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.
An editorial life is peculiar. The editor has two selves. In the field of duty he has to forget the one, and be the other. To him a friend is on a par with an enemy. He often praises the work of those he dislikes, and criticises that of those he is intimate with, as if he knew them not. Again while to most persons the blessings of life are "here today and gone to-morrow;" the editor is gone today, and here to-morrow. Much has to be done in a short time; type as well as time and tide, for no man waits. I often feel when traveling how much I miss. There are friends everywhere. I want to see beauties; I want to enjoy scenes that I would love to study and never forget; but "to-morrow" will come and I must be home at work, so I usually go with the tide and float along on the first wave that strikes me.
Here, in Boston, my friendly wave landed me in Forest Grove Cemetery; and it was a piece of good fortune, for I had often heard of its beauties, and found it fully up to what 1 had heard. It is not a landscape cemetery in the full sense of Spring Grove at Cincinnati, for it is evident the lot-holders have considerable control over the planting, and this naturally prevents harmonious effects in matters of detail; but there is enough of artistic beauty to place it far ahead of the heterogenous mass of marble and bushes which make up the gardenesque in so many cemeteries of even high pretensions. But the absence of intrusive as well as exclusive bound-ary fences by the numerous lot-holders, large and small, is striking, and commends the spot to one who believes that death levels all. As I have said there are many incongruities. Why, for instance should money be spent in making an elaborately ornamental piece of masonry, all the costly and beautiful details of which are to be subsequently wholly hidden by clinging vines ? Now, there is nothing so beautiful as vine-covered walls; but it is evident the architect knew nothing about this, or never thought of it.
Again we have long stretches of ornamental wall, wholly to be hidden by planting, as if the pretty structure was some unsightly object to be planted out; rock-work with palms and other things that are anything else but rock-plants; and other little inconsistencies that cannot but strike the eye of one guided by recognized artistic rules. Some of these may be noted in this cemetery, - they would be wholly overlooked if it were not for the high reputation it enjoys as a model work, and which in the main it well deserves. But here let us say a word of praise for the gardener in charge, for in few places of this class have we seen so much neatness and general industry displayed in keeping everything in first-rate condition. Bosto-nians are very proud of this cemetery, and they have good cause to be. It is open freely to everybody six days in the week, and to none but the lot-holders on Sundays.
The botanic garden at Cambridge claimed a few hour's attention, and I was glad to meet with Mr. Falconer the gardener in charge, whose intelligent articles on flowers are so highly appreciated by the readers of the Gardener's Monthly. Mr. Falconer is a comparatively young man, of medium size, and somewhat slender, but with great working activity, and unless the future prove very unpro-pitious, will probably leave behind him a good record for usefulness to American horticulture. It is many years since I saw the botanic garden, and I was agreeably surprised at its transformation from its old style - the stereotyped botanic garden with which all over the world we are all familiar - to a real beauty-spot; at least a spot as beautiful as it is possible to make a botanic garden so long as it is thought necessary to have the. plants arranged like shelves in an herbarium. The plant houses, herbarium, library, and other buildings are on an extensive plateau, bounded by a slope. From this terrace we look down some feet to the flower garden. The centre of this is a pond for aquatic plants, and around this are arranged in segments of circles the flower beds. The pathways are about as wide as the beds, made of grass, and kept neatly mown.
Here and there were plants in flower; but as the Spring flowers were gone and the Summer flowers scarcely in season, many of the beds were bare, and seemed to long for even some friendly mass of weeds, in order to have something to do, for even the dull clod in this busy world detests idleness. Here are the beds for "Rununcula-cae," "Liliaceae?," or what not, but only the labels are there now in many cases. The most complete success is in the rockeries, in which are many plants which will only thrive in such situations and persistently set all " classifications " by herbarium rule at defiance. It is to the great merit of the rock garden here that it is made to suit the wants of plant growth, rather than some imaginary piece of scenery; for here very often comes in the opposite horticultural extreme, the sacrifice of the useful wholly to some ideal. As long as a botanic garden must be made subordinate to the rules of the herbarium, we do not see how such a garden as this at Cambridge could be made more beautiful; and the comparative reclamation from its former ugliness reflects great credit on the taste of Prof. C. S. Sargent under whose direction the changes have been made.
With the end of this season Prof. Sargent retires from the directorship of this garden, in order to assume the duties of Professor of Arboriculture in the Arnold Arboretum, which garden has hitherto divided with Cambridge his attentions. As the first professor of Arboriculture chosen in this country he will have an eminent field; but those who know of his incidental work in this direction, as already accomplished, have a forecast of how well his future work will be done. The botanic garden will in future be under Professor Goodale's management. I found Prof. Goodale, though in his holiday season, busily at work with an independent class of students. He seems to have a peculiar power of making abstruse physiological points very clear to his students. He does not teach merely what has been already taught, but encourages original investigations. At the time of my visit he was explaining the Embryology of the seed by the aid of a seed of common " Shepherd's-purse," in which, assisted by a powerful microscope, even the earliest processes of seminal cell germination could be seen. In the herbarium Professor Asa Gray, small of frame, and grizzled by the passage of near seventy winters was still as actively at work as one of thirty.
I left him studying out a set of his favorite Aster-aceous plants, which had been collected on some government exploration. It is amazing how Dr. Gray gets through with so many useful tasks. His "Structural Botany," which is really a wholly new work succeeding to his " Text Book" is just fresh from the press; while his regular systematical works are still going on. Mr. Sereno Watson his able assistant I found also at work on "bibliographies" and " revisions," labors that bring him innumerable thanks from fellow-botanists, though with little chance for the fame which more original investigations earn.
Professor Farlow it was also my good fortune to meet on this occasion. His time is wholly occupied as professor of Cryptogamic Botany, a department of science that has become of great practical importance of late, since the great influence for good or evil which fungi exer_ cise on all organic things has become better understood. Altogether the excellent garden, full of rare and valuable plants; and the admirable staff of instructors with, we presume, plenty of money to pay them with, give a chance for useful botanical work seldom met with elsewhere.
A hasty visit to the Horticultural Society rooms brought to my view one of the best horticultural libraries I ever beheld. "What a splendid chance for the intelligent horticulturist. The society has been very fortunate in its investments, and should it ever reach old age, is out of the reach of want. By its liberal premiums and other good deeds it is still doing good work which may some day perhaps be extended. But I find I must still give my few hours in Boston another letter.