This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Wherever progressive man has settled at the antipodes, happily most of the trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, still remain, much as nature left them; simply, because the cruel creature said to have been created in God's own image, absurdly called a sportsman, could derive no inhuman pastime in their wanton destruction.
Besides having no warm blood to shed, and being more difficult to annihilate, there could be no quivering of lacerated flesh to gloat over; nor mute appeal from the expressive eye, which in vain might look for pity, alas! where mercy is unknown. Fortunately on that account, many representatives of the vegetable kingdom have been spared, to give beauty and comfort to our intelligent fellow creatures, who have sense enough to appreciate them. And, as the writer was informed, the primeval Australian landscape which delighted your correspondent years ago, when there, with its umbrageous beauty and solemn grandeur, has little changed since the three illustrated persons, Captain Cook, Sir Joseph Banks, and Dr. Solander, first gazed upon the glorious scene; and, at the suggestion of Banks, appropriately named the flowery locality Botany Bay.
In 1606, the Dutch first landed on this great terra incognita, and from the inherent love of the land they left behind them, named it New Holland; now, better known as Australia. The famous English Captain Dampiere visited it in 1688; and after a few weeks spent on shore, left to continue his cruise again. This roving adventurer arrived there again in 1699, and after a longer investigation, returned, and reported to his sovereign the many strange sights he had seen. After which, this wonderful island continent remained unoccupied by Europeans, until 1770, when the intrepid navigator, Cook, discovered, and landed upon that part of the coast, previously mentioned, in New South Wales. Since the time of the last named date, the country has been mostly explored, and has furnished many thousands of interesting plants to all civilized lands. In fact, it would be extremely difficult to properly fill with pleasing variety, the modern conservatory, were it not for the immense resources of Australia and S. Africa, which for many years have been so largely drawn from.
Desiring to create a lively interest in whatever tends to make us a happier or better people, I am encouraged to lay before the reader a few fragments of personal experience, among the remarkable vegetation of that paradoxical land. And those who may have not, as well as those who may have previously followed my wanderings, years ago, will pardon me, I trust, when briefly returning again, (on paper) to the flowery lands beyond the sea.
Leaving Gundagai, N. S. W., for a long journey through the solitudes of the wilderness, to Gipps Land, Victoria, I propose calling attention to a few beautiful flowers with which Nature had so lavishly scattered and sweetly scented the way. And with this object before me, I fondly hope they will receive the same appreciation in this country they have in Europe. And to whosoever's heart expands at the sight of a flower, I cordially recommend the following species. On the fourth day out, after losing sight of all signs of civilization, distracted with the horrible shrieks and yells of myriads of noisy cockatoos, parrots, parroquets, love birds, and other harsh, discordant kinds, we emerged from among the bulky forms of lofty Eucalypti, whose remarkable prophylactic properties were then unknown, to a more open, parklike country, over which were scattered irregular little copses of Banksias, Santalums, Grevilleas, Petrophillas, Proteas, and similar pretty bushes. Clinging to their stems were several kinds of lovely Kennedyas, as, for instance, K. coccinea, K. Marryattii, and K. rubicunda, with Jasminum divariciatum, Hardinbergea Comptoniana, and H. monophylla.
The curious Pachynema com-planatum and Craspedia plebia covered much of the sandy ground in the Wattle groves, which changed the features of the beautiful open forest glades. Through a narrow opening in a dense belt of Darwinia fascicularis, and the remarkably handsome flame trees, Telopia speciosissima, the brilliant blossoms of which are frequently mistaken for bush fires, in the distance, we entered a jungle of Malbee scrub, or Eucalyptus dumosa. Evidently we were following the faint traces of a native pathway into a maze, and where, possibly, the foot of civilized man had never before made its impression, and which led to an aboriginal burial ground. The shallow graves, which exposed most of the skeletons, picked clean by the myriads of monstrous-sized ants which infest that country, presented nothing more noteworthy than the regularity of form in which they had been buried under a cluster of curious grass trees, Xanthorrhae hastilis. But scarcely had we left the sombre place before we were confronted with many beautiful examples of the natural order, Epacrideaea. And of the elegant genus Epacris, and its alliances, I saw many old acquaintances promiscuously mingling in the less dense parts of the thicket.
Their beautiful tubular-shaped flowers closely resemble those of Ericas, but with broader and stiffer leaves. There were Epacris pulchella, well named, which is one of the lovely pinks; while E. impressa, in crimson attire, with their pretty sisters, E. onosmacflora, with features suffused with rubicund tints,; while E. alba and E. nivalis, white as snowflakes, are bland and beau-ful, and favorably contrasted with the vermilion lips of E. miniata, which seemed as modest as E. maxima's dark crimson blushes. Neither did E. purpurascens look less lovely through her rich purple veil, than the comely-featured E. campa-nulata, a graceful roseate beauty. Nor in less degree did their interesting allies, though of other species, which on every side seemed to display their unrivalled charms, appear to less advantage among so much floral elegance. And especially did the pietty Cosmelia rubra (now rarely seen in the best collections), with its profusion of red flowers, the scarlet Stenanthera pinifolia, with the green-flowered Styphelia viridiflora, and S. tu-biflora, with its bright red coral-like tubes, appear less interesting than their elegant compeers, which follows.
The pink Lysinema lasiantbum and white Lucopogon striatum; Templetonia glauca, Baekia gracilis, Platylobium formosa, Erisotemon ericifo-lium, and Crowea saligna, which, in the wildest luxuriance, covered the ground for many miles, through which we picked our devious way. And frequently interspersed, as under shrubs, over which huge Eucalyptus of from three to five hundred feet high cast their flickering shadows, were such beautiful and interesting little shrubs as the truly elegant blue-blossomed Hovea Celsi and lilac-colored H. villosa and orange-colored mothlike Bossiaea microphylla, and pretty, odorous red-flowered Boronia serrulata, than which the sweetest scented remontant rose is not more agreeably fragrant than this interesting little favorite. B. paradoxa is a most singular red-flowered kind, and appropriately named.
Correa speciosa is a remarkably showy, scarlet-blossomed plant, with Pultenia stricta, yellow, Dilwynia floribunda, and Daviesia cordata, of the same shade, and pleasing habit. Tetratheca rosea, scarlet Chorozema ovata, and peculiar Gompholo-bium polymorphum, yellow, are all splendid plants, the sight of which contributed much to make the journey exceedingly pleasant.
Neither did my interest diminish in the least, when weary, hungry, and parched with thirst, as we plodded along until we reached a deep and picturesque ravine. Providentially, in the bottom, surrounded with large tree ferns of Alsophila Aus-tralis and Cibotium Billardeira, handsome palms of Livistonias humilis and fine Charlwoodia con-gestas, we discovered a shallow pool of water margined with Goodenia hederacea and covered with Hydrocotyle pulchella. Stagnant and malodorous as it was, we nevertheless made our camp-fire not far off, to cook our wallowby and damper with, for supper, and afterwards to sleep and dream by through the night.
Fatigued as I was, and while Somnus gently pressed my weary eyelids down, I was abruptly awakened by some nocturnal animal, which as suddenly disappeared as I instantly slipped out of my kangaroo rug. To sleep afterwards seemed impossible. In fact, so brightly shone the silvery moon from the clear blue arch of heaven, and re-fulgently illumined the forest with her soft and steady sheen, that I at first mistook the clear light for early morn, when Phoebus first beams over the eastern hills.
Now fully awake to all things around, I readily yielded to the seductive charms of Flora, and in the still watches of the night, while my companions slept, communed with the flowery goddess alone. Among many favorites, I found Pittosopo-rum Andersonii, Burtonia miniata, Pimelia lini-foha, Roellia ciliata, Podolobium staurophyllum, Burtonia minor, and the curious Smithia sensi-tiva, Acacia liniaris, A. lanigera, A. pulchella, A. suaveolens, A. decipiens, and A. amoena, Les-chenaultia formosa, L. Baxterii, Stenochilus glabra, Pleurandra acicularis, Hibbertia linearis, and the pretty blue terrestrial Orchid, Calandena cceru-lea, and yellow Petrostylis obtusa, also Pteris fal-cata, Schizaea bifida, Lindssea media, and Doodia media. Attracted by the fluttering of a wounded bird which lay at the foot of a tall tree fern, Dick-sonia antarctica, I perceived a Phlanigesta vul-pina, a fox-like animal, crouching among the beautiful crown fronds. The poor bird the nocturnal beast had killed was known as the bell bird, whose clear, ringing note, when heard in the solitude of the forest, is often mistaken by the stranger for "the sound of the church-going bell," and the animal, in its haste to climb up the fern, had dislodged a mass of the beautiful Dendrobium speci-osum, which clung to the ancient trunk, at the foot of which grew the finest tuft of Allantodia tenera I ever saw.
While preparing for an early breakfast, we were somewhat startled at the appearance of an immense drove of kangaroos, (among which was a white one) coming bounding down the opposite side of the glen at a tremendous pace, and making some immense leaps of from twenty-five to thirty-five feet at a jump. Apparently, the poor affrighted creatures were fleeing from some alarming cause. Possibly-a group of evil looking cannibals, we observed prowling about among the bushes the day before> had disturbed them; and from whom they were scampering away with astonishing speed. For a time, we seemed in imminent danger of being run over and trampled to death, in the furious stampede they made toward us; when, fortunately, our loud shouts and excited gestures frightened them off in another direction.
If the narrative had been continued in proper consecutive or chronological order, mention would have been made of a novel sight we witnessed a few days before, when gazing from the highest point of the Australian Alps, which overlooked Gipps Land, and the broad Pacific beyond. While admiring the wonderful scenes, our attention was drawn to the noisy jabbering of a number of miserable savages, near by, who were diligently engaged in their epicurean researches, about the tree trunks. Watching their actions closely, we observed they were searching for the long fat worms, (big borers) several inches long, which live within the trees, and on the discovery of which they were eagerly drawn out, and swallowed with evident satisfaction. Many years before, I remembered looking at an excellent steel engraving of '-Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, in 1521"; while before me, was the living picture of the diet of worms, actually taking place in 1852. And, from the apparent gusto with which the vermiculous tit bits were disposed of, I am led to believe they were as equally enjoyable to them, as are the macaroni meals of the Italians.
All had hitherto gone on well with us, until one of the party had the misfortune to get bitten on the foot with an ugly looking centipede. It had crept into his boot during the night, and on putting it on again in the morning, the venomous thing bit him. The violent pain and swollen condition of our companion's foot and leg, had for several days made locomotion impossible. So, improvising a stretcher out of two strong sticks and a kangaroo skin, upon which we carried the poor fellow many a weary mile; until with the aid of a pair of forked stick crutches, he managed to hobble along, with occasional helps on the stretcher, until we reached Port Albert. While waiting for a vessel to take us to our destination, I made the discovery of a number of interesting ferns, trees, and shrubs. Acropteris Australis, Asplenium difforme; the curious sword fern Piphopteris he-terophylla, and Nothochlaena distans. The pretty Ixodia achellioides, the wrinkled bark Diospyros rugulosa; the turpentine tree, Tristania albicans; Croton rosmarinifolia, Schizomeria ovata, Caly-trix glabra, Eudesmia tetragona, and Pinus Novus Hollandicus. The time of embarcation having arrived, we were soon on the watery way for Melbourne, from whence we afterwards sailed to Adelaide, South Australia, and in due time landed there.
Possibly among so many interesting plants to choose from as Australia presents, the reader may think the selection a meager one. But, when informed many omissions were necessary, in order to lay before the good flower loving public a reduced number sufficient to stock a fair sized greenhouse, with species from other lands, the reason will be obvious. As the few mentioned are extremely beautiful, and not difficult to grow, (as are Cape Heaths, of which more anon) if set in well drained pots, in a compost of peat, loam, and sand, they will supply the demand for "something not so common." Those desiring a more extended list, may profitably consult the Monthly's pages from 1871, up to date, where I have more fully dwelt upon Australian vegetation.
Wishing to foster a love of the beautiful and sublime in nature, and especially to encourage the innocent and enjoyable pursuits of floriculture, the writer thus hopefully concludes.
Mount Holly, N. J.