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.
Securing a seat in the yellow cars at Fourth and Pine streets on one of the coldest mornings of the old year, a fifteen minutes ride landed me at State and Lami streets, within a block of my destination - the private hot-houses of Daniel S. Brown, Esq. There are three houses newly built on the site of the old ones, which had become too small to accommodate the collection; one chiefly devoted to the large-growing palms, one to stove plants and the rarer kinds of palms, and a cool greenhouse for bedding and winter-blooming plants.
The entrance through double doors leads into the main building, the palm house. A more striking illustration for the purpose could not be named. It is a span-roof facing east and west, and is fifty-two feet long, twenty-four feet wide and thirty feet high. The stove is a lean-to, built at right angles to the main building, and connected therewith. Both houses are heated by hot water, double glazed, plain glass inside, and corrugated glass on the outside; the panes of the latter are twice the size of the former.
Entering the palm house such a scene of bewildering tropical beauty meets the sight that a moment's pause is absolutely necessary to collect one's scattered thoughts and comprehend the weird transformation. Viewing the scene from the entrance, at an elevation of three feet above the ground. floor, one hardly realizes the immense proportions of the large specimens. In the centre the wine palm of India, Caryota urens, twenty feet high, rears aloft its mighty fronds toward the roof. The screw pine of the Isle of Bourbon, Pandanus utilis, is sending down its air roots, like huge augers silently driven by an invisible power, boring the earth beneath, and giving stability to the ponderous mass above. In the far distance a cocoanut palm, Cocos Romanzoffiana is very conspicuous, its graceful plumes towering almost to the roof. The white bird of paradise, Strelitzia augusta, is seventeen feet high, close by which are specimens of Areca rubra and lutescens and Seaforthia elegans,scarcely inferior in height, but much more graceful in appearance. Latania borbonica, ten by twelve, Pritchardia pacifica looks so much like the last named as to be identical. Another large specimen and a beautiful palm is Oreodoxa regia.
A sago palm, Cycas revoluta, looks as though it may have been handed down as an heirloom from the days of Noah. An odd-looking specimen is Ceratozamia Mexicana in bloom. Another curious plant, and one rarely met with of any size, is Zamia fur-furea. Date palms are here in great variety. The bread fruit tree, Dion edule, is here with fronds four feet long. Among the handsome palms are large specimens of Chamearops elegans, excelsa, Martiana, humilis and tomentosa, the trunk covered with rough fibre (like a beard) to the ground. Corypha Australis and gebanga, Brahea filamentosa, and an exceedingly fine specimen of Astrocaryum murumuru bristling all over with dangerous looking spines. Two large dragon trees, Dracaena Draco, stand in stately pride like sentinels on duty; while Dracaena fragrans, in bloom, fills the air with its invisible sweetness.
Prominent among the fig tribe is the pippul tree of the Hindoos, Ficus religiosa; the celebrated banyan tree of India, Ficus Indica, Ficus Parcelli, eburnea, Porteana and macrophylla, the last better known, perhaps, as Artocarpus im-perialis. The two end tables are filled with Cacti, odd misshapen things, which compensate in a measure for their ugliness by the sweet flowers they give.
On the back wall Ficus repens and minima, the smallest of leaved creepers are intertwining their pretty foliage with the mammoth foliage of the edible fruit Monstera deliciosa in perfect harmony. Half way up, growing in cracks and crannies, are the lowly things of earth, ferns, giving a charming effect to the scene below.
(To be concluded.)