This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Gardening may be well said to be the purest of all human pleasures, in the knowledge and pursuit of which the professional as well as the amateur botanist experiences a perpetual secret joy and happiness which is better felt than described. Thus the pleasure of walking or travelling in the country becomes a double one, as in different places the many diversified gems of Flora are recognised, growing and blooming in all their native simplicity and beauty.
A true florist will show forth his character by seeking and endeavouring to use his influence in making others, and especially those around him, partakers of his happiness, by disseminating knowledge, contributing books, plants, flowers, seeds, and the like, interchanging the same betimes, knowing by sweet experience the pleasure thereby derived, more particularly stimulating and encouraging those of his poorer brethren who have not tasted one of nature's sweets, and know not of such a blessing within their reach as is experienced in the culture and society of flowers.
If then such innocent, healthy, and elevating pleasures as are experienced by many be extended to others, what would it not be if by a united effort of Queen Flora's dutiful and loyal subjects such advantages and pleasures were secured to the masses, more particularly the deserving working-classes, where, in a garden of their own, when their hard day's work is done, they might refresh themselves by enjoying the pure air, and most agreeably and pleasantly spend their evenings and Saturday half-holidays by an interchange of thought and sentiment with their fellow-men?
For this purpose I would crave your influence, the 'Gardener,' the good readers thereof, and our esteemed worthy lady allies, in attaining this object; while I further crave space in your pages and draw attention to the West Meadows here, which is being gradually levelled and filled up with all kinds of rubbish, which to many seems a pity, before determining in what way it is to be laid out, and perhaps ultimately proving to be so much labour lost, especially as great advantage could be taken of the undulations on the ground in the way of landscape-gardening; and I may be permitted to suggest that "the powers that be" could not do a more pleasing and philanthropic action than by laying out the West Meadows as a "Southern Public Botanical Garden and Recreation Ground" - a boon to the countless numbers of pleasure-seekers, especially to those of the south-side residenters of the town, who, finding the Botanical Gardens too much out of the way (to their great loss be it said), seldom or never visit that noble establishment. By such an action our Town-Council would further promote and foster healthy exercise, innocent recreation, and pleasure.
Unlike other public gardens in the city, such as Princes Street for instance, where the flowers and shrubs there make a spasmodic effort to live, on account of smoke and impurity of atmosphere, the West Meadows, possessing as it does all the essentials of Boil and situation, could by a very small outlay be made to rival that of many gardens in the country.
Let it be far from me to describe the modus operandi in laying out such a desirable piece of ground; but with the kind indulgence of the 'Gardener' readers, suppose we draw the cord, lift up to view and reveal a real living landscape, animate and inanimate, transcending far in lasting solid pleasure and beauty any transformation-scene ever witnessed on the boards of a city or provincial theatre. Suppose, then, in the centre of the ground, a large fountain, sporting in the air and glistening in the sun its silver jet of spray, which, descending like "gentle dew-drops falling" on the lovely Calla or Richardia ethiopica, the crested Lycopodium formosum, studded with Ferns, etc.; while here and there out of some fantastic nooks and crooks 3ome members of the gold and silver finny tribe bob out and in, as if quite delighted, and rejoicing in their vernal rustic home. Then fancy a real fairy Fern grotto, specially laid out with taste and care for the fair ladies, the exquisite tracery of whose fronds, the crosier-like germ of the bracken with its rich amber colour bursting forth to view, acts on its beholders with special magic fascination.
For the botanist and florist we would have a long and varied border of choice interesting herbaceous plants, where the student, with his Balfour, Lindley, or a more elementary author, may saunter along putting theory to practice, finding profitable enjoyment and intellectual food in every phase of vegetable life there exhibited.
Then let there be quiet retired corners, with seats planted around, which there would be shrubberies consisting of Rhododendrons, Mahonias, Laurels, etc. etc, to shelter and screen the occupier. Then picture having a huge rustic rockery commanding a view of the whole landscape, and planted on which there would be alpine plants of every hue and colour, a source of perpetual delight during the spring and summer months, more especially when "Spring comes quickly, To write love's fair alphabet upon the earth".
While to bask and roam on such a spot amongst such sweets, surveying the whole scene around, while from below there comes wafted up and o'er the perfumed air, "Stealing and giving odour".
Last, and not least, there must be a "Rosarium," and that also worthy of the name, which would be the goddess of Edina's worshippers, where, when in full bloom, to look, muse, and meditate, would be the excelsior of bliss and enjoyment; and "As the weary sempstress stays her task That perfume to inhale, The pale-faced children pause to ask What breath is on the gale; And none that breathe that sweetened air But have a gentle thought, A gleam of something good and fair, Across the spirit brought".
To complete all (space permitting), there would be bowling, quoiting, and croquet greens, with the addition, perhaps, of a strip round the grounds for the aspiring velocipedist. Should our Council succeed in bringing into the city a supply of St Mary's Loch, then surely we might crave a drop here, for having a skating course round the entire grounds; while in the future, should we experience such frosts as in the past winter, by a nominal charge of a penny or twopence it might cover the working expenses of the garden for a whole year.
In the ardour of a young amateur enthusiast I have made the foregoing sketch, while from those readers who may think I have been attempting to "paint the Lily," in "o'erstepping the bounds of nature," I humbly crave indulgence; nevertheless, showing in some measure, I trust, what a treat we who, having gardens of our own, enjoy, and might by a little self-denial and exertion confer on many of our fellow-citizens (not having the same privileges), by introducing them, and in having free access to the heavenly, civilising, and refining company of flowers; and from whose society what good results may not follow? For who has not felt the influence of flowers? - the drawing up, as it were, from this world of sin, care, and turmoil. What tender memories, solaces, and hopes, may not be awakened by wandering up and down such a place, I leave for the reader to judge: gently wooing the vicious for a longing to partake of Flora's purity, and maybe touching the heart of some who once, like they, grew up in innocence and love around their father's cottage-home; enticing from the beer-shop many of its victims, thereby giving a healthy tone to the mind and manners, as well as reflecting and noticing the wondrous power of God as displayed in the wonderful construction, beautiful loveliness, brightness, and sweetness of flowers.
A Lover of Flowers. M. C, Edinburgh, February 1871.