This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Well, here we are at the Waterloo Station of the South-Western Railway; tickets paid for, second class, 1s. 2d. each, and good enough for modest men like you and I. 12: 25 is the starting-time; and, hark! there is the bell - the whistle - the "go-ahead;" and now we are stealing along right merrily, gliding through the stations with a speed and a rattle such as no snake with the latter at his tail ever attained in either respect; and almost before we have counted the change which the clerk gave us, see, here we are at the other end, over Richmond Green, and by the river side, and seated beneath a spreading horse-chestnut, the broad foliage of which, fanned by a gentle breeze, not only affords us a delicious shade from a summer's sun, but tempers the heat with its fan-like motion agitating the air. What scenery! - heavenly, beautiful, exhilarating, refreshing! Go on, go on; rob the dictionary as you will of its superlatives, you will not over-do it. But nature has her demands as well as her gifts, so open those distensible compressible baskets, and out with their vitals: a piece of that pigeon-pie, if you please; - just holds a pair - " lovely in life, united in death," as the tomb-stones have it: a steak too, and some hard eggs; long life to the cook! Cut away; you the plate, I the dish: no tricks upon travellers - a fair share of the gravy, if you please; and just draw the cork of that bottle of Sauterne you have hung with such judgment by a string into the stream running before us.
How deliciously cool! health to the vintner! And thus gently refreshing our walking powers, as we transfer the contents of our baskets to a better position for porterage than the ends of our arms, let us look about us awhile, and then wend our way to the Gardens of Kew. Ah, me! well may poets sing of this part of "Merrie England." Merry, indeed; for here comes the City-barge, and many a lesser one, with the now nearly full tide; all crowded with pleasure-seekers like you and I, only in their full-blown garb, and depending more upon knife, fork, and spoon for enjoyment, than on the beauties of nature around them. Hear the music - see the dancers on the deck! Come, let us up, empty our bottle - 'tis a light beverage - shake out and pocket our compressible baskets, and be off. Opposite us is the beautiful property, St. Margaret's, just passed from the Marquis of Ailsa to Mr. Petre; next it is Gordon House - sweet spots both of them for a summer's residence, with beauty dipt but not spoilt by the railway-bridge thrown over the stream by Mr. Locke, and hiding the old picturesque one that spans the river just above it.
Nothing, however, for you and I to lament over; for without the rail we had wasted this blessed morning in a " 'bus." That white mansion is the Dowager Lady Cooper's - a charming place, and could not be in better hands, - a blessing to the neighbourhood, I have often heard. Those cuttings, as they appear through the trees on the island, are only so many arrangements in planting, by which three beautiful and extensive views are obtained from the house and grounds, - up and down the river and across into Kew Park, from which, you observe, we are separated by this narrow piece of water, - ditch I cannot call it, for see how the trees are reflected on its clear surface. But step out, or we shall linger too long. That is Isle-worth and its church; the tower of which, adorned with ivy, is a beautiful object, whilst the body of the building is barbarously out of keeping with it: no doubt the year it was "beautified" the churchwardens were bricklayers or brick-makers, not stonemasons. To our right, in the park, is the Observatory; and, far beyond, the Queen's laundry; nothing like good air and water for washerwomen! But away, and there on the left is Syon House, the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, at present tenanted by the Duchess Dowager. Notice that row of arches or cloisters supporting the building; some few weeks back all the charity children in the neighbourhood were there entertained by that munificent lady, - ay, and the poor workhouse children too.
What a day for them to remember all their lives! for it was no mere parade of kindness, no ostentation, but that kindly address to the better feelings of our nature, shared alike by peer and pauper, and which may bear fruit in days to come. May she happily live to see it!
Beyond is Brentford, dirty Brentford, busy Brentford: who that coached through Brentford in bygone days can either forget or forgive it, - rumble, tumble, tit, bump! one's very bones ache at remembrance of it; so stretch on, and let us get those beautiful alders on yon island between its wind, redolent of stenches of all kinds, and our nobility. What a good object Kew Bridge makes in the distance! And look, here is a floating greengrocer in his boat, - "Apples! pears! all ripe, ripe!" and see, there is a hail for him to go alongside from a boat-load of boys. But we turn up this lane, and here is Kew Green, and yonder are the entrance-gates, handsome, as they should be; and see, mark that chap in his cart, with his short pipe stuck in the corner of his mouth; look at the fellow! with what an air he "tools along" his spavined beast, whose every motion seems an active agony! no short cut for him - out of the way, every body; round he drives, and pulls up with the air of a lord in his buggy, and unloads his freight of some six or eight men and women for a sight of the gardens.
Capital fellow, that! a true Englishman. "Knows his rights," ay, and enjoys them too; calls it "My gardens!" And so they are; and long may he and the like find in them a pleasant resort; for we may be sure that so long as they go to such places for enjoyment, they will feel an interest in their preservation, and the effect cannot fail to be a refining one. - But wait awhile: I must over the Green, to buy, beg, borrow, or steal some paper; for I have forgotten my memorandum-book: strange oversight for.
An Erratic Man.