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 orators, the poets, and the philosophers of Rome, invite the student who would sympathize in their emotions. Such is the ancient history of Horticulture, and the first rosy light that beamed alter the dark ages, kindled a new radiance about our subject. It is thus encompassed by the attraction of its modern history. The gardens of Holland and the Netherlands feel the influence of ,the society, and arts revived. The atmosphere of Italy and France next bring rich odors. They soon scent the Isles of Britain ; they pervade the Continent.
This department of our subject draws its copious details from the moral and political state of Europe, while the last four hundred years have been inditing their momentous records. To the understanding of the intelligent it here oilers a rich feast, lor its garlands have allured the eye and called forth the emulation of the most celebrated literary worthies and benefactors of the human race in -every region of the world. Since the invention of the microscope, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the most wonderful discoveries, alluring multitudes to the pursuit of vegetable science, have given animation to their diligence and recompensed their toils.
The history of Horticulture thus puts forth its buds and thus expands its flowers in ancient and in modern times. When the inquirer, who is curious to learn its present state, ascends that eminence from which its groves and walks may be discovered, his interest is yet further heightened by the most gladdening discoveries.
In Europe a fresh impulse to investigation has been experienced; and many a distinguished naturalist on the Continent is emulous to obtain a wreath like that which decorates the brow of him who lately towered aloft, and gave a magnetic influence to the charms of Horticulture in our own land. But now, alas! the mournful branches of the funeral tree are waving over him; yet, with the distinctive qualities of the same cypress, the memory of Downing shall ever be green and enduring. Throughout our entire land, new stores are yet continually unfolding to us, and the vegetable treasures in our own domain appear to transcend in real value its precious mines. And we rejoice in beholding in our own land a scene at which the Horticulturist has cause to glory. We have already as a people, enriched by numerous treatises and volumes, the library that illustrates the natural products of the earth. And learning, genius, and talent are emulated by indefatigable industry and practical skill. The gardens that surround our city are abundant evidences of this truth.
Throughout the entire Union, as well as disunion, enterprise is now directed to the culture of the most valuable plants. Besides sectional objects, confined to particular regions of our country, there are others also claiming universal notice, which may still be denominated national.
Of these the first, by its importance, is the cultivation of the vine; experiments have been successful, as the voices of our intelligent and enterprising farmers and horticulturists proclaim. The vine will flourish in our country, in various latitudes, and ft yields to us an agreeable and valuable product. Yes, and native wines derived from it, and from the fruits of our orchards, and of our gardens, may be hailed by the philanthropist as the harbingers of a new era. • The epoch may not be distant when the draughts that are inebriating and destroying thousands of our population shall be superseded by the use of milder and of salutary beverages.
Had I not already dwelt so long upon the first of the particulars, that were proposed for your attention, I might here enlarge upon the future prospects of our favored land; I might collect before you the anticipations which are suggested, by its unparalleled advancement in the facilities of transportation, and the extent of commerce - its canals and railroads, the staple product of its soil, and its natural adaptation for the most enlightened of all people on our globe. Exhibiting in their true colors the glories that may one day reach, like the celestial bow, from our Atlantic to our Pacific confines. I might direct your contemplation to this graphic symbol of our great national destinies, and when ail sounds of a disunion shall have passed away, when the rude storm of political animosity shall have been stilled, and when the last echo of the thunderings that arrest us in the South shall cease to roll, as the prismatic arch, the token of an everlasting covenant of peace and union shall shed its smiles upon our soil, I might depict the happiest of lands, that, like an aromatic "field which the Lord hath blessed," shall send up to heaven, from the wide extent of its vast territories, the mingled perfumes of its cornucopia, sweet-scented fruit and fragrant flowers.
As we mingle our sympathies with the subject of this evening, we may with joy reflect upon the numerous, the varied, and the enlivening themes by which Horticulture, with its stimulus to industry, is calculated to engage the intellect. And there is a moral halo that invests our subject. It can improve the heart As we behold the wonders that abound throughout the vegetable kingdom, we are lost in the interminable manifestations of the Supreme. The organization that pervades it lifts up our hearts unto an Omniscient Creator. We can not view the mechanism of a single plant without this sentiment. We see the several parts of which it is composed arranged with a regard to its nutrition and perpetuity demonstrating a contrivance the result of the profoundest wisdom. •
The succession that is discoverable in the annual circuit of our globe, directs our thoughts to Him, " The life and light Of all this wondrous world we see.
Flowers, fruits, and culinary plants attain perfection in a series that must command oar gratitude. Not lavished with an indiscriminate profusion at some one forward crisis of the year, they are dispensed with an all-wise frugality, and yield their fruits every month.
Their nature also is adapted to the condition of mankind. Where sultry beams are shed upon the torrid zone, umbrageous groves extend their branches; where the polar skies are cheered by a short summer's reign, its vegetation is distinguished by- a rapid progress to maturity. Where manual labor is discouraged by oppressive heat, and where the mind is destitute of moral enterprise, abundant aliment is yielded to the lowest cultivator of the soil. But in the temperate regions of the earth, where, unexposed to the depressing influence of an ungenial atmosphere, man walks abroad delighting to exert his energies, here nature calls forth talent, and awakens industry, by obstacles which she allures them to surmount. As if anticipating the caprice of man, in countries where the valley and the mountain each invite his residence, the products of the torrid zone are found within this vale, and on that towering summit is displayed to view a northern vegetation. In the distribution of the odors that are breathed around us, nature seems to have been regulated by the same economy, where happiness is found only in the refinement of the senses; where in luxurious repose, the Hindoo, with no zest for intellectual delights, seeks an innocent enjoyment in exhalations of sweet flowers, these the loveliest of plants, that are unrivaled in their perfume, dispense aroma in rich offerings to the ambient air.
" Who has not heard of the vale of Cashmere, With its roses the sweetest that earth ever gave? "
Where man, upon another continent, is seen degraded by the most loathsome appetites, and we are told that by a remarkable peculiarity, which he possesses, in common only with the inferior animals, the Hottentot experiences an emotion of delight at the carrion-smell of what regales the hyena and the vulture, in that region of the earth - as if the poor savage was to be indulged in his caprice - while oriental perfumes are withheld, plants distinguished among us by their of-fensiveness, the Stapelias, in their variety, abound upon the soil, and fill the air with their putridity of savor.
Wherever man resides are found nutritious berries, which are nutritious to all. The barberry, the cranberry, and the dwarf mulberry regale the distant Laplanders, and beside these, the currant forms a wholesome food for the inhabitants of Greenland. Does the exhausted native of warm climates, parched with thirst, ask such plants as may be most refreshing to his feeble energies? lo! nature's bounty has supplied him with the melon, and the pineapple, and all cooling fruits. And does the mariner, from the long use of salt provisions, need some prompt remedy for its scorbutic influence, he may coast along the shores of the most distant regions of the north or south and be furnished with the succory, the cresses, and the wild sorrel, from Siberia to the remotest of the Pacific Isles. The Botanical Materia Medica is but an enlargement of this interesting thought. But on a theme so vast I dare not venture further. It is replete with interest whithersoever we direct our eyes, from the most attenuated lichen that is scarce discoverable on the rock, to the huge brobab developing its mammoth trunk of eighty feet; and from the lowliest moss that peeps above the surface of the soil, to the towering palm tree of the tropics.
As the march of .knowledge shall advance, and men be more minutely taught the mysteries of nature, this wide field of science with an increased earnestness shall be explored. What has been discovered in the heavens by the rare genius of Laplace, bold, brilliant, and aspiring, by some future Linne may be accomplished in regard to the earth; and while the blue vault, and while the verdant landscape, are more and more distinctly uttering, " The hand that made us is divine," the philosopher and Christian will continually be attracted by new themes of wonder, love, and praise.
It has been my object not to venture far within this vast domain, but merely to suggest what may be interesting in the subject proposed. A single pearl proclaims the boundless treasures of the deep; one gem is witness of exhaustless mines within the earth; and a few fitful rays from the canopy above may reveal to the imagination innumerable worlds of glory. Under the influence of these thoughts, I would now say to the members of the Society, while you participate in the intellectual and moral stores of Horticulture, you have a two-fold object worthy of your tenderest solicitude. It is for you to collect the vegetable treasures of every land and enrich them with the glories of our own. Were public grounds provided in our city, or in its suburbs, we doubt not that we should rejoice at the benign results. We have a soil which, like the heritage of ancient Israel, is the glory of all lands; within the limits of our wide and far-spread country may be discovered an appropriate residence for most every plant in all the four-and-twenty classes of Botany.
In the mythology of ancient Borne, it was ingeniously fabled that Pomona could not be induced to shed a smile on any of her suitors, until her heart was touched by the devout breathings of Victorius, and in the tenderest bonds were joined the god of merchandise and the divinity of gardens. The ingenious fable is instructive for our art.
"Thrives most Whose commerce has enriched the busy coast, He catches all improvements in his flight, Spreads foreign wonders in his country's sight".
(To be concluded in our next Number).