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.
We are apt, from all that has been published, to look upon Washington aa a farmer on a large scale, but, when we approach him nearly, we find him also a gardener and a horticulturist. In reading Irving's new life of the great States-man, it is difficult not to extract a passage here and there, and to-day we must be indulged in this respect.
In a letter to the Chevalier de Chastellux, for whom he felt an especial regard, he says: " I will only repeat to you the assurances of my friendship, and of the pleasure I shall feel in seeing you in the shade of those trees which my hands have planted; and which, by their rapid growth, at once indicate a knowledge of my declining years, and their disposition to spread their mantles over me before I go hence to return no more." (Vol. iv. p. 456).
A few pages forward, we come upon the following passages, from the graceful pen of Mr. Irving: - "He had a congenial correspondent in his quondam brother-soldier, Governor Clinton, of New York, whose spear, like his own, had been turned into a pruning-hook.
" Whenever the season is proper, and an opportunity offers/' writes he to the Governor, " I shall be glad to receive the Balsam-trees, or others which you may think curious and exotic with us, as I am endeavoring to improve the grounds about my house in this way." He recommends to the Governor's care certain grape-vines, of the choicest kinds, for the table, which an uncle of the Chevalier de Luzerne had engaged to send from France, and which must be abont to arrive at New York. He is literally going to sit under his own vine and his own fig-tree, and devote himself to the quiet pleasures of rural life.
" At the opening of the year 1785, the entries in his diary show him diligently employed in preparations to improve his groves and shrubbery. On the 10th of January, he notes that the white thorn is in full berry; on the 20th, he begins to clear the pine groves of undergrowth.
" In February, he transplants ivy under the walls of the garden, to which it still clings. In March, he is planting hemlock-trees, that most beautiful species of American evergreens, numbers of which had been brought hither from Occo-quan. In April, he is sowing holly berries in drills, some adjoining a green-brier hedge on the north side of the garden gate; others in a semicircle on the lawn. Many of the holly bushes thus produced, are still flourishing about the place, in full vigor. He had learned the policy, not sufficiently adopted in our country, of clothing his ornamented grounds as much as possible with evergreens, which resist the rigors of our winter, and keep up a cheering verdure throughout the year. Of the trees fitted for shade in pasture land, he notes the locust, maple, black mulberry, black walnut, black gum, dogwood, and sassafras, none of which, he observes, materially injure the grass beneath them.
"Is, then, for once a soldier's dream realized f Is he in perfect enjoyment of that seclusion from the world and its distractions, which he had so often pictured to himself amid the hardships and turmoils of the camp? Alas, no! The 'post,' that' herald of a noisy world/ invades his quiet, and loads his table with letters, until correspondence becomes an intolerable burden".