This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
While attending the National Convention of Nurserymen at Chicago, in June last, a number of us made a hasty visit to the parks of that wonderful city, and were-perfectly surprised at the splendid results that have been obtained in such a brief time - results that, I believe, are not equalled by any of the parks of our great eastern cities.
The " South Park" of Chicago we first visited, the floral department of which is under the charge of Mr. Kanze. Unfortunately, the day we called there our time was so limited, that I took no notes and could only judge of it in a general way, to be exceedingly well handled. There is quite a range of greenhouses, probably 10,000 square feet, with extensive ranges of cold frames where the plants used in bedding are grown before planting out, upwards of 100,000 of which grown in five-inch pots were set out last season.
South Park, from its extent - 1050 acres - and the improvements in the roads and walks still going on, does not present such a finished and unique appearance as it will do when these improvements are completed; but every thing that had been done showed skillful and careful management, indicating that the Commissioners had been fortunate in selecting a man with talent comprehensive enough to grasp the multitude of details in such an undertaking.
" Lincoln Park" to the north of the city has an area of only 250 acres, but is a perfect gem in its way. The floral department of this park assumed form only three or four years ago, and it is difficult to understand how so much, so well done, could have been accomplished in such a brief time. Already upwards of 10,000 square feet of well constructed greenhouses are up and filled with an extensive and valuable collection of tropical plants, exceedingly well grown, embracing many large and fine specimens. As in South Park, the greater part of the greenhouses during the winter and spring months are used for propagating and growing plants that are wanted for decorating the grounds in summer, but this extent would be entirely inadequate for that purpose were it not that the plants about May 1st are shifted and transferred to the cold frames of which there is capacity enough to hold 125,000 plants grown in five-inch pots, which must require an area of at least 35,000 square feet. rhese plants are set out about June 1st, and being grown in five-inch pots, are then fine plants, large enough to give an immediate effect - not quite as fine, of course, as when growth has vigorously started later, but yet sufficient to make the beds at once attractive.
On the main lawn in front of the Mall was a flower bed representing a Knight Templar's cross with the square and compass in the centre, a very handsome design surrounded by an arabasque in the Byzantine style, the lines of which are defined by white shells.
Some captious criticism has been made on the taste of this arrangement in using the shells, but eaving the question of "propriety" aside, nothing in flowers - particularly at a distance - could produce such a sharp, well-defined and pleasing ine of white. Another beautiful bed represent-ng a butterfly, exhibited well the unusual skill shown all over in these decorations. When in Europe a few years ago, I thought that nothing seen there in planting equalled that of Battersea Park, London, so we would here say that nothing seen in this country, in our opinion, comes up to the planting in Lincoln Park, Chicago' The originality of design, the well judged blending of color, the healthy vigor of nearly every plant, showed that there was a master hand to lead; this we found to be Herman De Vry, a young German gardener, who has, for the past three years, had charge of the floral department of Lincoln Park.
The Commissioners of the Chicago Parks may well feel proud of their work Only fifteen years ago the grounds, now such a paradise of green lawns, beautiful trees and brilliant flower beds, was an open prairie. The transformation seema magical, and stands out in strong relief against the tasteless, niggardly method of those in charge of our parks of New York and Brooklyn; where twice longer in existence, and backed by all the wealth of these great cities, there has not been for years a flower bed fit to be looked at. Many of the florist establishments of Chicago already show the western energy and enterprise, but of course, are as yet far behind the long established concerns of the Eastern States. On leaving Chicago our next visit was to Dayton, Ohio, where the reports of the fine planting at the National Soldiers' Home there induced us to visit. Report had not exaggerated. The Soldiers' Home is finely situated some two or three miles from the city on high undulating grounds, which are laid out with broad and finely kept roads and walks, judiciously arranged through the finest lawns I have ever seen in this country.
The grounds of the Soldiers' Home answers all the purpose of a park to the citizens of Dayton, and has the additional interest of its grounds being filled at all times, in fine weather, with about five thousand " men in blue," to whom the Home seems a home indeed, for no one can look upon - many of them - scarred veterans, the most of whom are now grizzled and gray, without being struck with their free and easy carriage and contented looks, as if each soldier felt an ownership in the ground on which he trod. They are fed, housed and clad in the best manner, and every thing else done to conduce to their comfort and happiness. Any one spending a day at the Soldiers' Home at Dayton, and observing the manner in which our nation's defenders are so luxuriously cared for, would never hesitate for a moment to believe that our republic, at least, is not ungrateful.
There are quite a number of well built greenhouses, embracing a most extensive variety of plants, showing that the manager is well up to the times in all that is interesting, new or rare in plants. One of the most marked features of this department of the Home was grottos of rock work planted so as to produce the most pleasing effect. Our lady friends who accompanied us were in ecstacies over this, and hung around it, for hours. The planting in masses and in ribbon-line beds was excellent, and was almost equal in extent to the parks at Chicago. Large letters of crimson on the green velvet lawn made us " Welcome" so plainly, that we felt as if our good Uncle Sam was almost taking us by the hand.