This section is from the book "The American Garden Vol. XI", by L. H. Bailey. Also available from Amazon: American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.
THE ARTIFICIAL features of this famous resort that most attract our attention are the sum-m er-ho uses, owing to the conspicuous po-sitions many of them occupy - not that they are ever obtrusive, although so numerous. The builders probably know how many there are, but it is doubtful if anyone else does. None of the old frequenters of the place who were about could give us the information, but a partial count assured us that the number must be well within the hundreds. At nearly every prominent point of view there is one, and while seated there we can enjoy the magnificence of the scenery and inhale the exhilarating air. They afford a welcome shelter from the passing mountain shower or the too ardent rays of the summer sun. Some of the most enjoyable experiences for those fond of cloud effects are to be had during the passing storms, but the guide-book warns us not to choose certain prominent and lofty houses liable to be struck by lightning. There is, to be sure, a general similarity of character in most of these structures, the typical one being constructed of the natural trunks and branches of trees, and having a straw-thatched roof; but there is an interesting variety in the details.
Some roofs are made of branches nailed close together, and where the soil admits of it, a drapery of growing vines is added.
The construction of these summer-houses and the good sense shown in their location are especially to be commended. Built of materials found near at hand, they seem to belong to the place, so well do they harmonize with the surroundings. Were they transported to a dissimilar situation, they might appear as much out of place as a painted structure of shingles and clapboard on one of these wild crags. It would seem as if the straw roofs could not withstand the high winds, but in most cases they seem to have done so, and to some minds the rents made by the storms, when seen on a serene summer's day, are an added element of pleasure. The thatching is of a modern kind, not so thick or so moss-grown as the roofs of the old country. Fine copper wire is used in place of string to fasten the straw to the light frame-work beneath. Its flexibility and enduring qualities admirably adapt it to the purpose, the sharp ends penetrating the straw when, in the course of construction, it is desired to thrust them through. The use of straw in forming the backs and bottoms of some of the seats has resulted in a degree of rustic comfort obtainable in no other way, and this without diminishing in the least their picturesque qualities, but perhaps adding to them.
That substances "trail as straw" have enduring qualities is shown by the way it lasts on these structures whose exposed position has made the use of iron stays and braces necessary to retain them in their places, as in the tall one on Eagle Cliff. Some little summer-houses perched upon steep, smooth rocks seem in danger of slipping away, until we perceive that a hole drilled in the rock holds one end of an iron bolt, the other end of which fits into the bottom of the wooden support above it. So sequestered are some that they attract us by their very quiet and seclusion, and invite us to rest from the fatigues of an arduous walk or the strain of gazing upon the wonders about us. Perhaps the most unique of these constructions are those upon sunken rocks in the lake, the tops of which come near enough to the surface of the water to permit building upon them. They are known as the Swiss Lake Village. As the preservation and exhibition of nature rather than the creation of beauty has been the aim in the work about Lake Mohonk, how much better are these rustic structures than would be others of more ambitious architecture. The same spirit has prevailed in the construction of the roads and other artificial works.
Although it has been necessary in some cases to expose bare earth and newly-broken rocks, they are made as little offensive as possible, and kindly nature soon assists in covering them again.
It will rejoice the lovers of forestry to see the trees cared for. Like so many other regions, this has suffered from fires and the wood-chopper. In a few inaccessible places, the trees unmolested show what they once were and what there is to hope for in the future, but most of the wood is a secondary growth that has come up from the stumps of trees cut down. In the cutting that now goes on, the seedlings likely to make fine trees are left, and in many parts of the woods a vigorous thinning out is what is most needed. Thousands have already been taken away, but the newly arrived tourist does not notice the vacancies and is sometimes inclined to sentimental objections against the removal of any; but if he is a man of sense he will, as soon as his attention is called to it, perceive the superior beauty of those woods where cutting and thinning have been judiciously done.
Although the preservation of landscape beauties already existing has been the main work here, gardening in its more restricted sense has suffered no neglect. A thousand acres of farming land, even if of rock, hilly formation, supplies the large hotel with abundant products of dairy and field. Besides numerous orchards of apples, over twenty acres are devoted to peaches, grapes, currants, raspberries and other small fruits. The delightful and extensive gardens are situated in a somewhat sheltered place just east of the hotel, and are easily reached by a dry walk over the main drive and a short path covered with pounded shale. A beautiful lawn has just been made with great labor and care. The rocks had first to be removed and then the scanty soil collected and leveled. The eye now looks from the hotel across as pretty a sheet of green as could be found anywhere of its size to the gay beds of flowers beyond. The gardens contain all the usual varieties of flowering plants and many new and rare things.
Less attention is paid to bedding plants than is common at summer resorts, but hardy perennials are steadily gaining ground, and carry a load of color and wealth of bloom, from the purple flags of the iris and gorgeous oriental poppies to the last white flowers of the fall-blooming Japanese anemones. Five thousand rose bushes afford flowers in such an abundance that nearly 40,000 have been gathered in a single day. The familiar summer-houses are here, but tamed and subdued in harmony with their surroundings. Even a rough log foundation to one of them is rendered beautiful by the companionship of flowers, and those abominations of the gardener, uprooted stumps, are here gathered into a great group and glorified by coverings of clematis, that take most kindly to their uncouth forms.
The use of vines is appreciated, but not overdone. The Virginia creeper and wild clematis are encouraged to grow in the less cultivated places, but surrounding the house can be found wistarias, mingling with the annual Cobaa scandens and Madeira vine, while the bitter-sweet rambles with the climbing rose and sweet pea. In some places the Ampelopsis Veitchii can be seen creeping among the ancient lichens on the rocks. Some good shrubs have been planted near the house, and a few trees, but much might be done in this way to add a charm equal to any it now possesses. The late and early frosts are not favorable to many garden plants, and some need the hot days of summer; but shrubbery flourishes in the cool air and frequent showers of these regions near the clouds.
It is encouraging to the lovers of natural beauty to find how few acts of vandalism are committed by a crowd of people annually gathered from all parts of the country and subject to no special restrictions. To be sure, a rough class is not attracted here, but the experience here goes to show that a large and expensive hostelry can be well supported in an out-of-the-way place, without the adventitious attractions so often said to be necessary to maintain a hotel. However well kept the house may be, it would not succeed were it not for the attractions offered by nature in the surroundings. There is but one Mohonk, but there are still many very attractive places unoccupied, and visited only by those who destroy and do not preserve. Landscape beauty is more and more every year coming to have a commercial value, oftentimes greater than that of the most productive soil. With the increase of population and of the continued defacement by man, the remaining traces of the primeval will have a value proportionately far beyond what they now possess. Time was, and not so many years ago, when a whole range of mountains could be bought from the Indians for a trifle; but he who would possess an attractive site now must pay roundly for it in good money.
It is to be desired that those who now hold possession of such things will keep them for improvement in the true sense of the word: not by great outlay of money, but by preservation and judicious landscape work, which will in time bring better returns than shares and stocks, and always be better for the world at large.