This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The fine specimen of that rare old plant, Dracaena fragrans, of which the editor gave a pen picture in a late "Monthly," would do one good to see. That it is both rare and old, cannot be denied. Since its advent in England, in the year 1768, it has grown old in the service of ornamentation; but, is no less beautiful now than it was in other days. It is much to be regretted it has become so rare, and seldom seen. Whether its graceful and comely form has been overlooked among the crowds of modern beauties, which fascinate with their newer charms, I hardly know. Yet it seems improbable I should have failed to see and recognize such an old acquaintance, if it had been where it ought to be. So I am led to consider it is a stranger among its more showy, though less odoriferous compeers. Even if out of sight, when in flower, its odor is so sweet and seductive, as "to lead by the nose," and softly decoy willing captives to inhale the sweet breath of its blooms. So exquisitely delicious is its rich aroma, as to vie with the sweet olive, the violet, or rose.
The last one I remember having seen was at Mr. Buist's, in Philadelphia, several years since.
As I confess to being a lover of Dracaenas, the old attachment seems to carry me back to Sydney, New South Wales, the land of sunshine and flowers, where many years ago I saw them in all their glory.
From the Government domain to the noted Botanic Garden of Sydney, is a very pleasant stroll, beneath the big gum trees, araucarias and palms. And few there are who having any love for nature, or "the art of man," who will omit the opportunity to wander among and enjoy. To the writer, the aesthetic associations of the vegetable kingdom are always pleasing. And while at the antipodes, he duly enjoyed the privilege of inspecting the vast botanical collection, which the intelligent government of that remote and remarkable land so well and wisely cared for.
While thus engaged, my attention was drawn to the noble monumental obelisk - sacred to the memory of the unfortunate Mr. Allan Cunningham, so properly placed among the trees, shrubs and flowers, he suffered and died for. Alas! poor fellow, his fate was a sad one. While pur suing his researches in the interest of science, as botanical attache to Sir Thomas Mitchell's exploring expedition in 1835, he was cruelly murdered by the treacherous savages, on the bank of the Bogan river. The singular conifera Cun-ninghamii lanceolata, named in honor of the martyr, was fittingly planted near by.
Among the many curious, useful and beautiful plants he first presented to an appreciative public, I will mention but three, and which all good gardeners ought to know, namely: Araucaria Cunninghamii, Fagus Cunninghamii, and Stenocarpus Cunninghamii. In good taste, these peculiar trees, with others he discovered, had been planted by loving hands, adjacent to the memento mori of the noble man.
But, 0 ye gods! what are the odors which ascend from the altar of Flora, and float around the silent monolith in the garden? Celestial zephyrs pervade the atmosphere, and the ethereal balm savored strongly of flowers. Following my olfactory guidance, but a few steps from where I stood, I discovered the floral laboratory, which distilled the delicate and subtile perfume. A large clump of Dracaena fragrans told the tale of the odorous grove.
Dracaenas are all elegant hot-house plants, easily cultivated. They thrive best in good, rich loam, with a little sand and decayed cow-dung added. Occasional applications of manure water decidedly improves them. Of some varieties, the leaf markings are truly magnificent; while all are in some degree beautiful.
The curious old Dragon tree, Dracaena Draco, which was grown in England as far back as 1640, and which used to be one of the curios of the conservatory, has almost ceased to be seen now-a-days. It makes a good match to mate with agaves, and 6uch like things, to grow in vases, for hall decoration during the winter, and lawn or terrace ornamentation in the summer.
At Cape Town Botanical Gardens, South Africa, I saw it, with other kinds, growing from thirty to forty feet high. From it, D. Draco, the commercial drug known as gum dragon, is prepared; while the roots of D. terminalis are said to possess medicinal properties.
In the island of Teneriffe is a huge and grotesque specimen, supposed to be the oldest tree in the world. This wonderful tree is described by travelers as a vegetative monstrosity, whose existence counts some thousands of years.
Taking them all together, they are plants of noble mien, of gorgeous garb, and stately port, and ought to be found in all choice collections where grand and goodly plants are grown.