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 following Address was delivered by President Degrauw at the First Conversational Meeting:
Gentlemen of the Horticultural Society:- We have assembled this evening to discuss the subject announced at our last regular meeting, "Horticulture and its Influences." I feel most forcibly the truth of my inability to enter on the highway of a subject so vast and unbounded, but I have no doubt that there are others present that will take a part in the proceedings of this evening, and give you the enlightenment that it has been my misfortune to fail in accomplishing.
We have a high sanction for the subject which we have assembled to discuss. When the Beneficent first chose a scene to occupy our intellectual and moral faculties, "planted a garden [eastward of Eden," "He there" put the man whom he had formed, and when Earth and "all which it inherit" shall have passed away within the precincts of a future world, the family of man shall partake of joys that are depicted under the alluring imagery of a garden. Refreshing bowers and luxuriant verdure, a pure crystal stream, sweet fragrance and delicious fruits were man's first blessedness, and are the graphic emblems of that final bliss which is reserved for him. It was a Paradise that we have lost; we are to regain a Paradise; while we yield to the emotions that our subject suggests, we may be enlivened, therefore, by this interesting thought - We are engaged in the promotion of an object suited to man's highest earthly destinies.
It is calculated to afford the intellect abundant themes, to which a patriarch's long life might with unceasing gladness be devoted; for it extends above, beneath, around us, rare beauties that are without limit, and varieties without end; it is replete with the animating pleasures of discovery and the cairn delights of contemplation. It is calculated also to affect us by yet higher and more wholesome influences, for it can act upon the heart with a benignity that has power to allay the angry passions of the breast, it can promote our peace on earth, and it can fill us with pure sentiments and holy breathings.
Let us, then, exult this evening in these attributes of our subject; first, we have said that it was calculated to engage the intellect. There is no human science that is more ample in its range, or more attractive in its multiplied allurements; it unfolds to the astonished view a living landscape - the wide world - and its votary is pointed to the eastern and western hemisphere, it leads him, in full vision of the extended scenery to look abroad; it then invites his contemplation to the bold draft that marks its outline.
In all that may appear so wild and scattered in these multitudes that teem throughout the vegetable kingdom, it discerns an exquisite gradation, " From the proud wood whose head the sky assails, To the low violet that loves the dale".
And it disposes all, with a regard to that established order, which is proclaimed by their peculiar characteristics; with a philosophic eye it dwells upon the parts of which they are composed, and it again developes every where the rudiments of heaven's first law. It views the external forms which plants exhibit, and sees them to be well ordered both for nourishment and reproduction. It names, it classifies, and it describes the gifts of Flora. Within the bounds of four and twenty classes, it brings no less a multitude than thirty thousand species. It beholds their internal organization, it explains the physiology of plants, it sees them pass through their successive states, from their incipient existence to the period when they have attained maturity, and sent again into their native dust. Their numerous causes of diseases are also carefully detected; the favorite places of their habitation are distinctly marked, and whatever are connected with the peculiar traits which they assume, is made a theme of accurate and laborious investigation.
The details resulting from this scrutiny abound in interesting facts.
But it is the province of our subject to indulge a range yet wider. It investigates the geographical distinction of the vegetable families, in which it every where discovers a variety the most pleasing, vegetated by the established general principles. It explores the surface of the globe, with regard to its various qualities of soil and earth, and here, geology and chemistry, its handmaids, decorate it with new charms. It is concerned also to improve and renovate the earth by fertilising agents, and the vegetable animals and mineral kingdoms here conspire in its cause.
With an admirable ingenuity excited by its needs and its emergencies, from age to age it has contrived implements, machines and other articles of mechanism. In the history of these is comprehended much to entertain and discipline the mind.
With parental care, it rears appropriate structures for the nourishment, security and preservation of its household. It erects large edifices, both for use and ornament, and it disposes all with a regard to the just principles of taste. Its gardens thus are landscapes, where the useful and agreeable, as lights and shades in the chiaro-oscuro, charm the eye.
These lovely scenes are the abodes of the amiable genius of Horticulture. She ranges the wide world with an indefatigable assiduity. She gathers, and transfers, and nationalizes, and adapts to our use whatever can regale the senses. And it is her enviable occupation "to dress and keep" what she has thus gathered and arranged. A boundless theme is here presented - it is the application of her art. It is to sow and plant, to prune, to train, and to transplant, to propagate by grafting, cutting, budding, layering and inarching. And connected with these operations are remarkable phenomena that lead the mind to pleasing and elevating thoughts, for it may thus dwell on many of the most interesting pages in the book of nature.
Both as a science and as an art, if it be properly appreciated, Horticulture is abundant in resources. It has occupied the meditation of the learned in all countries and all periods of the world, as is demonstrated by its literature. Within its gardens are inscribed the names of Hesiod and Homer, Aristotle, Xenophon and Aurelian, Cato, Vano and Palladius, Martial and Horace, wandered there. Beneath its shades and in its cool retreats, a Virgil could compose his Eclogues. Dioscorides and Pliny, too, and Columella, lingered in its fragrant walks. Ail these commend the fascinations both of Flora and Pomona. To their shrine each realm of Europe has sent multitudes of votaries. From Britain the ingenious Bacon, and the philosophic Evelyn, and the poetic Cowley, mingled in the throng, and in their train were Milton, Addison and Pope, Thompson, Shenstone, Cowper, Mason, Walpole, Davison, and the illustrious Sir Joseph Banks; and from the Continent, amid a bright array of learning and genius, we may recognize a Buffon, a Dulille, and a Saint Pierre in France; in Germany, a Hirschfeidt and a Herder; in Switzerland, Conrad Von Gessner, and in Sweden, the renowned Von Linne. Such famed scholars and historians, poets, statesmen and philosophers, commend our subject by the various contributions with which they have themselves adorned it.
To dwell in contemplation on those spots, which by their presence they have consecrated, gratifies the generous mind. And other pleasing themes await the votary of Horticulture. With a retrospective view, he may recur to its ancient history and be refreshed by its alluring visions as they pass successively before him. He now sees man's first place of bliss, - - " planted with the trees of God, Delectable, both to behold and taste".
Now the gardens of the Hesperian nymphs, with every classical embellishment, attract his eye. He sees the Babylonian terraces, which, by the magnificence of art and the luxuriance of nature, formed a wonder of the world. The pleasure grounds of Solomon, described in Scripture, and the gardens of Laertis and Alcorius, which Homer has immortalized; the far-famed Sardian retreats, which Cyrus cultivated; the Panchean paradise and the Orontran grove, here rise in their enchantment. Then appear the celebrated vale of Tempe, and the Academus and the Lyceum, each associating nature in her loveliness with philosophy in all its pride. The splendid works of ancient Roman sumptuousness are seen displayed by a Lucullus and a Hortensius, and to those villas that extend round the Imperial City.