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.
An able and pleasant writer, much impressed with the grandeur of arboreal beauty, thus feelingly alludes to his leafy favorites. "Trees seem almost human in sociability, and in isolation." And while acknowledging the truth of his observations, your correspondent has often thought there could be little that was human in the bipedal creature, in whose bosom there is no love for either flower or tree.
History informs us, that from the first man made, to the wisest of men, trees and flowers were duly valued for their relative uses, and picturesque beauty. And that the modern man of refinement and taste,greatly enhances his happiness in their cultivation and care, is obvious, to all who see and understand.
That certain biblical trees were justly regarded with feelings akin to reverence, by the pastoral patriarchs of old, the sacred writ frequently testifies ; and that we, in our day, should love them for their own sakes, is not to be wondered at.
A grand and stately old tree is a living monument of the creative power of the Great Architect of the universe, who made it "a thing of beauty," to make glad the heart of man, who wisely appreciates the good our Father sends. Setting aside their mercantile, economic or domestic uses, there are many other reasons why we should encourage their presence, which add so much to our health and comfort in making the world more beautiful wherever they grow. Their aesthetic, sanitary and humanizing influence around our domiciles, are undoubtedly many, as every day's experience proves.
The recorded associations of great men and trees are numerous, and their authentic history often reads more like the pages of romance than of fact. But the writer's intentions are not to dilate upon the many interesting narratives, legends, reminescences, or traditions, our ancestors give of past events, connected with memorable men and trees, otherwise than a brief allusion to Dr. Johnson and his willow.
While on a tour in England, during the past summer, I paid a visit to " the ancient and respectable city of Lichfield," as an observant old writer designates it. From the noted house in Saint Mary's Street (the lower part of which is used as a draper's shop), where the celebrated Dr. Johnson was born, is but a short distance to a very remarkable edifice, in Saint John's Street, on which Henry II. settled a valuable revenue for its maintenance. And Edward VI. also further endowed it. But it is most remarkable for having been the Alma Mater of Addison, Wollaston, Ashmore and Dr. Johnson - men of mighty minds.
After viewing the many archaic specimens of architecture about the city, and feeling a strong predilection for all things Johnsonian, I made my way to the magnificent Cathedral, the origin of which dates back to A. D., 675. In the south transept of the sacred fane, placed side by side, are two conspicuous monuments, erected to the memory of those famous men, David Garrick and Dr. Johnson.
On a large mural tablet, surmounted by a marble bust of the Doctor, is the following inscription : " The friends of Samuel Johnson, LL. D., a native of Lichfield, erected this monument, as a token of respect for a man of extensive learning, a distinguished moral writer, and a sincere Christian. He died the 13th of December, 1784; aged 75 years".
Deeply impressed with the solemn grandeur of the superb structure, and the many mementos of former greatness around me, I thoughtfully passed along the richly fretted silent aisles, to the green yard outside. And not far from the gateway, void of all sepulchral pomp or sculptured ostentation, beneath a mass of pretty flowers, calmly lay the mortal remains of one of the most remarkable, exemplary and useful men of his time, the late Bishop Selwyn.
Pursuing my way to the adjacent fields, along the same hedgerow foot-path the Doctor had often trod, the spot was soon reached where "the great Lexicographer" used to rest beneath the peaceful shade of a venerable willow, Salix Rus-selliana.
The original noted tree known as Johnson's Willow, in 1810, measured in circumference 21 feet at six feet from the ground. But as trees and men only bide their time in our mundane world, so it was with both the Doctor and his favorite tree; they each succumbed to the fell destroyer, and ceased to be.
The writer well remembers his father pointing to the decayed old tree, when prostrated by a storm in 1829. And much regretted, thus ended the life of a veritable arboreal magnate among willows - as much so as was the erudite Dr. Johnson among his fellow-men.
After the ancient ligneous denizen had passed away, a thrifty branch raised from the old tree was, with much ceremony, planted in the same place, and to this day successfully grows in its stead.
About a quarter of a mile off, and in full view of the tree, stands the old Church (and close by the holy (?) well) of Saint Chad's, founded twelve hundred years-ago. And near the ancient pile, standing on a slight eminence, embowered in lovely unbrageous trees and shrubs, is the commodious and comfortable old mansion of Stow Hall, once the residence of the renowned Molly Aston, whom the Doctor always called upon whenever he returned to his native city.
At the time of my visit. Willow II. was in a flourishing condition, and promises well for the future. Running a tape-line around its handsome bole, its girth measured twelve feet seven inches, at four feet from the base. The height was about eighty feet, and a more perfectly formed or better balanced tree is seldom seen.
In conclusion, I have only to say the citizens of Lichfield take great pride in protecting and showing the handsome successor they hopefully planted in 1830, for its honored sire's sake.