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 above phrase is intended to indicate gardening adapted to grounds in the vicinity of our large cities, and, according to my ideas, is a different thing from landscape gardening, of which latter there is little in this country that deserves the name, and perhaps will not be very soon. For some years past, strenuous efforts have been made by a few individuals, to fix in the public mind, a taste for landscape gardening, and foremost among those who have labored to accomplish this most desirable object, stood the late lamented Editor of the Horticulturist. While nobody would rejoice more than mysef, at the universal diffusion of a taste for this most beautiful art, it has always seemed to me that the subject was not properly initiated to accomplish any great results. The difficulties are many, and not easily surmounted. Our habits, our laws of succession, our utilitarian spirit, our artificial and superficial tastes, among other things, are all against landscape gardening, properly so called. It will be perceived that I use the word gardening as a general term, of which landscape gardening, suburban gardening, etc, are species.
While landscape gardening knows no narrow bounds, suburban gardening may be circumscribed within comparatively narrow limits; the one retires far from the city, the other lingers on its skirts; of the one, much has been said, and well said; of the other, little or nothing usefully. If the talent which has been so zealously devoted to the cause of landscape gardening, had been, in the first instance bestowed upon what I have termed suburban gardening, there can be little doubt that more gratifying results would have been produced, and the true interests of landscape gardening have been better subserved. By attempting too much, it generally happens that we accomplish almost nothing.
There are some, doubtless, who will feel the least degree of contempt for all efforts which have for their object nothing higher than the improvement and beautifying of a few suburbun lots; but let them " not despise the day of small things." Those who know me will bear witness that I am not one to follow by paths and devious ways, when a broad road leads straight to the goal; and yet I am thoroughly convinced, that in the matter of gardening we must begin in this small way; we must plant the acorn before we can get the oak.
In the suburbs of New-York, Brooklyn, and other large cities, reside many persons of wealth, occupying dwellings with plots of ground embracing from two to thirty lots, or more. I instance New York and Brooklyn, because 1 am most familiar with them and their wants; and then, too, my love, like most other people's charity, begins at home. Some of these persons, I know, keep professional gardeners, and can show fine plants; bat, notwithstanding this, there is generally such an absence of taste in all that pertains to design and effect, and such want of judgment in selection and grouping, that I must withhold the praise of good gardening. This may be said of some of the best gardens about Brooklyn and New-York: of the remainder, the less said the better.
This state of things is owing to various causes; among others to the fact that nearly all our gardeners are foreigners, (I say it with respect,) who inconsiderately follow here, precisely the same system which they practiced at home. There is reason to hope for a change in this particular; for some of the most intelligent of these gardeners have acknowledged to me their mistake, and others are beginning to perceive it. We must have then, notwithstanding all that has teen said on this subject, an American system of gardening. I mean by this, not alone a system of cultivation adapted to our own peculiar soil and climate, but also a style of design in keeping with simple good taste, and the habits of a republican people; and in addition to this, some decided changes in the class of plants which frequently occupy our gardens, or at least in the grouping and arrangement.
Let it not be supposed, because I have instanced the rich, that I would confine gardening to them; by no means. The rich and the poor, and the man in moderate circumstances, the merchant and the mechanic, should alike have their gardens; but if there were a necessity for confining gardens to one class alone, then I would say, let that class be the poor. Let them have at least one little spot where they can pass the evening of their days in quiet repose under their own vine and peach tree. How much brighter and better this world would be, if each man had a spot that he could call his own! But to proceed. I have heard the remark made by not a few, that they would take pleasure in beautifying their grounds if they only had the right kind of knowledge to do it themselves, or to enable them to know that the work was properly done if executed by others. Now, Mr. Editor, if it be your wish, it is this very knowledge that I propose to communicate, with proper illustrations. And here, for the present, I will conclude these general remarks.
P. B. M
Brooklyn, Aug. 13,1852.