These last words, we confess, startled us so much, that we opened our eyes rather widely, and called upon the name of Dr. Van Mons, the great Belgian - spoke of the gratitude of the pomological world, etc. To our surprise, Pomona declared that she had her doubts about the Belgian professor - she said he was a very crotchety man, and although he had devoted his life to her service, yet he had such strange whims and caprices about improving fruits by a regular system of degeneration or running them out, that she* could make nothing of him. "Depend upon it," she said, "many of his sorts are worthless, - most of them have sickly constitutions, and," she added, with some emphasis, snapping her fingers as she spoke, "I would not give one sound healthy seedling pear, springing up under natural culture in your American soil, for all that Dr. Van Mons ever raised!" [We beg our readers to understand that these were Pomona's words and not ours.] She gave us, after this, very special charge to impress it upon her devotees in the United States, not to be too much smitten with the love of new names, and great collections.
It gave her more satisfaction to see the orchards and fruit-room of one of her liege subjects teeming with the abundance of the few sorts of real golden merit, than to see whole acres of new varieties that have no other value than that of novelty. She said, too, that it was truly amazing how this passion for collecting fruits - a genuine monomania - grew upon a poor mortal, when he was once attacked by it; so that indeed, if he could not add every season at least fifty new sorts from the continent, with some such outlandish names, (which she said she would never recognize), as Beurre bleu d'ete nouveau de Scrowsywowsy, etc., he would positively hang himself in a fit of the blues!
Pomona further drew our attention in some sly remarks that were half earnest and half satire, to the figure that many of these "Belgian pericarps" cut at those handsome levees, which her votaries among us hold in the shape of the great September exhibitions. She said it was really droll to see, at such shows as those of our two large cities, where there was a profusion of ripe and luscious fruit, that she would have been proud of in her own celestial orchards - to see there intermingled some hundred or so mean looking, hard green pears, that never had ripened, or never did, would, or could ripen, so as to be palatable to any but a New Zealander. "Do solicit my friends there, for the sake of my feelings," said she, "to give the gentlemen who take such pleasure in exhibiting this degenerate foreign squad, a separate 'green room' for themselves." To this remark we smiled and bowed low, though we would not venture to carry out her suggestion for the world.
We had a delightful little chat with Flora, about some new plants which she told us grew in certain unknown passes in the Rocky Mountains, and mountainous parts of Mexico, that will prove quite hardy with us, and which neither Mr. Fortune nor the London Horticultural Society know anything about. But she finally informed us, that her real object in making herself visible on the earth at present, with Madam Pomona, was to beg us to enter her formal and decided protest against the style of decorations called after her name, and which had, for several years past, made the otherwise brilliant Autumnal Horticultural Shows in our quarter of the globe so disagreeable an offering to her. "To call the monstrous formations, which, under the name of temples, stars, tripods, and obelisks - great bizarre masses of flowers plastered on wooden frames - to call these after her name, 'Floral designs,' 'was," she said, "even more than the patience of a goddess could bear." If those who make them are sincerely her devoted admirers, as they profess to be, she begged us to say to them, that, unless they had designs upon her flow of youth and spirits, that had hitherto been eternal, she trusted they would hereafter desist.
We hereupon ventured to offer some apology for the offending parties, by saying they were mostly the work of the "bone and sinew" of the gardening profession, men with blunt fingers but earnest souls, who worked for days upon what they fancied was a worthy offering to be laid upon her altars. She smiled, and said the intention was accepted, but not its results, and hinted something about the same labor being performed under the direction of the more tasteful eye of ladies, who should invent and arrange, while the fingers of honest toil wrought the ruder outline only.
Flora then hinted to us, how much more beautiful flowers were when arranged in the simplest forms, and said, when combined or moulded into shapes or devices, nothing more elaborate or artificial than a vase form is really pleasing. Baskets, moss-covered and flower-woven, she said, were thought elegant enough for Paradise itself. "There are not only baskets," continued she, "that are beautiful lying down, and showing inside a rich mosaic of flowers - each basket, large or small, devoted, perhaps, to some one choice flower in its many varieties; but baskets on the tops of mossy pedestals, bearing tasteful emblems interwoven on their sides; and baskets hanging from ceilings, or high festooned arches - in which case they display in the most graceful and becoming manner, all manner of drooping and twining plants, the latter stealing out of the nest or body of the basket, and waving to and fro in the air they perfume." "Then there is the garland," continued our fair guest; "it is quite amazing, that since the days of those clever and harmonious people, the Greeks, no one seems to know anything of the beauty of the garland. Now in fact nothing is more beautiful or becoming than flowers woven into tasteful garlands or chaplets.
They form a circle - that emblem of eternity, so full of dread and mystery to you mortals - and the size is one that may be carried in the hand or hung up, and it always looks lovely. Believe me, nothing is prettier in my eyes, which, young as they look, have had many thousands of your years of experience, than a fresh, green garland woven with bright roses".
As she said this, she seized a somewhat common basket that lay near us, and passing her delicate fingers over it, as she plucked a few flowers from the surrounding plants, she held it, a picture of magical verdure and blossoms, aloft in the air over our heads, while on her arm she hung a garland as exquisitely formed and proportioned as if cut in marble, with, at the same time, all the airiness which only flowers can have. The effect was ravishing! simplicity, delicacy, gracefulness, and perfume. The goddess moved around us with an air and in an attitude compared with which the glories of Titian and Raphael seem tame and cold, and as the basket was again passing over our head, we were just reaching out our hand to detain the lovely vision, when, unluckily, the parti-colored dog that guards our demesne, broke into a loud bark; Pomona hastily seized her golden apple; Flora dropped our basket (which fell to the ground in its wonted garb of plain willow), and both vanished into the dusky gloom of the night shadows; at that moment, suddenly rising up in our hammock, we found we had been - dreaming.