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.
In the autumn of 1846, if memory serves me right, our clever "Aunt Charlotte" was at Paris, with her two youngest daughters, and while boarding at pleasant quarters in the great French capital (and capital it surely is in the eating department), she was daily served with delightful strawberries for dessert; the advanced season, no less than the very fine flavor of the fruit, made them a great luxury, and Aunt Charlotte expressed some surprise to her host, inquiring, at the same time, if the strawberries were from neighboring greenhouses? But being told that they grew in the, open air, and were constant bearers, the idea immediately suggested itself of preserving some of the seeds for friends at home, and among these, a letter from Paris notified us that we should not be forgotten. Accordingly, our kind utilitarian Aunt crushed some of the finest berries upon thick brown paper, and, after exposing them to dry in the sun, carefully rolled up the paper, and placed it in one of her travelling trunks.
During that winter, our friend returned to the United States, by way of England; arriving at New York, her next destination was their homestead at New Haven, and there Aunt Charlotte took possession of her own furnished house, which had been rented for the term of her absence. Among the first duties, she ordered her newly-hired servant woman (or, as the good people of Connecticut sometimes call them - "helps" - probably because they allow their employers to help themselves), was to unpack the trunks, and put the tilings into the wardrobes and bureaus; finding, as she performed this task, a roll of common brown paper, she of course threw it into the fire, and, in another moment, the Paris Strawberry seeds were so many useless grains of ashes. Thus seemed to perish all the good intentions of our obliging Aunt Charlotte, who needed to be the cheerful and sensible Christian that she is, in order to bear patiently the heedless act of her Irish "help".
It was but a few weeks after this sad event when Aunt Charlotte came to visit us at "Clover Hill," and related the ill-fortune that had befallen her brown paper of seeds, some of which she had designed for us; and as she finished the account of her disappointment, the thought suddenly came to her, and she said: "I have that very identical trunk here with me now, and 1 wonder if some of the strawberry-seeds may not have been rubbed off from the paper, and remained at the bottom of the trunk!"
She went to examine, and, accordingly, on very minute search in all the corners and cracks, she returned triumphantly to the sitting-room with three little specks upon the palm of her hand, almost invisible to the naked eye, but which, she thought, might be some of the detached seeds. Handing them to me with a request that they should be tried, I went at once in search of a small flower-pot, and, spite of laughing doubts, filled it with light soil, and deposited the three grains of what seemed like just so much additional sand.
More merriment than hope attended my planting, and various were the speculations suggested, as from day to day I anxiously watched for the result of what others thought to be a hopeless experiment. The dispositions display themselves on small as well as great occasions, and the inquiries from various members of our little family circle sufficiently evinced the view each had taken of my proceeding, no less than of the feelings they associated with its promises.
"How comes on the little pot of sand, to-day?" greeted me from one quarter.
"Have you any show of strawberries yet? " said another.
"Please tell Rosanna to save all the cream, in case lather should bring over a dish of Paris strawberries, this afternoon," was a playful order given in my hearing, as I was about visiting my little pot of sand. And still, I daily went to the hotbed pit to examine the result of my supposed seed planting, and to sprinkle them from Lizzie's tiny watering pot.
Our good-natured gardener encouraged me to hope, and, with his Irish blarney, would say: "Anything will grow, your honor, in sich an expose to the south." "But surely, Patrick," I replied, " not unless I have really planted the seeds," which seemed to puzzle even Pat's politeness.
How tedious and almost endless are the days of doubt and watchfulness, and, at this date, I will not attempt to recall accurately the amount of time that gave a fixed number to those of my expectation; but, in the natural period required for seed to germinate, my patience met with its reward, in the appearance of what seemed to be a single embryo Strawberry plant. And when once its first feeble green shoot was fairly above the earth, and its tiny leaves began to assume form, all doubt was removed, and it grew rapidly into a positive, undeniable individual of the Alpine family. Nor was it until this state of progress in the character and appearance of my little pet plant, that I gave tidings, at the house, of my success; but, when its existence was duly announced, all were eager to see and manifest interest in its growth, and I received many warm congratulations.
It seems almost needless to attempt telling how anxiously, from that date, I watched and cared for the tender solitary little life, that seemed like a thing of my own creating.
The seedling grew apace, and Patrick, the gardener, ere long placed another flower-pot by the side of the first, and the running vine soon sent a sucker to take root there; this simple office being again and again repeated, ere the summer was spent we had about thirty plants of the same family, and were able to set out our beginning of a new Strawberry-bed in the open garden. There had been one or two blossoms on the original vine during its first summer's growth, but still, the fruit was unknown, and also the ability of the plant to endure the climate to which it had been transplanted. These were matters yet to be developed, but, meanwhile, the new-born stranger must have a name - ay, and a christening!
After hearing an endless variety of suggestions, most of which had some reference to myself - as "the 'Emtio' Seedling"- - "the Doctor Seedling," etc. - the ceremony of name-giving was duly and gravely performed - -the sprinkling being still from Lizzie's tiny watering pot, pronouncing my bantling to be "The Clover Hill Seedling" - and thus rendering back to kind mother Earth the merit that belonged to her.
Strawberry time, the following spring, was most impatiently waited for, and when it came, our little bed did not disappoint us; for it yielded fruit, and the fruit was pronounced good; the berries, it was soon discovered, had one peculiarity most acceptable to those who unwillingly perform the task of hulling strawberries. "The Clover Hill Seedling" always leaves its hull upon the vine; indeed, it is almost impossible to pick them with the hulls on, and the fruit comes to the basket ready for the table, needing no second handling. It was soon ascertained, too, that our seedling possessed another great value or peculiarity, in being a constant bearer, from early strawberry time, until quite late in the autumn. The plants only take a rest of about one month in mid-summer, and I have seen the pale berries covered with snow in December, when the sun had not the needed influence to color them.
Four summers have now so much increased our bed that we have an abundance of fruit, and have supplied many plants to friends at a distance; two families, in Virginia, have largely cultivated the "Clover Hill Seedling," and, we hear, have extended it freely in their neighborhoods; it has also travelled to, and taken root, in New Haven (not exactly Phoenix-like, rising from its own ashes), and in New York, and already the rare fruit has more than once given unexpected pleasure to the sick and suffering. Poor little Harriet, an angel of patience and humility, and the victim of a slow consumption, was made happy during the last weeks of her feeble existence, by the enjoyment of these strawberries, so unexpected in the autumnal months; when all other food had ceased to be acceptable to her wasted energies, and benevolent friends no longer could find other delicacies to tempt her appetite, it was delightful to witness the gentle smile with which the good girl would still welcome the " Clover Hill Seedlings." She was too feeble to utter words, but her countenance recalled Talfourd's lines: -
"It lift little thing To give a cup of water; yet its draught Of cool refreshment, drained by fever'd lips, May giro a shock of pleasure to the frame More exquisite than when nectarian juice Renews the life of joy in happiest hours".
Late in the month of November, 1850, Jenny Lind was presented with a dish of fine "Clover Hill Seedlings" by little Lizzie; it was difficult to determine which was made the most happy - the child whose feelings and fanoy had been greatly excited by catching Borne of the public enthusiasm, and was delighted to approach the "Queen of Song," or the gentle woman, who, amid the extravagant attentions and adulation bestowed upon her, was surprised and charmed by the rare and simple offering from a bright little girl.
But even better than this, "Aunt Charlotte," her children, and grandchildren, almost annually enjoy the fruits of her single Paris seed: and if it be true, as a wise man has said, that" he who plants a tree, confers a blessing on his fellow-men," may it not be equally true that he who plants three doubtful seeds in a pot of sand, may do good to others, and bring infinite pleasure to himself?
Shall there be a moral to our story? and shall it not point to the blessings likely to ensue from faith and perseverance? It was the duty of faith to plant the supposed seeds; perseverance watched over them with interest, and Heaven has rewarded the work.
A delightful story. "The Elder," Emile may be, but that imagination, so full of simple narrative, poetry, and refinement, can never be "old." The "Clover Hill Seedling!" - a charming name for a new strawberry 1 A good, Christian man, too, is "Emile the Elder," as his "moral" testifies. What a poor, heartless race of men we should be, in the absence of such gentle spirits to guide us in our daily paths, and restrain us within the exercise of the humanities of life! Let us, most rare "Emile," again hear your genial conversation.