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.
If there be two topics most likely to occupy deservedly the attention and regards of Americans beyond all others, those topics will be found to be Agriculture and Horticulture. Our tastes, and our wants, will require us to cultivate the earth; when politics fail to interest the active, when merchandising has produced its results, or when age makes us retire into ourselves and seek innocent resources from ennui, the garden is a sure resource, provided we have not neglected the opportunities so lavishly bestowed, and have kept pace with what is going on around us. To do this, it must be confessed, we must read occasionally, and study a little the books and periodicals devoted to the farm or the garden; these we shall mention as we proceed in our article - at least such as we are prepared by experience to recommend.
A man without a taste for gardening, is deprived of one of the very greatest enjoyments of life. Whether this taste can be acquired at a late period has been doubted; and therefore it is that at school city children should always have some instruction on the subject; and when it is practicable, a plot to cultivate under the stimulus of emulation.
As an example of the effects produced on a congenial mind, we will cite the instance of an extensive merchant, whose modesty will not allow the use of his name. He will know, however, whom we mean, by our thanking him, thus publicly, for a most superb basket of fine pears late in January from his own dwarf trees, planted, trimmed, and cared for by his own hands. In his school days he was so fortunate as to have a little garden spot "of his own;" there he toiled when Virgil and the conic sections were learned, and there he acquired his love. Loudon and Downing have since been his constant companions, and you may see him in spring and summer, as he leaves his counting-house, and walks with an animated step to the steamboat that is to convey him to his beloved garden, pick up - not the political newspapers of the day, though of these he has his portion, too - but the "Horticulturist" or the "Cultivator;" on the road he hastily peruses these, and when he enters his premises of a few acres, all under fine cultivation, with what enjoyment does he greet his children; all are his children, from the romping little curly heads to the curled celery and savoys; his dinner is ready, but he must stop as he ascends the path to give a little relief to a favorite vine or carnation, or snatch a strawberry, larger than any previous product, to display to his wife at the desert Dinner is rather hastily despatched; with a child in each hand, behold him take the round of the green-houses, the graperies, the chicken-houses, and the little orchards and paddock.
See him meet his gardener! There is no talk of copper mine stocks, or the money market. Dry goods are forgotten in the progress of the asparagus, and the crusade against the curculio ; the apricots are inspected, and proper attention given to the promising cherries; the pruning knife is judiciously applied to the dwarf pears to give them the result we have indicated as so acceptable to ourselves; there is a little pinching off of the too luxuriant growth to produce fruit spurs for next year; the mulching of the roots is seen to; the string of one of the props is adjusted, and the label which has fallen from the "Duchesse" is repaired and replaced. A little digging and raking, while the children run for the evening food for the poultry - our merchant, refreshed, not wearied, turns to the sun to see his last setting rays, and almost to reproach him for going to bed thus early, and oblige him to leave his favorites. Ah! before he turns in, in the approaching darkness, he just takes ten minutes to adjust the net over a favorite cherry tree - peeps under the leaves of his gooseberries and currants, and rejoices to see the fructification of the prolific buffalo-berry, which he has planted purposely to supply the frugiverous song birds.
Can this man ever want amusement ? When fortune has smiled upon his mercantile transactions, will he be dependant upon foreign buffo singers, and sicken at the thought that there may be no opera! If fortune frowns, he has a pursuit; he could at any time change his occupation in the city and become a nursery proprietor, or send to market the finest fruits and market products.
We have already several such instances, one of which we must mention, because it has originality as well as utility. In one of the crashes which mercantile communities are all subject to, now and then, an extensive dealer was obliged to "stop;" the particular trade he carried on was overdone, but he had enough means remaining to retain about twenty acres of good land near one of our principal cities. To this he determined to devote his attention; his taste for rural life, not neglected while in prosperity, now came to his aid. This was years ago, before the great demand had brought supplies, even yet inadequate, to our doors. With much tact, our rural merchant plowed up and manured his land for the coming spring, leaving only space for a kitchen garden to gratify his family; in this he planted a few fruit trees, to be increased in number afterward. With the help of some old window frames, he forced one or two dollars' worth of celery seed, and planted the whole of his little farm with this valuable article.
As it could be cultivated by the plow, principally, he had not a large sum to expend in wages, and when it was ready for market some lumber and nails were procured; boxes were made by our "hero," for such we contend he was, sand was dried, the celery housed and placed, a hundred stalks in each box, and with confidence it was exhibited to ship-owners, ship-captains, and stewards. The whole was sold at five dollars per box, and a surplus over the year's expenses of the family was the result. Here was a great want of the human family supplied in an original mode - an example was set to as many as chose to adopt his plan, and we need not advert to the many dinners it made agreeable to delicate sea-faring passengers, or the scurvy which this benefactor prevented.