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 give in this number an engraving of the new flower house and conservatory to be erected the last of next year in the Central Park. In one sense it may be regarded as an accomplished fact. Knowing the wide-spread interest felt in every thing pertaining to the Central Park, we have been mainly anxious to gather the facts. What follows has been furnished as a condensed statement of the matured plans and views of the Commissioners and the Messrs. Parsons.
The Commissioners have for some time felt that, without a flower house or conservatory to furnish attractions at all seasons, an important element would be wanting in the completeness of the Park. They felt that the carrying out of the numerous details of such an establishment would be attended with difficulty, as they would involve the erection of working houses for the production of large supplies, the employment of a sufficient force of gardeners and operatives, and also the finding a superintendent of the requisite taste and ability, who would devote himself heartily to the work. They therefore decided to license some competent person to carry out the enterprise, in the same way that they license the boats, the house of refreshment, and other essentials to the completeness of the Park.
To induce any competent person to furnish the capital and undertake the whole expense and care of an enterprise of such magnitude, some pecuniary advantages were requisite, and these they decided to give in the shape of an exclusive privilege to sell flowers And plants in pots on the Park, requiring at the same time a reasonable rent to be paid to the Park for the privilege, which rent is to be applied to the maintenance of the Park.
The next point was to induce the right persons to undertake it; and finding in the Messrs. Parsons, of Flushing, a willingness to carry out their views, they gave the license to them. They did so because these gentlemen are well-known, and have had nearly 25 years' experience in their business, of which ornamental plants have latterly formed a specialty. Their taste having been educated at home and abroad, they are familiar with the best forms of horticultural beauty, and well know how to apply them to the adornment of the Park.
We have conversed with the Messrs. Parsons, and have obtained from them an outline of their plan. Their objects and those of the Commissioners are identical on one point - the education of the taste of the people; and in doing this they intend to make their enterprise commercially successful.
In thus providing a place where every one can see the finest plants, they will benefit the whole trade, and will create such a demand for plants that all florists, both small and large, will probably, five years hence, find their sales much increased. It will be impossible for the Messrs. Parsons to grow in their own grounds all the plants which may be needed, and we believe it is their intention to make the house a true flower market, and to sell many plants on commission, thus giving to every florist the means of selling many really good plants which he could not otherwise sell. It will be a sort of floral exchange, where the visitor and flower will be introduced to each other, and the latter made desirous of permanent possession.
The Conservatory, as will be seen by the plan, will be built at the foot of ascending ground, the base of which is about fifteen feet below the level of Fifth Avenue. The large room, which will be upon a level with Fifth Avenue, will be forty feet wide and one hundred and sixty feet long. Persons entering from Fifth Avenue by one side of the portico, will walk around the house and pass out by the other side* thence passing down the central stairway, access is had to the lower rooms, which are on a level with the Park. They will consist, besides the offices, of a Camellia House 40 by 60 feet; a house for Ferns, Orchids, etc, 40 by 60 feet, and two other large rooms, in which will be kept Roses in full bloom, cut flowers, and various exotic plants.
The interior of the upper Conservatory will be laid out either in the Italian style, with broad walks, or in the natural style, with winding paths. Flowering exotic vines will be festooned from the rafters and columns; Bananas, Rhopalas, Palms, and the various beautiful foliaged plants will be planted in the open border, in carpets of the beautiful Lycopodium densa, while on ornamental and well-concealed shelving, or plunged in the open border, will be arranged large masses of flowering plants, to be constantly supplied from smaller houses at Flashing.
This upper room, covering some six thousand square feet, will be made more strictly a winter garden, and plants will be placed in the soil rather than in pots. Singing birds will also be placed here, the sound of which, combined with the rich tropical scene, will throw around the eye and ear of the visitor a charm which can be easily imagined.
The Camellia House will be kept supplied with Camellias in full bloom, the beauty of which will secure a ready sale.
The Fernery, fitted up with rock-work, will contain aquatic plants, Orchids, and the various exotic Ferns, which are very beautiful. Slowly trickling water over the rocks will afford the necessary moisture, and add to the beauty of the scene. Every curious and beautiful plant that makes its appearance in Europe, will be imported, and there will be an effort to have on exhibition continually, some interesting novelty to gratify those who feel an interest in flowers, and to educate the taste of those who do not.
An important feature will be the exhibition, in their season, of single classes of plants. For instance, once or more during the winter, the rooms below can be filled with Roses in full bloom. Again, in June and September, Roses can be exhibited. When Rhododendrons come in bloom, a house can be filled with their brilliant clusters.
All these attractions will make the Central Park Conservatory a favorite place of resort beyond any other object of attraction in the city. Pedestrians will make it the terminus of their walk; those in carriages, the object of their ride; while thousands will visit it in the course of their rambles through the Park. Unlike galleries of art or museums, there will be constant change; each day or each week will exhibit something new, and this once understood, the house will be constantly thronged. In the present unfinished state of the Park, some 8,000 to 10,000 people, by actual count of the Park-keeper, visit it on each pleasant day, and on music days nearly 20,000. As the Park increases in attractiveness, and the Conservatory becomes known, it is not unreasonable to suppose that 10,000 will visit the house daily, if its capacity will allow so large a number, scattered, as they will be, throughout the day. These can, if they choose, 'each take away some lithographed flower or printed horticultural matter; at one time a description of the culture of some plant at which they have been looking with pleasure, or at another an elevation and working plans of a window conservatory, or of a green-house just large enough for the rear of a city lot, with the cost of erection, of heating, and of filling with plants.
Contractors can be furnished to carry out these plans, florists to care for the plants, or, what is better still, directions can be given by which the ladies of a family, with a servant to make the fire, can keep such a green-house in perfect order. It will readily be seen what an education of the public taste will arise from this plan.
We feel especially interested in this enterprise, because we find it very wearisome travelling to different points to see a new Camellia here or a new Rose there. In this Conservatory, all novelties, whether hardy or exotic, will be gathered to-gether, and we shall know them all with little trouble. We hope to induce the Messrs. Parsons to have weekly exhibitions of fruit, to which every one can contribute, and thus enable us to educate our palates as well as our eyes. We only regret that the building is not to be finished before the end of next year, but can understand that that time is requisite to prepare properly for such an outlet to plants.