This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Our correspondent, Mr. Saunders, has been traveling South, and contributes the following notes of his gardening impressions to the Canadian Horticulturist:
Atlanta, " the Chicago of the South," is well situated on a very elevated plateau, more than one thousand feet above the level of the sea, and is probably the healthiest city in the South, and enjoys a temperature comparatively cool in the hottest periods of the year. It is the centre of an extensive railway system, and has a busy aspect; its population is about forty thousand, one-third of which is black. Since the burning of the city after its capture by Sherman, towards the close of the war, it has been almost entirely rebuilt, many of the buildings being of a very substantial character, and some of the private residences quite elegant.
An early morning walk revealed some novelties. One of the first things which attracted my attention was a tree new and strange to me, one which is extensively used here as a shade tree. It was leafeless at this season, but being decked with large clusters of milk-white berries, was very attractive. This proved to be the Pride of India or Chinaberry Tree, Melia Azedarach. The berries are said to contain saccharine matter, and were used to make a fermented alcoholic beverage during the time of the war. One who has only seen the beautiful glossy foliaged Euonymus Japonicus in greenhouses or as a small half-hardy shrub in the open border during Summer, can form no idea of the beauty of this bush here, where it is perfectly hardy and thrives most luxuriantly. It bears trimming into all sorts of shapes, and makes the prettiest hedges I have ever seen. In addition to the richness of its evergreen foliage, it is doubly attractive in Winter when adorned with its bright-red berries; the long luxuriant branches thus richly ornamented are much used for interior decorations, producing admirable effects. Shortly my attention was riveted by a lovely evergreen with an enchantingly soft foliage, about ten or twelve feet high and eight or nine in diameter.
I had seen small specimens of it in the North, and recognized it as the beautiful Deodar Cedar. It was a lovely sight to watch the graceful waving of its branches io the morning breeze, and the effect of the sunlight on its silvery and hoary green foliage. Subsequently I saw many others of the same species, some of them admirable specimens. The evergreen Magnolias also grow to a limited size here, alongside of most of our Northern shrubs and trees. Beautiful specimens of some of the dwarf forms of the Arbor Vitae were met with, also examples of several of the interesting variegated forms of the Japanese Euonymus. A few of the residences of the wealthier inhabitants are surrounded by neatly kept lawns, with trees and shrubbery tastefully arranged; but when compared with what might be done in a climate so favorable, it must be admitted that there is plenty of room for improvement.
During my stay I called on Dr. Samuel Hape, who is one of the most enterprising nurserymen in this district, from whom I learned that fruit growing was on the increase in Georgia. In season peaches are abundant and cheap, and large quantities are raised for export. Plums also are somewhat grown, but are subject to be attacked by the curculio much as they are with ourselves, and the practice of jarring the trees and collecting the insects seems to be too troublesome an undertaking to find much favor here. The doctor esteems the wild goose as a valuable sort, as it is, he says, less liable to attack from the curculio than the more highly flavored varieties, and for the same reason he speaks well of the Newman's, Decaradeuc's, Harper's, Brill, and Hattie, all descended from the Chickasaw Plum.
Among the apples especially recommended for market orchards here are many unfamiliar sorts. For example, among the Winter varieties are the Hockett's Sweet, Mangum, Nicka-jack, Romanite, Shockley, Yates, Santa arid Black "Warrior. Pears suffer much from blight, and hence are not very extensively grown; but grapes and small fruits are generally cultivated and usually give good returns; figs also thrive well in the open air in this section. With the mild and genial climate which middle Georgia enjoys, fruit culture of every sort should succeed. The present condition of society, however, is not very favorable to the development of industrial interests of any sort. The dignity of labor is much undervalued. By many of the whites manual labor is looked upon as in some measure degrading; and the negroes as a class are so lazy that they do not care to exert themselves unless their necessities drive them to it, and then their wants are so few that an occasional trifling effort will furnish them with such subsistence as will content them.
These blacks are the most jovial people one can meet with, always light-hearted and merry, no matter how great their poverty, often without a cent in their pockets and hardly knowing where their next meal is to come from, nevertheless they are as frolicksome as young lambs, and very much prefer basking in the sunshine, standing around the railway stations or steamboat wharves to engaging in any active employment.
A morning ramble with a friend brought us to a part of the city where the "poor whites" rendezvous, who raise small quantities of produce in the mountainous parts of Georgia and the adjoining State of Tennessee, and bring their crops here to market. Finding one of these remarkably slow looking people, who had just arrived with a few bushels of apples in his wagon, we ventured to interview him. We found that he had left his home, some hundred miles distant, eight days previous, with thirty bushels of apples. Some he had sold on the way at one dollar per bushel, the others he expected to sell here at seventy-five to eighty cents. The varieties he had were the Limbertwig, Abram and Howard or Nickajack, all very good sorts, but they had been poorly kept, and were not very presentable. Having finished his marketing and purchased his supplies, he would trudge his weary way over bad roads for another eight days before he could reach his distant home. These poor creatures enjoy but few comforts, and many of them seem to be less intelligent than the negroes.
We met with many kind friends during our stay here; found the Southern people extremely hospitable, and we left Atlanta, taking with us very pleasant recollections of our visit.
An afternoon train brought us, about dusk, to another thriving city, Macon, where we took a sleeper on a night train for Brunswick, in the southern extremity of Georgia. Daylight disclosed great changes in the character of the vegetation, which now began to assume a tropical aspect as we approached the land of flowers.