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 am confident that my own experiences have their counterparts, and am willing to expose myself for the amusement of your readers. Not that I am utterly a "Know-nothing n now, but I have bought what little I do know so very dearly that perhaps I may tell others to their advantage how I began, failed, grew wiser by experimenting, and at last got "a pretty fair crop "out of my errors.
I was "a citizen of credit and renown," as John Gilpin was, but my mother had taken me to her garden-beds when I was a boy, and I had often revelled in our watermelon patch, at our summer house. From that time, however, I was immersed in city cares; my chief knowledge of the country was derived from a visit to Coney Island, or a walk in the sand at Saratoga. Suddenly my early teachings broke out into a violent attack of country fever; I read everything I could purchase relating to trees and gardens; I formed a glowing picture of the delights of rural life, and determined to put in practice what I had so carefully learned.
I made excursions to every place advertised for sale within a reasonable distance, and thus visited several neighboring States. Prices for land were high, but at last I fixed upon a site by the advice of a knowing country gentleman, aided by the views of my wife, who had an especial eye to a hill upon which to build, and from which there was "a view of the city." The country gentleman was my next neighbor; we bore the intelligence that he pocketed ten per cent. on our payments, for recommending the land as "capital for fruit culture" but were entirely alienated from him when he purchased through a third party, my two best imported Alderney cows, at less than cost, after having declared them quite a worthless kind.
Before taking possession I ordered from Angers, France, a huge invoice of fruit and ornamental trees; consulting all catalogues within reach. My spouse is a great admirer of hedges, and having imbibed an admiration of Parisian fashions during her education in that capital of taste, we together selected the beech as the best hedge plant, and imported them by thousands. They came in good order and were planted in the best, and of course, the most expensive manner. Next spring, what was our disappointment, to find all the old leaves hanging on the plants, while all nature around was revelling in the garb of May I It was too bad - they were certainly all dead. My gardener had unfortunately died during the winter, so Patrick and I rooted the beeches nearly all up, and planted hemlocks from the woods. A few had been left standing, and what was my mortification and that of my wife, to see these revive in all their beauty, just two weeks after we had made a bonfire of their fellows! But that was not the worst of it.
Either Patrick or I, or both of us, had neglected the proper way of taking up our hemlocks, or in planting them, or something had gone wrong; Patrick suggested "ground mice," but it seemed to me these vermin could hardly have eaten the roots of so many thousands of trees, and left one here and there to mark our well run lines; these are now making " single specimens" slowly enough, and my hedges are yet only in my ledger.
This was bad to be sure, but was as nothing to my garden experiences. Trimming and pinching I had studied before leaving Wall Street, and I understood it, (in theory,) at least, as I thought, thoroughly. My Angers pear trees, on the quince, were looking very well; the pinching for two years had brought them into fruitfulness, and I set to work to trim them according to rule. Patrick had wormed himself into my good graces by having a hand and head ready for all kinds of work, and together we trimmed, Patrick at the root and I at the head; he with a spade following close upon my heels; as I finished letting light and air into the top and reducing the branches, Patrick came along with a sharp spade, which 1 was surprised kept him half the time to grind and whet; he shoved it into the roots with a will that satisfied me of his knowledge and good intentions; together we made rapid work, and then Patrick filled the holes he made with guano. We burned the brush in good time, and manured the roots with the ashes.
The dinner, on trimming days, was something to remember; such an appetite, followed by such increased admiration for the country, that my wife really thought I had gained ten pounds in the few weeks we had ruralized. I know that during that period I had remitted to England two hundred pounds sterling, for a ready made orchard and grape house, having been already deceived by my architect in several buildings he had put up. But no matter; my pear trees all died! Patrick said I had trimmed the tops too much, but I knew better, and discharged Patrick because he had cut all the roots off close to the butts. The neighbor who bought my Alderneys, said it was the guano put in too strong, and I was obliged to buy his fruit, or go without any.
My trimming did not seem to succeed; I have cut all my box-trees, as directed, shearing them down to two and three inches in height; I shaved down the Pyrus Japonica likewise, and lopped all the Spireas, as if I remember, directed by Mrs. Loudon; thus had few flowers from these favorites; but no doubt they are like fruit trees, and will be beautiful for my successor for to tell the sequel, my wife and I had no asparagus worth eating, even the second spring; our celery would not pass muster in Dr. Kane's Arctic regions, our butter was always worse than "tub," and we have got back to town lighter in weight by many pounds, our pockets emptied, and request you to direct your publisher to stop the Horticulturist. Would that I had never seen it, or thought of the "Woodpecker tapping the hollow Beech Tree".