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.
In England there yet exists trees that point back to the manners of our ancestors - such as the Gospel Oaks, under whose shade our fore-fathers were accustomed to assemble to hear sermons; in the same manner as at a later date our markets and other crosses were the cites selected for religious instrnction to the assembled crowd. It was at Paul's Cross that one of the brightest ornaments of our church had nearly lost his life by the exposure to rain and wind, and having recovered from his illness, in the gratitude of his heart offered to do anything which his careful nurse and landlady demanded of him, in return for her unwearied attention. She said "marry my daughter," and the divine obeyed the mandate. This anecdote is merely introduced to show at how recent a date preaching in the open air was common in England, and as we may suppose that in country places the practice of preaching under trees might have continued long after it had been discontinued in towns, there seems every probability that those venerable remains, joying in the distinction of Gospel Oaks, were in the lusty vigour of their manhood, so to speak, the identical trees selected, and thus traditionally confirming a curious phase of our history.
Heme's Oak, that thousands as well as myself have made a pilgrimage to see, as is well known, is not the veritable one (it is a pity to know it), but the one that was uprooted in George Ill's time in all probability was that tree of some ghostly legend in the time of our Shakespeare, and which, owing to the merry wives' conceit, had preserved its identity almost to our own times. Nor can we forget the Mulberry planted by the bard's own hands; and it takes a vast effort to forgive its ruthless destroyer. How much pure gratification has he deprived not Englishmen alone of, but the cultivated and refined of all nations. The circumstances alluded to are of national interest; but how many thousand commemmorative trees exist that are of family notoriety only and to such most deeply interesting. A knoll upon an estate, where I with; a friend of mine had been married to his wife 50 Years; there was a gathering of sons and daughters and grandchildren, and each one assisted to plant an Oak in such a manner that the whole should ultimately form a striking group in after years. Each of these trees were known to persons on the estate by the names of the persons who assisted to plant them.
It has occurred to me that persons haying gardens might make them of deeper interest by the power of association, and, by way of illustration, I will relate what has occurred to myself, Some years ago I was conversing with the late Sir William Garrow upon the delight I felt in possessing any plant that was mentioned by Virgil; he said he could add to my collection by giving me a plant of Bay (hat was taken from his tomb. I possess the plant yet, and it slightly differs from that in common cultivation. Napoleon Willows will become in fashion again if the President maintains his friendly position with England; for everything relating to his uncle is with a large party in France at present in high estimation. The late poet laureate Wordsworth, the author of that noble poem, "The Excursion," and the "Prelude," not enough known - the author of the lyrical ballads - sent me a Laurel from Rydal Mount, which I need not say I cherish. More recently Sir Robert Inglis with great kindness, gave me plants brought from the Holy Land - indeed from the garden at Nazareth. I mention these as proofs of the additional interest a garden may be made to afford, and how it may be made conducive to all that is ennobling and good. - William Matters, Canterbury, in Gardener's Chronicle.