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.
In a somewhat recent article in the New York Times we find the following :
" It is needless to recite instances; the whole park is full of illustrations of negligence and want of knowledge. Shrubs that should be pruned and kept in proper shape are untouched, and straggle at will. Trees whose beauty consists in being furnished with foliage from the base are trimmed up to disfigurement, and vines are allowed to hide the beauty they were intended to enhance. Dead and mutilated trees are left standing; living trees of tender age are dying for want of culture, and by the choking clasp of grass and weeds. Trees are growing together and hiding the glimpses of different lawns, until in a short time the original effect of the park, which we have all enjoyed, will have vanished in a meaningless mass of trees and shrubbery. Many years ago, while in England, I purchased for the park, at the request of the commissioners, a choice collection of rare evergreens. Since that period large purchases of the same have been made in Europe and America. There should thus be now in the park some of the finest specimens in this country. I could not find them. The question is pertinent. Have they been destroyed, or died from neglect, or what ? As originally formed, the various parts of the park were in harmony.
The artificiality of the lower portions was the connecting link with a great city. Then came the ramble and the lawns and the wildwood. The designers planned vistas and lawn-stretches and openings, supposing that there would always be enough intelligence to keep them open, and to preserve the symmetry of the parts. Should the spirit of their plans not be recognized and sustained, the large expenditure which New York has made will have lost half its value.
" Structures now decaying may be restored, water shores may be repaired, vines may be taken from the rocks, vistas may be opened, but nothing can restore existence to the large elms which have been cut down, or beauty to the trees which are crowded together all over the park. To many the neglect of a year or two longer will be fatal. They will then have acquired a onesided growth, and thinning out will make it so apparent that the only remedy will be to cut them down entirely and plant others in their places. Money cannot control the elements of time; trees cannot be produced in a day, and if the remedy be delayed too long, many years of time and large expenditures of money may be required to repair the serious injury.
"Twenty years ago I walked with Sir William and Dr. Hooker around the level plain of Kew Gardens, and they were full of praises of the varied surface of our Central Park and its picturesque capabilities. As we looked upon the perfect turf of Kew, its large collection, and the exquisite keeping of all its parts, I wondered if the time would ever come that Central Park would be other than it then promised. My wonder has become a reality; the park has become a cause of sadness to those who remember its inception and former beauty.
"My summing up must, therefore, be that the Central park was once a thing of beauty, charming all with its structures, its plantations, and its keeping, and recognized by all connoisseurs as the best example of landscape gardening in the world; that it is now loosing its beauty, is fast going to decay, and unless speedy action is taken will soon be past remedy. The open spaces and the thickets will remain in the midst of a large city for the relief of a crowded population, but the old charm will be gone, and will be sought for in vain by future visitors".
The editor of this magazine had a two hour ride through this park about the time this must have been written, and is sorry to feel that the picture is not at all over-drawn, and the ride left on him the impression that this once celebrated piece of work is fast going to ruin. On inquiry as to the cause of this rapid decay, he was told that it was " because the park was now wholly run in the interests of politicans. Mr. Dawson, who is only a politician, gets $3,500 per annum, and there is not a man in any position that brings over $2.00 per day that knows one thing from another, except how to vote right at election times." And then there was much abuse of Mr. Dawson and the politicians.
"We must say, as we have said when the public squares of Philadelphia have been criticised, that if the people of the United States can devise no plan whereby the " politician " can be kept from ruling, they should not blame the men who rule. We often wonder that considering the immense labor, not to say money, these men spend to get into positions, it is wonderful they give back to the public so much as they do. Going back to the Central Park, we are free to say that it is fully as bad as the Times says it is, but considering that Mr. Dawson and his aids are " mere politicians," we ought to be very thankful that it is not in a much worse plight than it is. We will not join in the crusade against them, but blame the respectable citizens of New York, by whose acts or apathy they get there.