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.
We have an eye to this paradise of an island, and make the following interesting extracts from a new work published in Boston, written by MatuRin M. Ballou, entitled "History of Cuba, or Note of a Traveler in the tropics" one of the most reliable and agreeable books of the kind we have ever met with. It is fall of information, and though we regret that the writer has no botanical or scientific knowledge, his descriptions of the climate and vegetation are graphic and pleasing. He has a fine eye for the beauties of nature:
The Coffee plant requires some shade, and hence the plantations are diversified by alternate rows of Bananas and other useful and ornamental tropical shrubs and planta It is one of the most beautiful gardens that can well be conceived, in its variety and beauty baffling correct description, being one of those peculiar characteristics of the low latitudes which must be seen to be understood. An estate devoted to this purpose usually covers some 300 acres of land, planted in regular squares of eight acres, and intersected by broad alleys of Palms, Oranges, etc., Ac. Mingled with these are planted Lemons, Pomegranates, Cape Jasmins, and a species of wild Heliotrope, fragrant as the morning. Conceive of this beautiful arrangement and then of the whole when in flower; the Coffee with its milk-white blossoms, so abundant that it seems as though a pure white cloud of snow had fallen there and left the rest of the vegetation fresh and green. Interspersed in these fragrant alleys is the red of the Mexican Rose, the flowering Pomegranate, and the large gaudy flower of the Penon shrouding its parent stem in a cloak of-scarlet, with wavings here and there of the graceful yellow flag, and many bewitchingly fragrant wild flowers, twining their tender stems about the base of these.
In short, a Coffee plantation is a perfect floral el dorado, with every luxury (except ice) the heart could wish.
"The Sugar-planter, the Coffee-planter, the merchant, the liberal professions and the literati (this last a meagre class in numbers), stand about in the order in which we have written them, as regards their relative degrees of social position, but wealth has the same charm here as in every part of Christendom.
"The agriculturists confine their attention almost solely to the raising of Sugar, Coffee and Tobacco, almost entirely neglecting Indian Corn, and but slightly attending to the varieties of the Orange. It is scarcely credible that, when the generous soil produces from two to three crops annually, the vegetable wealth of this island should be so poorly developed. It is capable of supporting a population, of almost any density, and yet the largest estimate gives only a million and a half of inhabitants. On treading the fertile soil, and on beholding the clustering fruits offered on all sides, the delicious Oranges, the perfumed Pine Apples, the luscious Bananas, the cooling Cocoa Nuts, and other fruits for which our language has no name, we are struck with the thought of how much Providence, and how little man, has done for this Eden of the Gull We long to see it peopled by men who can appreciate the gifts of nature, men who are willing to do their part in reward for her bounty, men who will meet her half way and second her spontaneous efforts. Nowhere on the face of the globe would intelligent labor meet with a richer reward - nowhere on the face of the globe would repose from labor be so sweet.
The hour of rest sinks upon the face of nature with a peculiar charm; the night breeze comes with its gentle breeze to fan the weary frame, and no danger lurks in its career,"
There are many reasons why we should be glad to see our enterprising citizens in possession (peaceable) of this glorious island besides political ones. The horticultural points of interest are great indeed; what glorious cargoes would we export to our American cities! We heard a smoker give his reasons the other day, as he puffed a fine Havana, thus: - "Why, yes, we must have it; cigars are too dear!"
Our author says that superior Pine Apples are sold in the markets at one cent a piece! and very agreeable flavor of Otto of Rose, and this is so strong that to eat more than one at a time is almost unpleasant It has a very sweet taste and flavors some soaps finely. Hedges are often made of Lime trees; with their exquisite green leaves they form a superb object with their clusters of white blossoms. "We must quote another page respecting.
"The style of the buildings is not dissimilar to that which is found in the Orient, and the trees and vegetable products increase the resemblance. Particularly in approaching Havana from the interior, the view of the city resembles almost precisely the Scriptural picture of Jerusalem. The tall, majestic Palms, with their tufted tops, the graceful Cocoa-nut tree, and many other peculiarities, give to the scenery of Cuba an Eastern aspect, very impressive to the stranger. It is impossible to describe to one who has not visited the tropics, the bright vividness with which each object, artificial or natural, house or tree, stands out in the clear liquid light, where there is no base or smoke to interrupt the view. Indeed, it is impossible to express fully how everything differs in Cuba from our own country so near at hand. The language, the people, the climate, the manners and customs, the architecture, the foliage, the flowers, and the general products, all and each afford broad contrasts to what the American has ever seen at home.
The visitor seems to have been transported into another quarter of the globe, and believes himself in distant Syria or remote Asia".
The soil of Cuba realizes Douglas Jerrold's remark of Australia, "just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest." So fertile a soil is not known to exist in any other part of the globe. But this lovely climate and beautiful land are made gloomy, alas I by the persecutions of their oppressors. Our author consoles his countrymen by assuring them that the Moro Castle's boasted strength is "chimerical!" There are some among us who will be glad of the intelligence.
A short look at Cuba hat made an impression on us never to be effaced. The notes and observations made on the tour having relation to topics little touched upon in books, we shall prepare in time to commence their publication in the June number. Where the novelty of vegetation, and, indeed, of everything else, is so striking, it requires some time to recover from one's surprises, to be enabled to give sketches with any kind of gravity. A perpetual spring, to the Northern man, is something to think upon the remainder of one's life.