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.
The pleasing idea entertained by many of the uninitiated that this beautiful and agreeable pursuit is without its asperities may soon be dispelled by a casual glance at our periodical or serial literature. The admirer and lover of plants, fruits, and flowers, as objects of beauty and promoters of health, and the art and practice of culture of the earth as a noble exercise of the human faculties, can not at this busy period in the history of gardening advance very far in the study or pursuit of specialties without learning that there are little difficulties in the way, slight obstacles to be surmounted, and trifling irritants which they must learn to overcome or avoid.
If it were not so, horticulture would possess little charm for the enthusiastic amateur, and no man with severe commercial requirements should be content to follow plant-growing as a profession. Horticulture, then, has two aspects: one is so well fixed on the imagination of the civilized portion of society that it is the subject of universal admiration; the other partakes of the disappointments and reverses of other mercantile occupations, losing almost nothing of the displeasing and annoying elements so closely interwoven with commercial speculations.
For some years past we had presumed that the quiet and pleasing aspect of horticulture was quite lost in the ardor of trade speculations, for at every hand, wherever the amateur might turn, he was beset by the vendors of some "novelty" in the gardening line. These unpleasant importunities might in part be avoided by taking refuge in the "deep recess of some inaccessible village or sequestered spot" at least a few miles from the great agitator, the railroad. But, alas! our country has now few such retreats which are within the means or reach of the hopeful amateur, and not equally accessible to his horticultural friends, who with the most gratifying and commendable alacrity hasten to convey to him at his villa retreat the tidings of the latest blackberry, strawberry, grape, or potato acquisition.
It is very pleasant "to talk horticulture" with an enthusiastic amateur, even if of the male sex, and we must confess that we have met with commercial horticulturists whose conversation was at once interesting and charming. We seldom meet with these now - they belong to the past history of our business; or, if a few still linger out the latter days of their flowery life, they, too, have sought retirement, a little soured with the present commercial tendencies of the profession.
One other resort remained to the quiet-loving amateur of horticulture; while avoiding these annoying extremists, whose catalogues could not be scanned at one reasonable interview, so replete were they with striking novelties, we hoped to find comfort in the perusal of the "weeklies" and "monthlies," now so numerous, devoted with a single eye to the promotion of the art in all its beauty and purity; and thus without losing our interest in, or acquaintance with, our favorite study, might avoid the less pleasing details in which we could feel no interest.
But it would appear that the commercial enthusiasm has laid siege even to the horticultural periodicals, for we can scarcely open one of them without finding the most startling descriptions of new grapes, new strawberries, new blackberries, new raspberries, new potatoes, and, in truth, everything in the catalogue with the prefix "new" and "splendid." But we are informed by those who have more skill and experience than ourselves, that only in the advertising pages are these to be found, and that they are as essential to the value of the periodical as the literary matter itself.
Well, we are again quieted, and we again peruse the last Horticulturist with our former interest. Yet, behold, on page eight of the January number we meet with the heading "The Grape Swindle," and as we had secretly conjectured that there was something bordering on a "swindle" in the manner and tone of some of these great grapists, vinists, vignerons, viticola, and many other such pseudonyms, we set ourselves confidingly to read the complaint of "Al Fresco." We regret to say that we are compelled to assert that the case is not fairly, at least, but partially stated. Are there no swindles but grape swindles? What of new strawberries with fictitious value appended to them, not found alone in the advertising pages, but prominently indorsed by regular correspondents, some of them under assumed names of respected horticulturists, and others with descriptions which belie themselves.
But we are arrested in our condemnation of the periodicals by our prudent"friend," who urges that all our horticultural periodicals are not equally entitled to censure. Ah ! that may be; we shall be more careful in our examination of their articles in future.
But our friend urges further - that a closer acquaintance with the entire subject of these "novelties," and the manner in which they are produced and brought before the public, would be requisite before taking the violent course of a wholesale condemnation of the novelty department of the nursery business. Are not the reputations of some of these dealers who offer high-priced and untested novelties for sale sufficient guarantee for five dollars, or ten, the price asked for a new grape or a dozen of the newest strawberries? This is at least a motion in arrest of judgment, and must be duly considered. S.