhouse, or frightful ghouls in the flower-garden.
After confessing to such a gory experience, startle not, ye timorous ones, when the kindly editor of this magazine offers to supply his patrons with blood-beech, blood-birch, and blood-peach trees to plant; or should he recommend blood-beets, or onions, or any of the sanguinary vegetables, be not alarmed; they are meant for your good.
My apology for writing such a biography, which seems at first sight like reading a gory chapter or page of blood, is simply a preface to what follows, an introduction to the bloody ferns of New Zealand.
Hymenophyllum sanguinolentum is a beautiful filmy fern, known as the Bloody Fern. It seems a dreadful name for a pretty fern, but it is more in the name than in the nature of the thing, which is anything but repulsive. H. nitens, with its more euphonious name, is a shining gem, which with its sanguinary companion, literally covered the rocky ravine, through which I picked my way.
No doubt among the numerous readers of the Monthly there are many whose hearts are as fondly attached to the lovely Filices as was the fair and gentle creature who so feelingly and emphatically declared, "Ferns are my devotion!" Such an appreciative soul, having a tender regard for whatever is good or beautiful, will ever manifest its purity of purpose in every state or condition of life.
Probably no species of fern find more admirers or devoted friends than the filmy ones, under notice. Whoever has been so fortunate as to see, or own H. Tunbridgense will admit that it is a most lovable kind. Unfortunately the chary little beauty is constituted with so retiring and delicate a nature as to modestly hide from view. Their habitats are generally in some sequestered nook in the forest, or sylvan shades in some romantic glen. They cannot exist in the sunshine as sunny flowers do; ana whoever attempts to cultivate them must never allow a sun-ray to reach them, or they "will shrink like parchment in consuming fire." A well-drained War-dian case, or bell-glass, is necessary to secure the proper close, moist atmosphere they delight in. Two other lovely kinds, H. dilatatum and H. flexuosum, were profusely distributed in favorable spots. Of recent introductions from New Zealand are Todea superba and T. pellucida, two most superb filmy ferns.
Dendrobium Ounninghamii, a pretty white-flowering species, and the rare Earina suaveolens, the peculiarly formed white flowers of which are exquisitely fragrant, were the only two orchids I met with.
Edwardsia grandiflora is certainly one of the grand flowers of the country. It is a splendid yellow-flowering leguminous plant, and is often seen in balloon-like masses some ten feet high, and sixty feet in circumference. They are uncommonly ornamental when bedded out in the summer months in this country. Mr. M. Hag-erty, of Cleveland, produced some admirable examples of what they are capable of. Three other smaller,' yet very interesting kinds, E. minima, E. chrysophylla and E. microphylla, are well worthy of a place in the greenhouse.
A little in advance stood a group of palms, Entelia(?Ed.) arborescens,some 40 feet high. This handsome palm is an excellent lofty conservatory plant, and would prove to be hardy in the Southern States.
Fringing a cluster of Myoporum viscosum some three feet high, and backed with Aralia trifoliata and Metrosideros robusta, was a ferny border, which Asplenium bulbiferum, and Platy-loma rotundifolia, rounded nicely.
Tetragonia expansa, with which most gardeners are familiar as New Zealand spinach, assumed arboreal proportions, from ten to twenty feet high. The remarkable broad-leaved conifer, Dammara Australis, is a lofty and bushy tree, but is rarely seen except on the Northern Island.
Of climbing plants, the most conspicuous is the Supple Jack, or Ripogonum parvifolium and Freycinetia Banksii. The natives are said to be fond of the sweet bracteae of the blossoms, which they eat with savage gusto. Cordylines and Dracaenas are as common as the tree ferns.
Cyathea medullaris and C. dealbata are not only stately but are magnificent and beautiful. I well remember the time and circumstances which first brought us together, and whenever I see them now, think of them then and there. Dicksonia antarctica and D. squamosa, were well represented; but having previously described them in the October number of the Monthly of 1870, I will pass them by.
Phormium tenax, is a common plant. The well-known P. tenax variegata, so universal a favorite, both in this country and Europe, was an exceedingly scarce plant at the time of which I write, and was but rarely seen. The New Zealand flax is one of the most useful plants in the country, especially so to the natives, who use it for thread, cordage, mats, baskets, bags and various things.
Along the margins of rivers, and the rich, loamy bottoms of the valleys, Caladium esculen-tum flourishes amazingly. As an esculent the natives of Ausralasia not only eat it, but the roots of Cordylines, as I have frequently seen. To judge them, according to my civilized palate, they are the most abominably insipid trash I ever tasted, Marselia macropus, or Nar-doo, excepted.
Having erred and gone astray from the way I ought to have followed, I felt much perplexed and bewildered in trying to find my way out of the maze. (The famous maze at Hampton Court was not a circumstance to it.) The surface over which I stumbled was exceedingly rugged. With considerable difficulty I scrambled and floundered among the matted masses of Clematis hexasepala, a green flowering kind of no particular merit. Clianthus carnea and C. puniceus, two kinds of Glory Peas, having woven their stems wierdly together with the Clematises, seemed to conjointly aid in preventing a passage through. Sitting down to rest, I thought how pretty and interesting they used to appear on the greenhouse stages in England. But oh, that Glory Pea! How sad the change! Little did I then dream the time would come when I should be a prisoner in the woods, lassoed round the neck with Clematises, and my. legs fettered with Glory Peas! Escaping from the durance of the ligneous forest warders, I made the best of my way out of Tangle-foot Gully to a more open ground.
Still among the ferns; in fact it would be difficult to find a yard of surface without more or less of them. They literally cover the face of the country. They flourish on the surface • of extinct volcanoes, rocky ledges, deep ravines, alluvial plains, sandy and stony flats, swamps and morasses, the elevated table-lands, plateaus of volcanic scoria, up to the limits of the eternal snow which cap the mountain summits of the Middle Island.
Marattia elegans is decidedly an elegant and imposing tree fern. Fine specimens will often reach from twenty to thirty feet above Lomaria Frazeri and Hypolepis rugulosa, which spread thickly beneath. Tall and graceful as it is, it is not unusual to see Cyathea dealbata, wave its handsome fronds sixteen feet above. When the writer visited Norfolk Island, years ago, it was then as common as the noted Araucaria ex-celsa, unquestionably the most beautiful of all coniferous trees. It is also found on the Auk-land, Chatham and Macquarie's Island.
The inviting appearance of a settler's wigwam was in view, and which I found was occupied by a warm-hearted Scotchman and his family from "Bonny Dundee." Canny Sandy Macduff, his guid wife, braw laddies and bonnie lassies, made me feel as happy as any mortal could. No hospitable hearts or willing hands could possibly have done more to make me a welcome guest. The honest farmer had left "the land o' cakes" to grow wool and follow the plough in Australasia.
The moist climate, so favorable to cryptogenic growth, produces immense quantities of ferns, to the detriment of Sandy's broad acres. Pulling up a fern he said " it reminded him of Burns' John Barleycorn, which when put down would come up again." So tenacious are they of life as to survive and grow again after any treatment less than fire. On leaving the cosy sheeling where I spent the night, I in my heart implored benignant Providence to "lay on Macduff" and his kind-hearted wife and family every earthly blessing, and bid them adieu. But I was not to go alone; young Robby volunteered to pilot me through the bush, and see me safe at Mr. Trotter's, an old friend I was in quest of. Our way led through clumps and clusters of Fuchsia excorticata, Pimelia prostrata, and Pitt-osporum cornifolium, interspersed with the omnipresent ferns. Especially numerous were Polystichum hispidulum, Platyloma rotundifolia and Goniopteris pennigera, the gem of feathered ferns. Emerging from a copse of Dacrydiums, Phyllocladus and Podocarpuses, we reached the open road in front of Trotter's Nursery. Parting with good Robby at the gate, I was soon inside the rustic cottage and made welcome by the kind and generous people within.
But a few years previous Mr. Trotter was the accomplished and excellent gardener at Flitwick House, Bedfordshire, England. I am happy to say he was flourishing in his new home. As an evidence of the interest taken in horticulture, the Wellington Horticultural and Botanical Society had been established at Port Nelson before it had been settled two years. Very pleasant, short and sweet, I may say, were the few days I spent with the good folks. They assured me bounteous heaven had blessed their endeavors, as I bid them farewell on deck of the good ship "Speedwell." In a few hours after leaving Cook's Strait the cloudy curtains of night gradually fell over land and sea, and veiled forever the writer's view of New Zealand in " its primal dress of sheeny, cooling green."