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.
The smoke which surrounded the " Close Observer " while he wrote the former article has gradually disappeared, and he finds himself placed between two fires. In the distance he discerns the "Second Barnum," advancing from the northeast, ready to give him a broadside from his guns, thinking to silence Paul Pry at once; he is joined by Dr. Norris, of Delaware, who attacks me in the rear; however, I think the Doctor, after a satisfactory explanation from my side, will draw back from the battle, and leave the "Second Barnum " and the horticultural St. Thomas to settle the question, while he remains neutral.
From the statement which the " Second Barnum " makes in the February number of the Horticulturist, I find it a necessity to take up the pen again, not only to justify myself before the public, but also before Doctor Norris and the Editor of the Horticulturist, as the last-named gentleman says: Let us have light! If the "Second Barnum " had known beforehand who the "Close Observer " was, I think he would have made a very different explanation. I would have given my name if it had been called for, but as the Second Barnum learned it from one of his neighbors, I was saved the trouble of doing so; still I wish to show the public that I am not afraid of giving my name, and they will find it at the head of this article. Of course the " Second Barnum " would like to know the reason why I exposed him. Dr. Norris thinks jealousy is the cause of it; I am glad to say that such is not the case.
Some men show a great desire to get their names known, and we sometimes find that when they attempt to do so, they rush forward, looking neither to the right nor left, until they stand upon the brim of an abyss, which threatens to ingulf them, and why? It is an old saying: Look before you leap. This rule bids us not to enter upon any enterprise before we have taken into consideration, and know the probability of gaining the point towards which we direct our course. The only source by which we are able to arrive at the truth, is by a careful meditation upon the subject which occupies our thoughts, and through experiments made with judgment The "Second Barnum" should have taken this course before he made his new invention publicly known; it remains at present an hypothesis to him whether he is able to bring grapes to maturity in his Patent Moss Baskets - that is, a basket filled with moss, in which is a cup, containing sand, charcoal, and water, but no soil, which Dr. Norris would have found to be the case if he had examined the baskets. I know, however, the Doctor's stay was very short, as I was present at the time; and he did not examine the baskets very closely.
Both my antagonists say that all the trees in pots are grown in toil; if they would read my article through with some attention, they would see that I did not mention any thing about trees in pots; I exclusively referred to the Patent Moss Baskets. The trees in pots are all grown in soil, and I must confirm Dr. Norris's statement, that the moss was placed there as a mulching.
The .question which must be answered is this: Was it a deception? The "Second Barnum" in his statement neither maintains nor contradicts my article; it seems he wishes to say that all his trees are grown in soil. Can he deny that the vine in this basket was planted in any thing but moss? that it contained a cup filled with water, sand, and charcoal, and that this is his patent?
He says: "What was done once can be done again." I do not doubt that where bunches of grapes were tied on once they may be tied on again. Both myself and other gardeners know for certain that there were no vines in the houses able to bear fruit last year, and as I had charge of the houses, and watered all the plants and trees, the baskets included, it is a mystery to me how ripe grapes could grow on this basket in two hours. I hope the " Second Barnum " will make a more satisfactory statement. Yet, when the basket is brought to the exhibition, with the ripe grapes on, grown naturally, and the judges have made a thorough examination of the Patent Moss Basket, 1 feel willing to give the " Second Barnum"$10 premium for the first bunch of grapes produced this way, equal in size and flavor to any taken from a pot vine, grown in soil. If this can not be done, where is the benefit of growing them in those baskets?
My reason for writing the last article, " A Second Barnum," was to defend gardening. It is generally considered an honest trade, and I think all humbug should be kept without its boundaries. Suppose this should be allowed to go unnoticed, what would be the consequences? If, for instance, some gentleman, some Mr. X., had seen this basket with the fruit on, and returned home, after being told that the grapes were grown on the vine. Having a green-house of his own, and keeping a gardener, he buys a basket, and receives directions from the " Second Barnum " how to grow the vine in it - after a fruitless attempt, the gardener sees it can not be done, because he does not like to do what can be done again. Still, Mr. X. insists that he saw the grapes grown in this way, and he will consider his own gardener very unskilful. This would not only tend to injure practical gardeners; it would at the same time be a cultivation contrary to the laws of vegetation. Persons having only a superficial knowledge of vegetable life, must at one glance see that such cultivation has no foundation; while to those not familiar with the cultivation of plants it would prove a deception. Is it possible that those grapes were grown in that basket 1 is a question directed'to me not once, but many times.
I think that I showed in my former article what it was.
The "Second Barnum " says, my strictures are an insult to hundreds of people-who have seen what I say can not be done. I am, however, able to bring forward witnesses to confirm my statement about the basket. Dr. Norris thinks that I would question his veracity. I feel sorry that the Doctor should look upon those remarks about his article in this light; it was far from my thoughts to intimate any thing like this. I know certainly that Dr. Norris would not practice a deception; he was not there at the time the grapes were on the basket, and could not allude to them. The trees in the small baskets - not the patent basket - were all planted in moss, no soil and without any cup filled with charcoal, etc.; with the exception of one tree, namely, the pear I spoke about, which had been grown in a pot beforehand, from which it was replanted in the basket without disturbing the ball of earth. This accounts for the pear coming to maturity.
The Doctor says my sneers about the turtles and frogs are unnoticed, because others saw them. In regard to the first named, the turtle, there being only one, I must say that it came in through the front lights, and I placed it between the pear pots myself. The frogs came in the houses the same way, but neither of them was placed there to devour numerous insects, the last named not being plentiful enough to satisfy their hunger.
I hope these explanations will prove satisfactory to the Doctor, and that he will not rank me among those who are jealous.
[In justice to Mr. Carmiencke, we must say that his article has been on hand some time. We desired, before printing it, to see these Moss Baskets, in order that we might be able to give this discussion a right direction. We have at last seen one of them, and find it quite a different thing from what we supposed. The basket, as well as some fruit trees in pots, was in New York, on its way to Washington as a present to Mrs. Lincoln. We should have been glad if Mr. Chamberlin had been present, that our examination might have been more minute. The wire basket was nearly three feet in diameter, and had a grape vine growing in it. The moss on the outside was in its natural condition; the filling in was broken up, and resembled somewhat vegetable mould; this, under the operation of heat and moisture, slowly decays, and, with the carbon and ammonia from the charcoal and water, furnishes food to the roots of the vine; but, of course, the process of nutrition, under such circumstances, goes on imperfectly. The vine was neatly trained around the basket; the growth was not very strong, and the bunches of fruit were not very large, but the whole thing was there.
It can not, therefore, be doubted that grapes can be grown and ripened in a basket of moss prepared in this way, but we are inclined to the belief, that in size, flavor, and productiveness they will be found inferior to those grown in a good soil. They are curious and ornamental, but, of course, will not be adopted where profit forms an item of grape culture. As ornaments for the conservatory and dinner table they are very pretty. We believe Mr. Chamberlin claims no more for them. The process, instead of being what we supposed, is very much the same as that practiced for many years by Mr. McNab, a very intelligent gardener of Scotland, and superintendent of the garden of the Caledonian Horticultural Society.
The following extract from an English publication will justify Mr. Chamberlin in his position, as well as show what has been done for a dozen years or more in growing plants in moss: "Various experiments in growing stove and greenhouse plants entirely without soil about their roots, have been carried on for some years in the garden of the Caledonian Horticultural Society, by Mr. J. McNab, the superintendent In those experiments, the plan generally adopted has been to shake all the soil from among the roots, which are enveloped in moss, and the plants are then suspended from the roof of the house, the moss - and consequently the roots - being preserved in a moist state by means of worsted siphons connected with vials, or vessels of water suspended near the plants. Success has generally attended these experiments, the plants growing well, and also producing their blossoms. Some of these plants were produced at a meeting of the Society-held in March, 1848, and among them were two plants of Camellias, in bloom, which had been subjected to the above treatment since July, 1847. There was also a very fine specimen of the Strelitzia reginae, which had been grown on this plan for the last three years, and had never failed, under this mode of treatment, to produce its gorgeous flowers twice in the course of each year, in spring and in autumn, during the months of February and March, and also during August and September. In the ordinary mode of culture it is not easy to induce this plant to produce its blossoms, even once in every year".
This, we think, settles the fact that plants may in this way be grown in moss, though it is no doubt more ornamental than useful. Cuttings are known to root readily and freely in powdered moss, and so they will in charcoal dust; but we do not believe that any substitute for a good soil has yet been found for growing and fruiting plants in. This whole matter may be briefly summed up thus: the one party is entitled to all he claims for the process on the score of ornament, while to the other may be conceded the point of utility. - Ed].