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.
We have now been nearly a year in this new land, and of course have observed all changes with interest. We found the spring like those of the East, a fickle season, permitting the sowing and planting of hardy grains and vegetables somewhat earlier, but affording no like advan-tange to tender things. The summer was delightful. Excepting a few days in June when a hot wind prevailed, there was no uncomfortable heat. The nights are always cool, and such mornings ! So calm and soft, yet so bright and fresh and invigorating. I have breathed the air from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but I never knew anything like them elsewhere. Who is it that says of a clime, that we live "Where simply to feel that we breathe Is worth the best joy that life elsewhere can give".
It may be a low kind of enjoyment, but these lines recurred perpetually as the sun rose in glory above the dark firs and a new, bright day began.
The autumn was not so pleasant. There was no frost till October 22, but rains began early in September and continued with little intermission until December. The winter is said to be an unusual one. Colder, with less rain, more bright days and more snow, but there has not been more than three or four inches of snow at any time, and many days are warm and springlike.
The soil is poor in comparison with the rich prairies of Iowa, but probably as good as much of New England, and improves with proper cultivation. The fine wheat of this region is too well known to need mention. All ordinary vegetables are satisfactory in quality and quantity; but tomatoes and such heat-loving things failed entirety this year. I have seen a few good patches of corn, but the soil must be well prepared, the location favorable, and the variety an early-ripening one.
Apples, pears, plums, cherries, and all small fruits are excellent, and peaches very fair. The plums are especially fine, and we hear nothing of curculio, or any insect-pests, but a curious aphis-like insect burrows in the skin of some of the best apples.
Of wild fruits the first to ripen is the "Salmon-berry," a Rubus with trifoliate leaves, crimson flowers, and large amber-colored berries. Rubus Nutkaensis abounds, its berries like the mulberry, R. odoratus of New England. There is a Vaccinium, bearing scarlet berries, more acid and lively in flavor than most huckleberries. Gaultheria Shallon is a beautiful little shrub, and grows everywhere, but its fruit is not equal to the black or blue huckleberries of the mountains. It is known by the Indian name "Sallal." Serviceberry is plenty, but the bears monopolize the fruit. There are black raspberries in some localitses, but the blackberry is the best and most abundant of all wild fruits. It is a running variety, fruit rather acid but agreeable, and continues in bearing for six weeks.
The dark fir forests are enlivened in spring and early summer by several handsome flowering shrubs. Some already mentioned - June-berry, Rubus Nutkaensis and Gaultheria Shallon are all handsome. The beautiful red-flowering currant can hardly be overpraised, and the large white flowers of the dogwood could have no better background than the dark firs. A very fragrant and delicate Philadelphus is abundant, and a Spiraea with large clusters of feathery white flowers. There is a beautiful honeysuckle, climbing vigorously, and continuing long in bloom. Flowers in large clusters, orange-scarlet, slightly bilabiate, tube very long and slender.
In smaller flowers I must own myself disappointed, missing almost all old favorites, and finding little to fill their places. Half a dozen species of Convallaria and Uvularia, Trillium grandiflorum, Dyclytra eximia, Aquilegia Canadensis, two or three Orchids, none of them showy, and the pretty little Trientalis Europaea, are about all I have met with. I find but one violet, a small yellow one, and the wild rose is poorer than I supposed any member of that royal family could be. The flowers all have a pinched and twisted look, as if imperfectly developed. There is a pretty lily, in habit like Canadense or superbum, in size midway between the two, flowers rather pale yellow with few spots, segments not as much reflexed as in most of the drooping lilies, axils of leaves bulbiferous. The willow herb, Epilobrum angustifolium, is pretty, but so abundant as to be considered a nuisance, and is known as "redweed." Ferns abound, and some attain a large size. Asplenium filix-fcemina, and Aspidium spinulosum grow four or five feet in damp places. Pteris aquilina is called " summer fern," and considered the worst "weed" of the region.
There are great patches of it five or six feet high, and I measured one that grew by a little brook - and there were plenty more as large-which was nine feet five inches in height. Polypodium falcatum and P. intermedium are quite common, growing in the moss on trees and bogs, and are known as "wild icorice".
The falling of trees seems a commonplace matter enough, especially in a region where it is so constantly occurring, but it never loses its interest. In clearing land the trees are not cut down but burned off by firing at the base. Many fall, but many also remain standing, after burning away to a mere shell. Many others, loosened in the ground by age and decay, lean against their neighbors, or stand in such threatening attitudes that one involuntarily hurries past them. But, like the flowers, "They know their time to go".
Some night the south wind rises and roars in the tree tops, and these trunks begin to fall; the nearer with a crash and thundering thud, the more remote with a sound exactly like the report of canon, and sometimes at such short and regular intervals as to sound like minute guns. The wind in the tree tops has always a solemn sound, doubly so among these mighty firs; but we are near enough to the ocean to think often of those who sail thereon, and I never listen to these sounds without thinking "How the same wild gust will toss the ship, And arouse the mighty sea," and fancying I hear the roar of the waves and the signal guns of ships.