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.
"One of the most valuable introductions of late years has been that of the Eucalyptus, or Australian Gum Tree. The growth of these trees at Nice is quite wonderful, springing up sometimes 9 feet in the season. I have a section of a tree only nine years planted, which is 2 feet 6 inches in circumference, and the wood is exceedingly hard. Thousands of acres are, I am told, planted in Algeria, and they are speculating upon planting them near Nice for the purpose of making railway sleepers. They are singularly beautiful trees. The leaves up to about 12 feet high are oval, thick, and of a powdery, glaucous color; above that they completely change their shape into a long, narrow, sickle shape and green color, free from powder. When first shooting out they have every shade of red and purple hues, and are very ornamental. What purpose of nature is effected by this change of leaf I cannot imagine. We are accustomed to suppose that the holly losing its prickles where it shoots above the reach of cattle is because nature does not grow prickles where not of use.
Perhaps some Australian reader may supply some reason for this change in the Eucalyptus.
The next tree that arrests one's attention in the neighborhood of Nice is the Schinus molle, or False Pepper Tree. It grows to a large size - about 40 feet high, and with its light pinnate foliage, is one of the most graceful of trees. But the palms are what give a quite oriental character to Nice. Although well known of old in the palm forest of Bor-dighera and along that part of the Riviera, they are of comparatively modern introduction into the town and environs of Nice. They are now everywhere along the promenades and in the gardens around Nice. They transplant them from Bordighera, often paying £50' for one tree, and they seem to bear removal admirably. They flower and bear fruit, but do not ripen it. The Date palm is the commonest, and its long raceme of yellow fruit is very ornamental. There are good specimens of the Sago palm, but not many. There is said to be only one male plant of the Date palm in the neighborhood of Nice, and it is in the garden of the Villa Bacquis, behind the English church. One of the best palm trees is in the Rue St. Etienne. It has a stem 28 feet 6 inches high to the springing of the leaves, and to the top 44 feet 6 inches.
I do not think there are many higher.
There is one very fine specimen of the Ce-drus Atlantica, and I believe the only one in that district of Nice. It is a very beautiful tree, with a straight, clear stem of 27 feet, and then a fine spreading head, making the extreme height 59 feet; the girth at 4 feet from the ground, 6 feet 6 inches. The two best specimens of the Ilex I saw were at the convent of Cuniez, which are supposed to be of great age. Their girth at 4 feet is 8 feet 4 inches one, and 8 feet the other; height only 50 feet; but they are very wide-spreading trees. The Phytolacca is much planted, grows very vigorously along the sea shore, and is there, on the Promenade des Anglais, headed every season, and makes long, vigorous shoots in the summer.
Another of the most graceful trees on the promenade of Nice is the Tamarisk, which is grown as a standard alternating with Phytolacca and palms, and forms very beautiful heads of raspbery cream colored flowers. One of the most striking and beautiful of the trees is the Carouba, or Ceratonia siliqua, the long, bean-like fruit of which is used for feeding horses. It is a very beautiful evergreen, with close, dark green foliage, not unlike some smooth-leaved hollies. It seems to flourish out from the crevices of rocks where nothing else would grow. On a steep precipice in the neighborhood of Mentone I found one old tree, the stem of which, from the nature of the ground, I could not accurately measure, but estimated it about 12 feet in circumference.
Those plants that struck me as new to us who live further north are the Araucaria, or Colymbea excelsa, which grows rapidly, and flourishes in a situation fully exposed to the sea at the Villa Gasteau, now called Les Palmiers, at Nice. I estimated the height of two of these perfect trees growing without haying lost a branch, and in the most vigorous manner, at from 30 to 40 feet high. These gardens, upon which a banker of the name of Gasteau had lavished enormous sums of money on works executed in the worst possible taste, contain some of the finest points of view in the neighborhood of Nice, and some of the rarest trees. M. Gasteau having naturally failed, the place was bought by a Dutchman, who is dividing it into separate villas. I had fortunately walked in at the open gate and seen the most of the garden, when I was told that visitors were not allowed in, and of course retreated at once, and wrote a note to the proprietor, asking his leave to walk through again, as I wished to observe the height and make sketches of some of these trees, but got so peremptory a refusal that I can only allude to the height of the Araucaria excelsas by guess.
One thing struck me as curious, that wherever I saw the Araucaria imbricata, which flourishes so well here, it seemed not to flourish at all there, and the Colymbea Cun-ninghami seemed also very struggling. The Russelia juncea grows in the Jardin Publique, at Mentone, to about 12 feet high; but a rather similar plant, the Casuarina equiseti-folia, seems to flourish at Cannes in a most remarkable manner, growing 18 inches in the year, and looking as flourishing as a young Larch tree. In Algeria they grow into timber trees. I was surprised not to see the Catalpa, which scents the air of Como, and the Paulownia, of which I saw at Tours a large tree covered with beautiful and fragrant flowers, and both of which would, doubtless, flourish on these shores of the Mediterranean. The Australian Acacias grow to a great size. Longifolia is the most common, and I saw at Cannes the Camphor laurel in perfect health and 12 feet high.
Let us now turn to the shrubs, which are more or less of an exotic character with us and which strike the tourist as most remarkable for beauty. First comes the Wigandia, which is treated as an annual in the neighborhood of Paris, and here as a greenhouse plant. I saw plants of it 10 to 12 feet high, and spreading over 15 feet, covered with its beautiful purple flowers, and existing perennially, although a very severe winter sometimes cuts it down. Next comes Sparmannia African, one of the most popular plants, both in gardens and in pots for house decoration; it is quite hardy at Nice, and seen everywhere. - Then there are Crataegus, or Photinia glabra, which grows 10 or 12 feet high in large bushes, with beautiful foliage, varying from shades of red when young to deep green, and large Laurustinus-like flowers of blushing white; Pittosporum Sinense, Ribes rosaeflora and other varieties, Habrothamnus elegans, Ara-lia papyrifera, Abutilon, Justicia, Salvia, a pretty white shrub, called there Salvia Oceana, not noticed as such in the Bon Jurdinitr; Solanum marginatum, Ficus rubiginosa, An-thyllis Barba-Jovis, Cyananthus, Pittosporum undulatum and Heliotropes flourish perennially in the interesting garden of Dr. Bennett, near Mentone. The Anthemis Parthenoides, which is used so much as a pot plant in Paris, grows freely everywhere, and 1 saw a yellow variety at Nice which I thought very pretty.
There is one great favorite in the villas about Nice which I cannot admire. It is Cineraria populifolia, which is something like a gigantic ragweed.
I shall just notice one other little plant which strikes the stranger's eye in the country about Toulon, the Everlasting, or Helichry-sum orientale. One sees large fields carefully cultivated of this plant, which looks like a common pink, only that the leaves are whiter. This is cultivated largely to supply the crowns that cover the graves in Pere la Chaise and other French cemeteries, as an emblem of lasting sorrow and immortality. Many of these plants would only attract the notice of one accustomed to look for pleasure in contemplating the beauties of every variety of vegetable growth; but the orange groves, the citrons, the roses, the camellias, the universal undergrowth or carpet of Parma violets, are what charm the many. In the neighborhood of Nice, one of the most charming of orange groves is the Villa Bermond, where the fruit is sold fresh from the tree, and where plants of 5 or 6 feet high can be bought for ten francs, and carefully packed for eight francs per each package of four trees.
I was there on the day that the Prince of Wales ordered some of them, and I note this for the benefit of owners of orangeries in England.
Perhaps the finest orange grove is at the Jardin des Hesperides, near Cannes, which is, I suppose, some ten or twelve acres in extent, and all large orange trees, some 12 feet high, and with round heads, loaded, at the time I saw them, with ripe oranges as fully as any apple tree is with apples in our orchards. It is crossed by broad, well-kept gravel walks, dividing it into square plots, and there are seats in which visitors can sit and eat as many oranges as they choose to buy for a few sous. As the fruit was thus ripened, the trees were bursting out into full flower again.