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.
Now, when the snow is on the ground, I look back on some of the pleasant experiences of the past Summer season, when I have met the friends of the Gardener's Monthly in many pleasant places; I think over the many interesting experiences, and wonder when I may be permitted to go over the ground again.
It was one lovely morning in June last, that I emerged from the palace car to the platform to find myself passing the pretty town of Newport, by the Tuscarora Mountains, on the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The road-bed ballasted with broken stone, was therefore entirely free from dust, and rendered the position a particularly enjoyable one. The sun just peeping over the hills, lent a peculiar brilliancy to the Red Maple leaves, and the little clouds of mist which the sun was still powerless to lift over the mountains tops, floated around into the little hollows above the Juniata and in the mountain sides. Nothing possible could be more beautiful than the scenery in this part of the world. As the train winds around the mountain sides, every possible variety of surface comes into view, - now we look up at the trees in the clouds, and now we are attracted to some little meadow scene several hundred feet below. All around, every where, a singularly beautiful style of vegetation abounds. Now we pass immense clumps of the Red-berried Elder, with its rich currant-like fruit mixed with the white flowers of the common or Canadian Elder, which is only just coming into bloom.
Then there may be large tracts in which the principal feature is afforded by the Lady Fern, which seems to be particularly abundant in the Alleghany Mountains. Then the Rubus odoratus with its showy red flowers thrusts itself, but not unwelcomely on our attention. Spiraea Aruncus, with its white feathery spikes, quite as pretty as the plumes of the pampas grass, abounds: and what shall we say of the Kalmias, Rhododendrons, and plants of that class? But I will stop imagination here to express my astonishment at seeing a magnificent "forest" of Rhododendrons erowms in limestone. I should like to have had the man there that started the idea that Rhododendrons will not grow in limestone soil. Well, there was at length Pittsburg and Alleghany City, and again had to note how remarkably well the much abused Ailanthus thrived as a street tree amidst the almost indescribable black smoke of the Iron City. It seemed to be a universal favorite. Indeed there were few of any other tree. We pass through a very beautiful park at Alleghany City, with a huge prison in the centre, about which, if I mistake not, the Alleghanians are much moved.
As in many other places they get up popular cries for spending money, moving a building for some reason, to another place where first the same reasons prevail, with little other good resulting but spending a huge pile of money. Some $700,000 have been spent in moving a prison because the site was not healthy, when the same spot becomes a prison of another sort again. It is not simply "parks and gardens" which find the weak men in the good places. The gardening in the vicinity of Pittsburg and Alleghany is very good, considering that there are no landscape gardeners with anything more than local fame about there, and its architectural beauty is generally very good indeed. But as we get towards and into Ohio, good gardening did not afford remarkable illustrations. I remember how much the architectural beauty of the City of Alliance impressed me, but the gardening was of the meanest possible character. Of course there must be some exceptions if one had the opportunity to go about and search for them, but there was abundant opportunity for good gardening in many places under the immediate eye of the traveler, which in many cities with as much taste and wealth as the architecture exhibited, that would have been taken hold of to better purpose than here.
It is interesting to note how some weeds are as choice in their selections of new homes as some men are. Here, in Pennsylvania, the European Ranunculus bulbosus is the common Butter-cup of the meadows, and though the Ranunculus acris is found occasionally, it is never abundant; but in Eastern Ohio, this Ranunculus acris is the prevailing Butter-cup, - the other being rarely if at all seen in the fields. The European Yellow Charlock, or field mustard is also a very common weed in Eastern and Northern Ohio. When the traveler gets to Cleveland, he not only finds nice houses, but nice gardens, and considerable taste displayed in public grounds, and garden neatness every where. But even here one could not but be impressed with the fact that gardening knowledge was very far from being up with the times, or at least with the abilities of modern landscape gardening. Nice lawns, well kept walks and roads, and handsome trees abounded, while there was a profusion of flowers in most places, giving a gay and cheerful aspect to the city homes. But there was very little if any design anywhere, or attempts to derive the pleasure which the study of true taste in gardening affords.
Every garden would have a few Norway Spruces, some few common ornamental trees, some shrubs or flowers; but just for what reason they would be planted in any one place rather than in another, it would be hard to tell. The lack of variety also was remarkably apparent, and indicated rather the work of the tree peddler than the intelligent selection of the landscape gardener. In the matter of climbing or creeping vines for instance, the Virginian creeper was everywhere, but nothing else out of the many dozens of nice things that might be had. In my drivings and wanderings about the city, I must have seen many hundreds of vines, but besides the Virginia creeper saw but one other, a scarlet coral Honeysuckle in a poor man's garden at the end of Euclid Avenue.
This avenue is the popular "rus in urbe " of the well-to-do Clevelander. I think it must run from the heart of the city out perhaps twenty miles. Nearer the city the pavement is of smooth flag stones, then comes to the curb about fifteen feet in width of grass, which is kept neatly mowed. The street is lined with maples, elms, and others, and the whole affords a very pleasant drive. The laying out of the street was very judicious as a real estate speculation. On one side the lots are comparatively shallow, on the other side of the Avenue they range from three or four to even six acres. These last being mostly occupied by very wealthy people have very nice places; while those who can afford only the smaller lots on the other side, have a good view of the pleasant scenery opposite, and will pay much more for a small lot than they would under other circumstances.
Of the places individually there are some on the avenue that merit much more credit than the general criticism already given would indicate. Some of these I made brief visits to. A very fine grapery is owned by Col. Harris, in which the foreign grape is very successfully grown. Mr. J. H. Perkins, a leading banker of the city, occupies about six acres in a beautifully laid out garden. A small stream of water runs through the centre, and we pass on through a succession of rocky steps, fern-covered slopes, fish ponds, rock work, from shade to sun and sun to shade, in a very agreeable succession of rural objects. In some places the shelter by close planting is so complete, that the yew and other plants usually esteemed but half hardy at best, bends down and covers the water as well as in evergreen-blessed England. There are greenhouses and other floral luxuries on the place which is on the whole a very charming one. Mr. Geo. Morgan is Mr. Perkin's gardener, and we found him one of a high degree of intelligence.
Mr. Wade has also beautiful grounds; a drive going completely around it. There are here graperies and greenhouses, and a very comfortable looking gardener's house on the grounds. The most pleasant of my recollections here are some remarkably beautiful Hemlock, Spruce and Pyrus japonica hedges, and I must not forget the amazingly healthy and beautifully fruited cherry trees. Cleveland is, however, the paradise of the cherry. Trees bending under the weight of fruit are everywhere. Everybody has them. Even the poorest looking yards have one or two cherry trees. Somewhere near here - perhaps on these grounds - I saw a magnificent specimen of Pinus Mugho, and a large golden willow, and I gave thanks that some one had varied the eternal Norway Spruce, and the Maple, which however beautiful in themselves, one does not want to meet for ever. Also some person whose name I did not learn, had made some break in the everlasting sameness, by making belts of clipped Norways, box, and some things which were pleasant to see by way of change.
The florists and nurserymen, though with no great variety in their stock, seemed to be mostly prosperous. I made hasty calls on Sked, Paddock & Co., Harris Jaynes, G. Probeck, and James Eadie, all of whom seemed prospering. Since Dr. Beaumont's death, his nurseries have not been pushed, and the much respected Mcintosh, though I found him hale and hearty for his age, is pushing neither. Case, whose melancholy death has just been recorded, had a very live nursery under Mr. Wiegel's management. Few men did so much to benefit the city as .Mr. Case, and it is to be hoped his nurseries will still u;o on and flourish. Mr. Eadie has about ten acres in his nursery, which are worth probably about $2000 an acre at the present time, but his chief lines are in growing plants for market, wholesale and retail. The Fuchsia is the favorite Cleveland pot plant, and of these Eadie grows thousands. Mr. W. J. Gordon has one oi the finest private gardens and parks in Cleveland; but by a misunderstanding with some friends as to time, I was disappointed in getting to see it.
The public parks and cemeteries of Cleveland are very interesting to a garden-loving stranger. Wade's Park is a beautiful piece of ground. It is freely given to the city's use by the liberal owner. It is chiefly natural woods with dense undergrowth and very varied surface, with rocks and rills, and log bridges, and other accessories of the rural plentifully distributed through it. Art has done much in carrying roads through it, as well as spoiling the effect by planting numerous belts of Norway Spruces all along the roads, for somehow a lot of Norway Spruces in a wild American oak and birch wood detracts from the great natural beauty which otherwise impresses one. Lake View Cemetery has a striking monument to the memory of Jeptha H. Wade. Like the best of Cleveland's progressive citizens, he was the architect of his own fortune. From a telegraph operator to a millionaire, but his millions chiefly spent in making the fortunes of hundreds of others in the city. This cemetery is remarkable for the beauty of its undulating surface, and the landscape gardening can scarcely be anything else but good; but the same defect, want of variety in the planting exists here, as so often elsewhere.
Clump after clump of Scotch Pines meet one everywhere, as if the company had bought out a lot of them on some cheap speculation, and was glad of some reasonable excuse to get rid of them. Lake View Park - a sort of narrow drive along the river bank, - is perhaps a quarter of mile long, and affords a pleasant spot for the pedestrian as well as for the equestrian visitor. The drive is low down towards the lake shore, the other side from the road being elevated, and grass kept neatly, and grottoes, clumps of shrubs, and shade trees used to ornament it. The broad promenade at the top, looking down on the gardens, the carriages and horsemen, and the huge lake below, has a very good effect indeed, and renders it a very pleasant spot for the Summer evening saunterer from the more busy haunts of business, and " hum-drum " of every day life. A short visit to the home of our old friend Dr. Kirtland affords an interesting reminiscence. The pretty country house is still in the possession of Mrs. and Dr. Pease, his daughter and son-in-law. The originals of his still famous cherries are in many cases still standing, and also are his magnolias and many other rare things on which he prided himself so much.
Among the rare trees are some fine specimens of the European Silver Fir, and in the borders ferns and rare herbaceous plants. It was a great pleasure to find his descendants priding themselves on preserving the various mementoes of this distinguished horticulturist and man of science, as well as taking an intelligent interest in them for their own sake.
How brief must a letter like this be! All one can do at best is to hint that much may be seen if he but keeps his eyes open, and perhaps to tell that if people would only go to Cleveland, they could find many things worth seeing that I have not room to tell about.