This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The most fashionable excursion for the lovers of horticulture in our day is to Locust Grove, the unsurpassed country residence of William B. Dinsmore, Esq., erected on a selected locality on the banks of the Hudson River, about one mile from Staatshurgh and five miles from Rhinecliff; a place with which the writer of this has been familiar for over a quarter of a century.
Walking up hill, the commencement of the park on the left, a well-trained arborvitae hedge on the right and a piece of old forest were the first, ornaments I observed. After arriving on the level, the rear of some plant houses became visible, and a large number of camelias, azaleas, etc., placed in this shady locality, enjoyed their summer rest. On the right an elegant glass palace, surrounded by some gorgeous flower beds, single plants and beautiful vases, were seen placed artistically in the short cut green grass. In the rear of this is another half-mile range of plant houses to be seen, of whose contents I will speak afterwards. Turning to the left, I was fairly charmed in beholding a most magnificent picture of modern horticulture. There were visible about four acres of gently rising ground in a perfect lawn, with the most artistic and tastefully laid-out flower beds of all forms, worked in all over this elegant green carpet. With a perfect excitement of delight I looked at this picture from all sides for quite a while. With the brilliant flowers General Grant geraniums are planted in large quantities and form the lower border.
On the right side south there are large quantities of General Jacqueminot in a mass, and Caroline de Sensal as a fine contrast planted next beside some other prettiest kinds, filling the entire right border. The contrast of the giant rose bed is actually exquisite, and the contents strew their delicate odor all over this precious picture. The upper part east also forms a frame with a broad strip of lawn grass with circles all along, forming a chain with different kinds of roses in each circle. Another chain-like formation planted with the most brilliant leaves runs along the central path. The back ground is partly shaded and provided with comfortable garden seats. Here we placed ourselves to enjoy this exquisite spot.
Mr. Emerson, the head gardener, here joined us and gave us all particular information. Admiring these enormous masses of plants, Prof. Raftery was highly pleased, and I was perfectly enchanted. Mr. Emerson, says it takes upward of a million plants to renew this plantation every year. Green, white, blue and red are the most striking colors; yellow, black and variegated make a pleasing contrast when placed scientifically. The plants are not allowed to outgrow or run into each other. Each color is perfectly distributed and shows off beautifully. The forms of the beds are all different; sweeps, graceful bends, twists, with beautiful stars in the centre, are of the most artistic composition and show skill and highly cultivated taste. The whole is an irregular regularity and a most harmonious arrangement. Rare specimens of aloes, cactus, dracenas, palms, crotons and other rare leaf plants are planted singly between these groups and make them more and more picturesque. One would think that this picture would look best in the morning when the dew-drops like diamonds decorate every leaf, but it shows far more brilliantly when dampness is evpaora-ted and spectators place themselves opposite the sun in the morning westerly, and in the evening easterly, to get the best sight of it.
If a person devotes so much attention to anything of that kind and puts it together so artistically and tastefully, he has a right to find out at what time and what occasions his work will show for what it is worth. Mr. E. has even visited it on bright moonlight nights, and he thought he was well repaid ; a more proper place where soft zephyrs impregnated with these heavenly perfumes fanned him in Morpheus' arms while he dreamed a happy dream could not well be wished for, and here he got the patterns of the most selected display of his flower beds This reminds us of a young artist who was charged by an art loving king to fresco the inside of a cathedral. Every morning before he took his brush in hand he went to mass and kneeled down upon the stone-flagged floor, his hands elevated, asking for grace upon his undertaking. In high ecsfacy he was favored with a glance of heaven, and he from this copied the same heavenly figures on the walls which he saw up there.
After some time, leaving this charming view with regret, we went to the left (east side), which was planted with asters, gladiolas, Japan lilies, tuberoses, dahlias, malvas, etc., according to their height, the highest-growing plants on the outside, thus accomplishing the intention of the artist as near as plants will grow. The whole length of this border and beyond is a range of newly-erected, roomy plant houses in one line but in four divisions, in which we found by a visit last winter : First, smilax of rare perfection forming elegant festoons four yards in length - an exquisite green trailing. Second, a complete assortment of agaves, selected specimens of all sizes and known varieties, which are used for adornment for summer plantation. Third division, all roses, healthy growing plants full of buds. Fourth, camellias and azaleas, a superb variety, and well grown, together with large orange and lemon trees. Then we came to vegetable houses where we saw the finest specimens of cucumbers, even to two feet long, in large quantities. Bush-beans, lettuce, asparagus, radishes and champignons were furnished in abundance, and added, no doubt, considerably to the delicacies of Mr. Dinsmore's table.
From here we came to a long "lean-to" house facing south, where grapes of the finest varieties and large size are grown in quantities in the season. Out of the end of this a span-roof house, facing north and south is exclusively devoted to orchids. A collection of the rarest and handsomest epiphytes, with their many different formed flowers. They are amongst flowers what a mocking-bird is amongst birds. Grand specimens of Phalsenopsis Schilleriana, with large spikes of beautiful flowers. Sacolabiums, Dendro-biums, Phajus were then in bloom, and attracted much attention from the visitors. On the north side is a large department attached, for the purpose of keeping plants back to enjoy their blooms at a late time. Then we came to another house in continuation of the graperies, used as a propagating house to raise the vast number of plants used for bedding out. This has lately been changed into three elegant stylish span-roof houses for the purpose of cultivating or chids. Mr Dinsmore has already one of the most extensive collections of this class of plants in the United States; valuable and rarest specimens of plants in bloom at all times, of which an assortment of Cattlyeas, Papillios, Cipripe-diums, are now displaying their magic blooms.
Mr. D. intends to use one of these three houses as a show house to exhibit only blooming specimens, and the other two houses to grow them. At the end of this we came out at that stylish glass palace with two wings where we first arrived. On entering one feels transferred to another part of the world. The fashionable tiling of the walks, and the colored glass whose reflection plays so charmingly on ferns, palms and mosses, and although not natural, gives them a fantastic appearance, and renders a natural representation of a tropical climate. It makes a remarkable impression to behold this choice selection of tropicals; they are so tastefully placed and are in such a thriving, vigorous condition, that they are true representatives, and some, I think, better than I have seen in their native country. It looks as if there were all sorts of palms, some large enough to walk under, ferns and crotons. Also a large number of different store plants, all in all, an artistic composition showing the refined taste and talent of the superintendent. Every time we went around we found new objects of admiration. We only found, by coming out, that we had been relieved from an uncomfortable southerly temperature, enjoying the fresh air again.
Mr. Emerson called our attention to the reflection in the blue glass inserted in this palace, of his fancy flower garden, of which I spoke before, and is located in front, and looks like a dream inexpressibly beautiful. No one should leave without enjoying and admiring this selected spot in miniature again.
(To be concluded).