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 display of fruits was exceedingly extensive in varieties, and noticeable for very large single collections. Much of the fruit was small in size, and not as highly colored nor as ripe as we have witnessed in other exhibitions, yet it it was very attractive. The largest single display of fruit was by President Widler, 404 varieties of Pears - occupying the entire half of the lower hall, and on the tables oppo-posite and running parallel, were the collection of Hovey & Co., of Cambridge, numbering 300 plates of nearly as many varieties. Another row of tables was occupied by the.collection of the Cambridge Horticultural Society.
Around both lower and upper hall and balconies, these floral treasures were spread - while hanging baskets stood with ornamented plants, and smilax drooping everywhere produced a scene of enchantment. Nearly all the largest florists were represented by displays of choice plants, while the ladies were no less backward in submitting floral designs of bouquets, wreaths and similar decorations. Near the Organ appeared two very large vases, filled with a profusion of delicate flowers and drooping vines, and the periphery of the stage was decorated in a graceful manner, with plants on stands, or glasses, which almost hid its surface from the view.
Probably no scene was ever held in Boston or even in any other city of the country, combining so much truly artistic as this. A poetic correspondent of the Boston Post writing of the romantic suggestions of the scene, says:
Beethoven has looked down with bronze benignity on many a gay scene in the Music Hall, but he has surely never seen anything more brilliant and beautiful than the present floral display. Fancy fairs, with their bravery of coloring and artistic taste of decoration, pale altogether before this wonderful exhibition, and bazars seemed stripped of half their fascination. Luxuriance of foliage and depth and intensity of color fill the place. In the center of the Hall are tall palms, and surrounding them, wonderful tropical ferns, tree-shaped and huge, and foliage plants of all descriptions and kinds. The greens vary from the cypress to the palest tints that are scarcely more than white. Now and then, shining out of the surrounding green, a bunch of blood-red foliage shows itself, Borne gigantic member of the Coleus family, put on exhibition for its size and beauty. How it overshadows the memory of your plant at home that has been your pride and boast, every red leaf that showed itself oared for more tenderly than the last. Your plant is like a dwarf beside this giant; but after all, it is beautiful still and your own; there is much in that knowledge to reconcile you.
Rustic baskets of ivy and other twining plants stand in unexpected places, and trail their greenness down even over the dark floor. Against the sides of the hall are arranged the flowers, a mass of brilliant autumn coloring. Purple asters and self-assertive yellow dahlias, are ranged in queer confusion. Spikes of red and white phlox, looking as familiar as if they were fresh from a well remembered country garden, are in no wise dismayed to find themselves side by side with perfumed lilies, whose satin white petals are flecked with crimson stains; the heart's blood of the dying summer spilt on the blossoms of her latest, sweetest plant. Gladiolus make banks of brilliant beauty, ranged along the foot of the first balcony, and are a gay background for the green plants in front of them. The platform is filled with tables holding choice bouquets and table designs, in which were tube roses, their perfume striking through every other odor, until the air was languid with its richness; carnations and purple heliotrope, delicate tea roses with petals as exquisitely tinted as seashells, and a delicate perfume that was rather a suggestion of odor than odor itself, shy mignonette, and with it all the fairylike green of the smilax, or the deeper tint of some other foliage.
At the back of the tables were pots of New England ferns, all the varieties that are found in our woods; still holding, even in their exile, something of the pungent fragrance that characterized them in their home by some mountain brook, or down in the quiet, shadowed valley. A climbing fern at Beethoven's feet is ambitiously trying to reach his height. Vain attempt; it stops short not more than quarter of the way up. and droops its green, tiny flowers in sheer weariness and disappointment. Delicate maiden's hair shows its fairylike traceries against the brown of the organ carvings. The scene is lovely from every point. It is the luxuriance of perpetual tropical summers, and the glories of the sadly miscalled temperate autumns. One has grown rank and large in scarcely varying warmth; the other brilliant with the fervent, burning heat of the short New England summer. Prettily-dressed women are wandering up and down the improvised garden walks, or are leaning over the balconies looking down into fairy-land. They tell secrets under the shade of spreading palm trees, who have hitherto been content to exchange confidences under pine, or elm or maple.
They talk of winter costumes while standing by a tropical fern, and are alternately enthusiastic or matter-of-fact, as they vary their conversation from autumn flowers to autumn cares. They play at cross purposes with life here as well as elsewhere; but the flowers, even, are brighter for the gay, human presence, and surely that group of pretty girls are prettier for their surroundings."
Amid so many objects of delight, it was difficult to bring the attention of the delegates closely down to thorough business. The audience was constantly changing. Horticulturists drifted away and spent a day at Forest Grove or Mount Auburn Cemetery, others could not resist special invitations to the residences of Mr. Payson, E. S. Rand, Jr., Chas S. Sargent, Hovey & Co., while the entire society, to the number of 200 or more indulged in one day's festivities, with breakfast at the residence of Wm. Gray, Jr., with an afternoon's ride and dinner at the far-famed Italian gardens, lakes and conservatories of H. H. Hunnewell, at Wellesley. Of the entire catalogue of fruits, only apples, pears and grapes were discussed, and these not thoroughly. Essays were almost entirely' omitted reading, although there was much disposition to call for them; the order of business was so changed that the former process of starring was totally discontinued. This will hereafter be done by the proper fruit committees. In open convention the members in discussion have liberty to make remarks for or against any variety, mainly to show reason why its position in the society's catalogue be changed.
The President, in his most happy mood, felicitously described the progress of the Society up to the present time, and contrasted it with the marvellous results shown in the production of fruit everywhere throughout the Union. He mentioned at length the efforts for production of new seedling fruits and recommended increased attention to this branch, preferring that we depend more upon our own native sorts than on foreign stock Where formerly we were obliged to rely upon imported kinds for our best fruit, now they are disappearing and new sorts take. their places.
Of the 43 kinds of plums in our catalogue, more than half are American; of 58 kinds of peaches, more than two-thirds are American; of 19 kinds of strawberries recommended by the Society, all but three are American; of 31 varieties of hardy grapes all are American; thus, oat of 151 varieties, all but 37 are American. In the publication of its catalogue and revision of fruit, the Society has done much more than the public have given it credit. In 1848 there wore but 54 varieties of fruit recommended. Now the catalogue contains 577 worthy kinds, and 625 varieties have been rejected, making a total of 1,202 varieties, upon which the society has set its seal of approval or rejection.
The system of giving premiums was very generally discussed and by unanimous vote, the Society is hereafter forbidden to appropriate any of its funds to the purpose of cash premiums for the display of fruit. But in lieu thereof, the Society have adopted a medal, known as the Wilder medal, to be given to all objects of merit which include both fruit, new seedlings and best essay.
The business transacted by the Society was most thorough and complete, settling beyond all questions in satisfactory and harmonious manner, subjects which had long excited comment and considerable difference of opinion. The place of next meeting is definitely fixed at Chicago, in 1875, and likewise there will be an extra session at Philadelphia, at the great Centennial Exposition.
The exercises terminated with a banquet on Friday evening, in Music Hall - given by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society to the members of the American Pomological Society - nearly 1,000 persons were present and both music and social conversation passed away the time most enjoyably, until late at night. Thus closed this most brilliant session of the Society. Its Silver Wedding was appropriately celebrated, and the close of the first quarter century finds the Society in most successful and popular standing, the strongest and most influential organization of its kind in the world.