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.
A country that has passed its novitiate in any great art has good reason to be proud. When this art is at once a blessing and a riches to the individual citizen and the nation, our pride may well be excused by lookers-on. It is not, however, within the rules of either individual or national gratulation that we should refuse to acknowledge our obligations to our elder brethren in the art; nor full of the most high-minded recollections of the aid thus afforded, must we forget that we have learred by mere dint of energy and perseverance more than ever has been taught us by extraneous assistance.
Premising thus much, may we take a glance at the means by which we have achieved so much skill and experience in the ancient art of gardening; while at the same time we have taken up as we journeyed along, a few principles of vegetable physiology, which we are unwilling in our varied practice and extensive reading to set aside. Practice first and theory afterward, is the wise rule of action for all who would make the best use of their brief hour of earthly labor.
We wish to learn something of the laws of vegetation; plant a seed, a bean for instance; cultivate it and study it; follow the workings of the hand by the reflections of the mind, and nature will teach you her most wonderful lessons; but without the growing plant, how useless the teachings of the learned physiologist! True, science wrapt in its somewhat hidden laws may forget the mere worker in the garden, but the worker many a time and oft reaps harvests unknown to the sage.
Thus have the pioneers in this grand field of beauty taught themselves the art which their children have so far developed, and it is now but the appointed time when the way through the desert begins to be made clear; when the rose amplified by art is planted by the side of the wild one of the prairie, and both are acknowledged by the eye of taste to be alike beautiful, for are not both products of nature's storehouse, variously manipulated by the genius of man ?
Our art is eminently a peaceful art, for while each in the rude manner in which he has been instructed by corrupted custom, endeavors to bring to the common treasury his humble gifts, so his brother worker, imagining his achievements to be more worthy, but follows in his emulation the principle of. aiming at perfection without the lesson of, humility, so necessary as its counterpoise.
It was thus in the early days of our American horticultural novitiate, that every worker emulated the zeal of his neighbor, and the results though occasionally a little discourteous, were soon adjusted.
In the midst of this Babel of landscape gardeners and garden architects from every corner of the civilized world, we had a merry time. The ax was heard at every step, and the grand trunk of each prostrated giant sent a knell to the heart of the true lover of arboricultural grandeur and beauty; but on this spot were to be raised new offerings to Flora. Here were to be reared the denizens of other climes, for had not our Bartram been trading in our trees and plants, gaining in exchange new forms, unknown to us, the types of a vegetation destined one day to be as familiar to our children as our commonest trees are to us? So that we permitted the forest to be laid waste, and on the ruins of cedars and tulip trees and persimmons we planted the less sturdy growths of a much less severe climate. In the effort to obtain these stranger forms of tree, and shrub, and plant, what a world of that enthusiasm which still lives, but has well nigh culminated ; in the history of its earnest promoters we read the lives of the honored dead who have left their monument in an enriched and varied artificial landscape.
The year in which the HoRticultuRIst took its place among the aids of the new school of gardeners was over one hundred years later than the date of the introduction of our hemlock spruce to English gardens by Peter Collinson, and in that century of active experiment and research, what wonders were accomplished. Wonders, indeed! when we reflect on the means of intercourse between the old garden and the new, when we calculate the world of trouble and anxiety requisite for an interchange of trees and plants at that distant day.
Such a romance is furnished us in the graphic memoirs of the Bartrams and their correspondents; and should not your young readers have resolved to read of nothing but "new grapes" and "wine-making," just recommend them to take a hasty glance at"Bartram's Memoirs," by Darlington, a worthy memorial left by the modest author of the "Flora Cestrica" to a still more worthy arboriculturist.
Have we now in the year 1868 any authentic available history of the successive stages of progress through which we passed toward our present position? Is such a narrative worth the time and pains it would demand? If so, let it be forthcoming. D. S.