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.
In the following communication from one of our far seeing philosophers, we recognise an idea of much importance. The example of great institutions with liberal endowments are of great import; man is imitative, and our people especially so; every point, therefore, where example tells, should be studied by those who assume the vastly important task of teaching. That much has been done we freely admit; that every thing cannot be done at once is an axiom we are not disposed to dispute. But that there are some things, which, if done early, will give earlier results, is no less true than that many matters neglected for a few years will require as many to repair the neglect. Such is the project so long ago suggested by our valued correspondent of planting the grounds of Girard College with trees that would not only shade the orphans there assembled with such beneficent views, but that would teach them valuable lessons to be carried into their various walks in future private life.
Education is of various kinds; on some, knowledge, acquired through the study of books makes no valuable or lasting impression. In others, the mind is so active as only to require guiding, while in many the heart and the moral feelings are alone deficient; to these mainly, no doubt, we should turn our attention. But example is better than precept, and those examples which are daily before us are the ones which will influence the future. The plan proposed in what follows is one among many which have been neglected, of so simple and easy accomplishment that wonder may be expressed at its long omission. Once done it would be completed for a century.
Not two miles beyond this rich college, will be found an example of a public school set down on the side of the Ridge Road, with the boundaries enclosed by a handsome iron railing (a job for some partisan probably), and here the care of the grounds has entirely ceased; it has a few old decrepid fruit trees without fruit; no grass, but on the contrary it is overrun, where not beaten down into mud-holes, by the worst description of weeds!
What sort of education for neatness and order will the little fellows taught here carry to their homes? - none whatever; and who is to be blamed for it? The city distributors of Girard's bounty, who have not set the example of the highest improvement, that of an Arboretum, in those palatial grounds!
Of the thousands who visit the college every year, it may be conceived that very many do so to learn what improvements can be carried home to their own communities; did they see a little science brought to bear upon the art of planting, they would be delighted, and they would take to other places ideas to be promulgated and acted upon in their own neighborhoods. It is on this account as much as for the beauty of the grounds, and the benefit of the boys of Girard College, that we rejoice to have the opportunity of presenting the following remarks from an authoritative source to our readers:
Dear Sir: - Soon after the Girard College was organised, and put in operation, I ventured to urge a favorite idea upon the Managers of the Institution, respecting the improvement of the grounds thereto belonging. This was done in a letter to the accomplished architect of the building, who was then a member of the Board having the premises in charge. I know not whether the suggestion has been acted upon; but if not, I presume to think it is still worthy of attention, and trust it may be still practicable. Under this impression, I beg leave to invite your attention to the subject; believing that if presented as you can present it, in the pages of the Horticulturist, to the consideration of an appreciating community, the good work may yet be performed. As my views were explicitly, though hastily, presented in the aforesaid letter, I take the liberty of submitting to you a copy of the same, - in the hope of reviving the still cherished project, and enlisting the effective co-operation of your valuable journal in its behalf. I would here respectfully add, that if the proper authorities can be prevailed with to carry out the plan, it is important that every tree, so introduced, should be allowed ample room for its complete development.
The almost universal mistake, in the Arboretums of this country, is in crowding the trees so that they injure each other before they are fully grown. The noble giants of our forests - such as the Cypress, as seen in the Bartram Garden; the Mountain Magnolia, in the old garden of Humphrey Marshall, and the Vegetable Mammoths of California - should all have space sufficient to display their branches in perfect symmetry, until they attain to their utmost dimensions.
Trusting that you, and all those more immediately concerned, will excuse this seeming officiousness in an outsider, I am, &., W. D.
West Chester, July 11, 1855.
West Chester, March 2,1848. Dear Sir : - I am not sure that the subject on which I am about to trouble yon, has not been already presented to your notice; indeed, I have a faint impression on my mind, that I have seen or heard something to the same effect. But, as a repetition can do no harm, I beg leave to suggest to you, - and through you to your colleagues of the Board of Trustees of the Girard College, - that the said Board have now an opportunity (and such a one as can rarely occur), to do a beautiful thing for their own credit, and a valuable thing for the future pupils of that institution. I allude to the planting of the grounds belonging to the College, with one or more specimens of every kind of Forest tree in our land, which will grow in that soil, or live in this latitude. By adopting early measures, and employing a competent person, you may soon behold on the college grounds a national Arboretum, which will be an ornament to the establishment - a perfect treasury of educational means to its occupants - and a monument to the good taste of its Managers, almost as enduring as the magnificent fabric committed to their charge: a classical Sylva, compared to which the Groves of Academus will be pronounced mere clumps and copses!
Entertaining this view of the matter, I cannot but indulge the hope that so precious an opportunity will not be neglected. The cost of introducing a specimen or two of every tree in our forests, would be a mere trifle. It only requires a little attention at the proper season, and a person who will engage in the work con amore, to ensure the accomplishment of the noble design, - and thus give the finishing touch to the premises which you have so splendidly adorned.
Reflect, for a moment, upon the advantages of knowing, with certainty, the various timber trees with which our country abounds, - of understanding their true character and value in the arts, and all economical purposes; and then consider how easy it will be, for every boy who sports or rambles over the college grounds, to become familiar with the aspect of every tree in the proposed Arboretum; and also to learn, from his teacher, or his books, the character and economical value of every species. By attaching a suitable label, or painted board, to each tree - showing the scientific and most common name of the same - the pupils could read as they ran; and would learn to know, and distinguish them, with the same ease and certainty that they become acquainted with the features and names of their comrades. They would thus acquire a knowledge, without an effort, which would always be interesting - and in many oases highly important - in the pursuits of after life. But I have neither space, nor time, to set forth the many inducements which call for the improvement I have thus referred to; and I trust it cannot be necessary to amplify, or enter into details, with gentlemen so well able to comprehend the subject, and appreciate its importance in every aspect of usefulness and elegance.
Believing that you will excuse the freedom of these suggestions, in consideration of the motives which prompted them, I now submit them to the better judgment of yourself and colleagues; and am, Dear Sir, with the highest respect, your friend and obedient servant, WM. DARLINGTON.