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.
I do not agree entirely with your friend the English Landscape Gardener, that we are an ungrateful people - ungrateful for our rich gifts of native trees and plants. We do not plead guilty to ingratitude. Ignorance may be our misfortune, but ungrateful we are not. Show us how we ought to evince our gratitude - point out the object that would not forget the good we bestowed on it - name the individual that would do credit to our adoption; and Americans will be found as ready to bestow on them as high a patronage, and to estimate as highly as the most antique nation under history the duties which that patronage and adoption involved. We do not know what to be grateful for. Let us once understand that, and then judge us.
The English try is indeed a noble plant. We have no substitute. There is none. It has a peculiar charm of its own which no other plant possesses. In its historical associations it is unrivalled. - in its poetical expressiveness it has no compeer, and in its relation to all the romantic past, it speaks forth volumes where any other plant would be speechless. Who that has travelled in Europe - no matter how many years may have since elapsed - can look upon an ivy in America without being easily led back in imagination or memory to the old ruined castles, palaces, and abbeys around which gathers the history of those foreign lands? For my part I can seldom look upon the magnificent robe of ivy which envelopes the old dwelling of that great botanist Bartram, (from whenco I write these lines,) but I can almost fancy that I sec a host of grim warriors in arms and armour, assembled within its walls, with their high head-dressed dames, in hoops and furbelows, or, with a little more stretch of fancy, see the bare headed and shoeless sons of the cloister assembled to distribute their morning alms in the old front portico. What substitute can replace this? We must first change the whale face of history, before we can answer that.
But laying aside its historical, poetical and domestic associations, and taking it up only as a decorative plant, what have we? To place the five leaved or Virginia creeping ivy (Ampelopsis hederacea, or quinquefolia) in competition with It, is to set off "hoddin gray, and a' that" against "purple and fine linen." The Virginia creeper may do - Just do, to cover the bare walls of a building. - but as a substitute for ivy, no, never! Its bald, cheerless, wintry aspect at a season when the evergreen, rich, warm-looking ivy has its sweetest charms, will ever make the comparison an unfavorable one. I would prefer the Golden Trumpet flower - (Bignonia capreolata,) to the Ampelopsis. Being a native of the southern part of Pennsylvania, and of Virginia, it would probably be hardy a considerable degree farther north. It is indeed a beautiful evergreen creeper. Its pendant secondary branches are so graceful, that I know of nothing to compete with it in its sphere. Those who are unacquainted with this plant cannot conceive how much it doserves to be loved and admired.
The characteristic expression of gratitude and affection for which poets have made the ivy so emblematical - clinging as it does with a feminine fondness to some fatherly oak which supported it in infancy. - and encircling in its arm-like folds the perhaps now decaying form of its early protector - is more appropriate to this plant. Indeed, if I were a poet, I would conjure up in my imagination a grove expressly to introduce it. I would see it running wildly oyer a rustic bower, now clinging to some rugged grapevine, now sipping with the ends of its drooping branches, the crystal waters of a winding streamlet which should run at its feet. And then its beautiful flowers, like golden cups, which would admit a gaze at them long naiads of the stream. If you visit our faircity soon, and have time to make us a visit, I will introduce a specimen of this vine to your notice which shall warrant all that I have said of it. It is not a neglected plant - it is an unknown one. Although described in the oldest books, it is seldom seen.
I believe the only plant that ever I saw of it in England was at Col. Vernon Harcourt's in the Isle of Wight, where it was received direct from Montreal with other hardy things in 1838 - but I feel assured that I will yet see the day when the Golden Trumpet flower (Bignonia capreolata) will be as popular and as common both in this country and in England as the ivy now is - not as a substitute or competitor - for that can never be - but as a comrade and welcome companion. Yours very,sincerely, Thomas Mee-haw. Bartram Botanic Garden, Philadelphia) Jan. 10,1851.
[We saw the very plant of the Golden Trumpet flower which our correspondent describes, 5 or 6 years ago, at the Bartram Garden when it was in full bloom. It was then one of the finest climbers we ever beheld, and we immediately ordered a plant of it for our own garden where it is now growing well. The foliage is evergreen and handsome, but the flowers are not so fine here as in Philadelphia. It is, certainly, a climber worthy of being more generally known. Ed.]