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.
Recently, the propriety of taking some steps toward the organization of a horticultural society in the Empire City was suggested in your pages. It appears that the want of some such society was felt by a writer in the American Agriculturist, and the Editor of the Horticulturist expressed his willingness to co-operate in the movement.
It was far from the purpose of your correspondent to say a word to dissuade from any judicious movement for the promotion of horticulture, or for the mutual enjoyment of its friends in New York, and I hoped that other correspondents might take up the topic and discuss the possibilities of forming an association suitable to the time and the people; but the matter has been permitted to rest there.
To prevent any misconception, I desire to amplify my remarks on the probable causes of the failure of the old New York Horticultural Society, and the want of encouragement which attends all such societies at the present time. We have ample proof that the spirit of the horticultural public has found its way into other and more pleasing channels, for with the most earnest and persevering efforts, at best, the results come far short of the reasonable hopes of the promoters.
The New York Horticultural Society had a very respectable record; among its incorporators were many worthy and eminent men. During the brief period of our participation in its operations it was merely struggling for existence. In 1852 it held a very fair exhibition, and there we witnessed the fruitful cause of the discontent which creeps in among professional gardeners, and which - too common in all horticultural exhibitions - eventually works their ruin. In 1853 it held a fair exhibition, but not such as to encourage the Society. Yet it managed the same year to inaugurate the holding day of conversational meetings at which essays were read and discussed. Finally, an exhibition was arranged at Barnum's Museum, which it appeared did not surpass in profit any of its predecessors. From that time we ceased to take any active part in its affairs, but we know it continued in operation to a much later date. The good people of Brooklyn about that time became strongly interested in horticultural displays, and drew over the exhausted though persevering friends of the New York Society.
And though the Brooklyn Society was for a time full of high hope and animation, and carried its measures steadily forward for the encouragement of taste and skill, yet it, too, waned, and we look in vain for any symptom of life in its once energetic frame.
We could not have been induced in 1854 to believe that in a few brief years all the brilliant schemes devised to bring together the best and most skillful amateurs, as well as gardeners, and their meritorious products, for the view and admiration of the people of two great cities, would prove fruitless, and the exertions of high-spirited and liberal men be rewarded by oblivion to the claims of a society for the advance?. ment of rural art and taste.
The truth forces itself upon us, that horticultural societies on the old, model are wholly unsuited to the wants of the present time, and not in accordance with the American idea, at best.
We are independent now of all such extraneous efforts; horticulture has taken a vital hold of the community. We see its footsteps along our rural thoroughfares. In the busy market-places of our cities Flora has established her claim to a position.
The comfortable mechanic who has means prefers a few rods of ground at a distance from the busy city if he can reach it, and with the aid of one of the thousand cheap instructors he commences to work a little garden.
The merchant, in the flowery season, can not be coaxed into the hot city to witness an exhibition; he prefers seeing the garden in its place, and chooses a quiet stroll through lines of glass structures, filled with choice exotics, at the country seat of a friend, to the display of long tables of tricked-out specimens in array, staked and labeled.
But I may be mistaken. There are still duties and functions left for horticultural societies to perform. True; but these have no claim on the beau monde; they appeal alone to the thoughtful and interested student of the fair vegetable kingdom, and such are the horticulturist clubs referred to in your January number. A Member.