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.
I love New Jersey. It is fashionable to joke about her. Some tell us she was made of the pieces left from the manufacture of other States. It is true there are scenes which you can find in any State of the Union. There are cool mountains, and hot plains, excellent wheat lands, and soil so sandy and warm that it is only fit for sweet potatoes. There are places dry enough at least for the most successful grape growing, and then there are cranberry bogs which yield more than the gold or silver mines of Colorado very often do. Besides its men and women, its gardens and and its wild flowers, all are among the best. It is a pretty piece of mosaic work, all the better for being made up of " odds and ends." To one who wants to get an idea of New Jersey, a run of an hour or two by the Camden and Atlantic Railroad will take him clean across it, landing him by the sea at Atlantic City. The writer inaugurated his "season" by a trip over the road when the apple trees were in blossom, and the early peas and potatoes just struggling through the ground. It is wonderful how much may be learned by a railroad ride, and yet wonderful that so few learn anything at all. For my part 1 never go over this road without learning something new.
On this excursion the swamp maple, Acer rubrum, was just going out of blossom, and the brilliancy of the maturing seed vessels reminded me of a fact first brought to my attention by Mr.P. Barry, that the further we go south the brighter red these ripening seed vessels become. As we go south-east over this road, we find them increasing in brilliancy. They are no longer red, but scarlet or even vermillion. Another interesting fact is that the male trees are deliciously fragrant, while the female or seed bearing tress are destitute of all odor. We have all known this fact in connection with the Ailanthus, the grape, the willow, and others. In all these the male flowers are the ones that give the sweetest odors. Perhaps this fact will forcibly strike those who philosophize on the relation of odors to the insect fertilization of flowers. It is curious to note how young the maple flowers in the New Jersey swamps. Plants not over two or three feet high are as full of red blossoms as the huge red maple timber trees of the high ground in Pennsylvania. It seems hard that these little things should take on family cares so young. But we know that nature cares very little for the individual.
She wants to clothe even a swamp with vegetation, and the maple is forced to grow in a swamp, though it would do better for itself in drier ground.
How beautiful the Lupines look, with their blue spikes pushing up from the dry and sandy banks ! Its roots run down to great depths, and bring up the moisture for the thirsty leaves; and we learn that deep rooted plants must be selected for dry surface soil. Thus we find the oak and the tulip tree thriving so well. For street trees thousands of tulip trees have been set out in New Jersey towns during the past twenty years, and none are found to excel them. The chestnut also does well. Indeed any tree which has deep tap roots as well as plenty of surface roots, does well in the dry sands of New Jersey. This is a hint that Western tree planters may thank New Jersey for.
The forestry question receives aid from a run through New Jersey. We see that the forestry area is not necessarily decreased by the old trees being cut down. Hundreds of acres of the pitch pine, Pinus rigida, have been cut away, and are now covered by thrifty young seedlings. In some cases there are woods which have already been cut within the memory of living people now ready to be cut over again. So with burnt forests. The new growth soon comes, for as heat ascends, the roots are cool, and seeds somewhat buried in earth, escape unless the mass of burning material be very deep indeed. We here see also the value of nurse trees to a growing forest. The scrub oak, Quercus Bannisteri, rarely exceeds six feet in height. It makes an excellent shade for the young pines; but in time these grow above their fostering shade, and smother them out, leaving nothing but a pine forest pure and simple. The poplar birch, Be-tula populifolia, also acts the part of an excellent nurse. It grows with great rapidity when young. Some of the growths of last year, as I saw them in these forests were six feet long. But these rapid growths cease at about ten or fifteen years.
It is the old story of the hare and the tortoise, for the slower growing and sheltered trees get up in time and crowd out the | birches.
Then these forests teach a lesson in thick planting. Some trees become very large when growing close together; others, as for instance, poplars, soon kill each other when standing near. A poplar is said to grow large and fast, but it must have all the ground to itself to do it. On the other hand the cedars, and especially the white cedar, will make huge stems when so thick together that a party of a dozen persons traveling through a wood of them can scarcely see any one of their companions at fifty feet away, so thickly do the trunks grow together; and yet how seldom is this fact taken into account in deciding what forest tree to plant.
The holly, Ilex opaca, which was once the pride of New Jersey, seems to be getting scarce. Though hardy, so far as low temperature is concerned, it hates cold wind, and when the country gets opened a little it suffers and disappears. At Atlantic City the famous old specimens which are as large and have as fine trunks as apple trees a century old, also begin to look decrepid. How they grew up in this bleak and exposed sand bank is a mystery; and as they stood the battle of the seas and the breeze of the northeast for many years, it is strange that they should suffer now. It may be that the buildings forming the miles of streets turn the wind on to the trees on the outskirts of the city with more destructive effect than in the olden days of nature.
The beautiful city with its thousands of handsome shade trees of numerous varieties is a sight to see in a place where but a few years ago it was believed trees would not grow at all. The Gardener's Monthly always taught that when trees were planted thickly together, so as to shelter one another, anything would grow in this bleak place, and now one can see from experience that this is so.
In gardening also it is pleasant to note that the world moves even at a watering place as well in the direction of trees and flowers as in the line of gas-lit ball-room floors. It is some years since a sketch of things at Atlantic City appeared in the Gardener's Monthly, and then astonishment was expressed that any persons of taste could be found willing to spend weeks among grand furniture and such miserable out-door surroundings. Now there is a great change. The cottages have sweet and shady vines about their doors and over their windows, and shrubs and hardy flowers abound in the gardens. In many cases excellent lawns were observed, and this in soil which a few years ago it was doubtful if even a blade of grass would grow. The larger and more pretentious " houses " have much improved in their horticultural taste, but are very far yet behind the needs of the people. In the past, wealthy people spent their summers in the country amidst trees and flowers and nice specimens of landscape gardening. The opening of railroads has brought the seaside to their doors.
They may for the moment be attracted by the novelties of the seashore, or the gayeties of fashion, but the love of art and taste, especially in flowers and gardening, is innate, and only those great summer resorts will be permanently successful that give some attention to these things.