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.
Gentlemen: Yonr Society, and many similar ones in this country, has been now long enongh in existence to make it a suitable period to ask the question: " Has the law of progress which governs other institutions, such aa Agricultural Societies, been observed by yours?"
You have awakened in a portion of the public a lore of horticulture and flowers; your exhibitions and your premiums have accomplished much; let us look round us, and see if something more is not required of us. The monthly and annual exhibitions amount to this: they stimulate the practical, and delight the amateur; the premiums are looked upon by the receivers as of much more importance than their pecuniary value, and they continue to be sought as evidences that mind has assisted labor. But have you no other mission? These same plants, flowers, and vegetables, which you so happily bring together, are visited and studied by practical men, so that, long before they are exhibited by you, their history and cultivation are understood by the practitioners of horticulture, who find in your halls little that is new or surprising to them. Have you in your power the means, and the will to advance a step further, and to give to your friends increased instruction? An exhibition as now managed, is to some persons very little short of a display of personal importance in a few men, who walk the halls as if they had made the plants, but who are never heard of between whiles for any useful discovery; their importance is exhibited, but their usefulness we have yet to learn.
As to your reports, they consist of naming the plants sent in, and awarding premiums, which, as far as I observe, go generally to the same individuals, and your horticultural proceedings have become about as dry a catalogue as those of the nursery; few read them but the premium takers and their employers.
This was very well and proper in the infancy of your Institution, but progress should be your motto; and I trust you will permit a friend of your Society to suggest that something more advanced, and in consonance with the genius of the age, should be struck out as necessary to entire success, and to continue your association in the good graces and opinions of your numerous patrons. The mere showing of so much money as the profits of your career, is just nothing compared with what you might accomplish.
I know that, in all human institutions, jealousies will creep in and disturb the unanimity which is desirable in carrying out all good ends; but unanimity can be attained, if you will convince the reason of your members. I would suggest, therefore, whether it is not in your power to add materially to your usefulness, and will throw out a few hints for reflection?
You have funds, wealthy members, and a large and liberal public to deal with. Suppose you club your means and your thoughts, and create an Experimental Garden. Yonr policy has heretofore been one of successful co-operation; con-tinue to co-operate, and extend your usefulness. It may be set down as a fact, that of the thousands who breathe your perfnmed atmosphere, under the illumination of gas, a very small number ever enter a greenhouse, or see a large, neat garden; they want to do this, however, and would do it if facilities were given. Private gardens are very well, but the thousands of lovers of flowers do not fed at liberty to open other people's gates; they want to have a place where they can go by right. If your society does not, ere long, provide such a spot, it will be, probably, provided under other auspices. Of the propriety of this step, many of your former and present members were and are convinced. It might be simple in its arrangements, at first, while it was at the same time eminently neat and clean. Very soon, it would have presented to it the duplicate specimens abounding in fine gardens and conservatories, and an emulation would grow np there as completely as it has grown np at yonr annual fairs.
An example of landscape gardening thus created, would not be without its effects on the public mind, to say nothing of its usefulness in promoting a taste for gardening that would create a fourfold demand for the product* of the practical gardener.
I would ask, again, if there are not topics for public teaching that come under your special mission? Many could be named, but my letter is becoming a long one, and must be concluded. The agricultural societies give exhibitions of farm-ing implements) and are very successful at their fairs - far more so than the horticultural societies, and I must add, however reluctantly, they are more useful. Now there is, among other matters, the construction of heaters for greenhouses and graperies. Have you, or any horticultural society, ever offered a premium for the best and most economical structure of this kind? It is of universal interest to the gardening world, and I should be most happy to hear your awards on this and other new topics.
Having made these suggestions in a spirit of admiration for what you have already accomplished, and in language which, I trust, the Editor of the Horticul-turist will not condemn, and wishing your particular society every kind of prosperity, I am, Mr. President, and the members of the......Horticultural Society, most respectfully, Tour obedient servant, Viator.
[Viator has hit upon a most important topic, and, we trust, the particular Societies to which it is addressed, as well as others throughout our broad land, will take it into serious consideration. The Society which first establishes a model garden in this country, will live in history. - Ed].