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.
A few days at Saratoga cannot but impress the lover of gardening how slow the beautiful art progresses. Here where so many of the most intellectual come for rest and recreation, one would suppose that one of the most intellectual and refined of all arts, and one more intimately connected with beautiful leisure than any other, would show considerable development. The little Congress Park is indeed beautiful, and there is some good work especially in vases, more immediately connected with the Congress and United States Hotels, but extremely meagre in comparison with what one might expect from the architectural character and social pretensions of these gigantic establishments. It was rather painful to notice the many beautiful houses with expensive fences having nothing to do but shut off from the public a mass of weeds! The trees planted exhibited an utter ignorance of garden material, for though there might now and then be something else besides Arbor Vitses, Balsam Fir, Norway Spruce and Sugar Maple, these constitute the great bulk of everything planted there in the way of ornamental trees. Of course there are some few exceptions, especially on the road leading to Mount McGrigor: but this is the general character as it strikes the stranger in his wanderings through the place.
This neglect of gardening is not confined to Saratoga, but is common to many other fashionable watering places; but some are waking up to a better appreciation of garden art, and just now are going far ahead of Saratoga. Even Atlantic City, sandy waste as it is by nature, has much more appreciation of garden art distributed among the people generally than is exhibited at Saratoga. There seemed to be no nurseries of any consequence near: but two excellent florists, Messrs. Ealph and Terwilliger, have greenhouse establishments of considerable size, and in the main support what little floral taste is found here.
But if art has done little, nature has not neglected Saratoga. The Hudson River, the Adirondacks, many lakes, and other beautiful natural features are not very far away; and the drives to and from these attractions are through scenery that for diversity of surface and floral attractions have few superiors. In August, when I was there, the Asters and Golden Rods of the autumn season were crowding in on the flowers of the summer season, and made pictures of loveliness I shall not soon forget. The Red Maples, Sumacs, Cinnamon Pern, and sedge grasses were already putting on their autumn brown amid the Balsams and Polygonums, which keep their green tints to a later season; while patches of the Comptonia lined the banks along the drives in immense heaps, and one need not wonder in the luxuriant form it takes here that the common people regard it as a " Sweet fern".
In striking contrast with the want of gardening taste about Saratoga is that of Rochester, which city I visited a few weeks later. People may say, when they see how universally the houses have tasteful gardens and an immense variety in the trees, shrubs, fruits and flowers about them, that it is only what one might expect to see in a city of nurseries. But the experience of other places shows that this is not the rule. There are many places where nurseries are as numerous in proportion to population as here, but without similar results. It must be the genuine love of art - garden art, and the spirit of intellectual refinement, or we should not have as many pretty gardens as we see. There are not many large gardens. Mr. Hiram Sibley has very neat and somewhat extensive grounds; but he is more proud of his farm, as he owns one in the West which embraces 40,000 acres, and is perhaps the largest actually under culture in the world. Like many good men Mr. S. has been the architect of his own fortune, and loves to tell of the time when he could beat his employer in making a good shoe.
His success is just what many young men might achieve if they followed his plan, which was always to take a loving interest in his employment, and as far as possible, regard his employer's interest as his own. One of the attractions of Mr. Sibley's place was an English Yew tree, which though only about eight feet high is full of branches, and paced thirteen yards around. On the same grounds was a beautiful tree of the Japan Sophora, loaded with its white locust-like clusters of flowers.
Though the great beauty of garden art in Rochester may not be merely from the prevalence of nurseries, the intelligence of the nurserymen may have a great deal to do with it; for it would not be easy to find in any community of nurserymen such an assemblage of cultivated men as we find in Ellwanger, Barry, Hooker, Glen, Little, Gould, Yick, Chase, Stone, Chorlton, and perhaps a dozen others that might be named, - and I mention these particularly, only because it was my good fortune to meet with these when there. Indeed a very pleasant experience was a ride to the seed farm of James Vick, which is some half-a-dozen miles out from the heart of the city. The trial grounds, and seed blocks of huge establishments like this are always worth any one's taking a little trouble to see. Among the novelties, then apparently the especial favorites of Mr. Vick, were new styles of Phlox Drummondi. It is strange that these varieties do not "mix," when we hear so much about cross-fertilization by insect agency. Here are beds of the different kinds of varieties - not only of Drummond Phlox, but of numberless other kinds of flowers, yet year after year they retain their characters.
Now and then a mongrel, or perhaps a sport occurs, - these are pulled out and thrown away if indifferent, or saved for a new race if desirable, and this is the end of them. These grounds of Mr. Vick comprise about 60 acres, - and besides flower seeds, are used as trial grounds for plants as well; and at my visit were quite gay with numberless forms of Coleus, Geraniums, and other bedding plants.