This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Under this title I propose to send you, from time to time, descriptions of Chinese gardens, plants, and other objects of natural history which I consider of sufficient interest to occupy a place in your columns. As many of your readers have, no doubt, heard of " Howqua's Mixture," I shall begin by attempting to describe Howqua's garden.
This garden is situated near the well known Fa-tee nurseries, a few miles above the city of Canton, and is a place of favorite resort both for Chinese and foreigners who reside in the neighborhood, or who visit this part of the Celestial Empire. Having occasion to be in Canton a few weeks ago, I determined on paying it a visit in company with Mr. M'Donald, who is well known in this part of the world as an excellent Chinese scholar, and to whom I am indebted for some translations of Chinese notices, which appeared very amusing to us at the time, and which, I dare say, will amuse your readers.
Having reached the door of the garden we presented the card with which we were provided, and were immediately admitted. The view from the entrance is rather pleasing, and particularly striking to a stranger who sees it for the first time. Looking " right ahead," as sailors say, there is a long and narrow paved walk lined on each side with plants in pots. This view is broken, and apparently lengthened by means of an octagon arch which is thrown across, and beyond that a kind of alcove covers the pathway. Running parallel with the walk, and on each side behind the plants, are low walls of ornamental brickwork, latticed bo that the ponds or small lakes, which are on each side, can be seen. Altogether, the octagon arch, the alcove, the pretty ornamental flower pots, and the water on each side, has a striking effect, and is thoroughly Chinese. The plants consist of good specimens of Southern Chinese things, all well known in England, such, for example, as Cymbidium sinense, Olea fragrans, Oranges, Roses, Camellias, Magnolias, etc., and, of course, a multitude of dwarf trees, without which no Chinese garden would be considered complete.
In the alcove alluded to there are some nice stone seats, which look cool in a climate like that of Southern China. The floor of this building is raised a few feet above the ground-level, so that the visitor gets a good view of the water and other objects of interest in the garden. That this is a favorite lounge and smoking place with the Chinese, the following Chinese notice, which we found on one of the pillars, will testify: "A careful and earnest notice: This garden earnestly requests that visitors will spit Betle* outside the railing, and knock the ashes of pipes also outside." Several fine fruit trees and others are growing near the walks, and afford shade from the rays of the sun. On one of these we read the following: "Ramblers here will be excused plucking the fruit on this tree".
Near the center of the garden stands a substantial summer-house, or hall, named " the Hall of Fragrant Plants." The same notice to smokers and chewers of Betle-nut is also put up here; and there is another and longer one which I must not forget to quote. It is this: "In this garden the plants are intended to delight the eyes of all visitors; a great deal has been expended in planting and in keeping in order, and the garden is now beginning to yield some return. Those who come here to saunter about are earnestly prayed not to pluck the fruit or flowers, in order that the beauty of the place may be preserved." And then follows a piece of true Chinese politeness: "We beg persons who understand this notice to excuse it!" Passing through the Hall of Fragrant Plants we approached, between two rows of Olea fragrans, a fine ornamental suite of rooms tastefully furnished and decorated, in which visitors are received and entertained. An inscription informs us that this is called "the Fragrant Hall of the Woo-che tree." Leaving this place by a narrow door we observed the following notice: "Saunterers here will be excused entering." This apparently leads to the private apartments of the family.
In this side of the garden there is some fine artificial rock work, which the Chinese know well how to construct, and various summer-houses tastefully decorated, one of which is called the "Library of Verdant Purity." Between this part of the garden and the straight walk already noticed, there is a small pond or lake for fish and Water Lilies. This is crossed by a zigzag wooden bridge of many arches, which looked rather dilapidated. A very necessary notice was put up here, informing "sannterers to stop their steps in case of accident" . On the outskirts of the garden we observed the potting sheds, a nursery for rearing young plants and seeds, and the kitchen garden. Here a natural curiosity was pointed out by one of the Chinese, which, at first sight, appeared singularly curious. Three trees were growing in a row, and at about twenty or thirty feet from the ground the two outer ones had sent out shoots, and fairly united themselves with the center one. When I mention that the outer trees are the Chinese Banyan (Ficas nitida), it will readily be seen how the appearance they presented was produced.
The long roots sent down by this species had lovingly embraced the center tree, and appeared at first sight to have really grafted themselves upon it.
I am afraid I have given a very imperfect description of this curious garden. Those who know what a Chinese garden is will understand me well enough, but it is really difficult to give a stranger an idea of the "Chinese style which I have been endeavoring to describe. In order to understand the Chinese style of gardening, it is necessary to dispel from the mind all ideas of fine lawns, broad walks, and extensive views; and to picture in their stead everything on a small scale - that is, narrow paved walks, dwarf walls in all directions, with latticework or ornamental openings in them, in order to give views of the scenery beyond, halls, summer-houses, and alcoves, ponds or small lakes with zigzag walks over them - in short, an endeavor to make small things appear large, and large things small, and everything Chinese. There are some of these ornaments, however, which I think might be imitated with advantage in our own gardens. Some of the doorways and openings in walls seemed extremely pretty.
In particular I may notice a wall about ten feet high, having a number of open compartments filled with porcelain rods made to imitate the stems of the Bamboo. I shall now close this notice with the modest lines of the Chinese poet, which we found written in the "Library of Verdant Purity," and which seemed to be an effort to describe the nature of the garden:
• The natives in the south of China, like the Malays, are very fond of chewing the fruit of the Areca, commonly called Betle-nut.
'some few stems of Bamboo plants, A cottage growing round; A few flowers here - some old trees there, And a mow of garden ground." - R. F., in London Gardeners' Chronicle.