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Bellflower, Rox Russet, R. I. Greening, Hoover, (or Black Cole,) and two unnamed sorts.
Casper Hiller & Son, Conestoga.-Winesap, and one unnamed variety.
J. R. Eby, Harrisburg.—A variety of apple of small size, picked from the tree in October, 1876, and still in good, sound condition.
Peter Lint, York.-One variety, Winesap.
Matthewson & Co., Williamsport, exhibited a collection of California Bell pears of immense size and handsome appearance.
Harry Chaapel, Williamsport.-Three fine specimens of palms.
The society convened at half past eight o'clock, P. M., in the rooms of Amazon Lodge, I. 0. of O. F.
In the temporary absence of President Hoopes, the meeting was called by H. M. ENGLE, one of the vice presidents. Minutes of last annual meeting having been read and approved, Mr. Engle gave way to President Hoopes, who had in the meantime arrived.
Mr. HOOPEs, upon taking the chair, announced that one of the essayists, Mr. S. B. Parsons, of New York, would be obliged to leave early next morning. He hoped, therefore, that the society would suspend the regular order of business, so as to allow the essay to be read at once.
A motion to that effect having been made, and carried unanimously, Mr. Parsons, after a few pointed preliminary remarks, read the following essay :
HORTICULTURE-ITS PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.
By S. B. PARSONS, Flushing, Long Island.
Amid all the beautiful things made at Versailles, by the Grand Monaque-grand in name, but petty in nature—there are none more striking, to our unaccustomed eyes, than the avenues of interlacing trees, where the summer sun can have no access, and where the long vistas leave only a patch of sky visible at either end, to the traveler in the middle. To such an one, the perspective and the distance throw a glamour over tree or shrub, man or horse, stump or stone. Thus it is in life's journey. We look back, with regret, over the good old times of the past; we groan over the decadence of the present, and, with amber colored glasses, we look forward to the future, whose tints are, to our eyes, like those of an Italian sunset.
Sometimes, to the man of middle age, the amber fades from the glasses, the disappointments of the present dim the hopes of the future, and he looks back upon the past with vivid recollection of its enjoyment, and but little faith in its recurrence. With this reminder of the natural tendency of the human mind, I will ask you to look back with me, and if we can see any decadence in horticultural taste or horticultural knowledge, seek to apply the remedy..
Fifty years ago I stood upon our steamboat wharf, at Flushing, and watched the crowds that, on every holiday, would come to visit the Linnean Botanic Garden, which then, under the management of the grandfather of the present Senator Prince, offered many attraetions. Then, the seed store of Grant Thorburn, in Liberty street, New York, surpassed anything which has been known since. Basins, with gold fish, graced its entrance, while the galleries of the spacious building were ornamented with choice engravings and made resonant with the songs of numerous birds. There seemed, in that old man, with his unique exterior and broad Scotch bluntness, an innate taste, which many a wealthy man might have envied. His son and successor, George C. Thorburn, inherited the taste, with an attractive exterior, a charming manner, and a thorough knowledge of his business. He was one of the best salesmen I ever knew, and was especially happy in portraying the attractions of any new plant.
I was often interested by his fondness for his children, and his pride in their progress. No less striking was his real love for plants—a love independent of their commercial value. When our own business was estabIished, just forty years ago, the number of nurserymen could be counted upon your fingers. There were the Prince and the Bloodgood nurseries at Flushing, those of Hovey, Kendrick, and Winship, at Boston; Downing, at Newburg; Buist & Landreth, at Philadelphia, one at Albany, and several others whose names I do not recollect. Mr. Barry was then with Prince, and until he went to Rochester, and, with Mr. Ellwanger, made a successful establishment, there was scarcely a single large nursery west of Albany. Then prices were remunerative. Sales were large to all the western states. With labor at seventy-five cents per day, cherry trees, now at $150, sold readily at $350 per thousand. Apples, now fifty dollars, sold for $250 per thousand. Everything else was in proportion. As time wore on, other nurseries were established through the country. The West and the South had each its own, and, until 1857, horticulture made steady progress. Country estates began to increase. The banks of the Hudson river, the towns around Boston, the environs of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and other cities were studded with country seats, the owners of which vied with each other in obtaining everything which was beautiful.
The sales of foreign grape vines showed the increase of glass culture of this fruit. Large Hamburgs, luscious Muscats, and the golden tinted Chasselas were common at our annual shows. Thus it continued until about 1858, when the middle men—the tree dealers—appeared. At first these were composed of ignorant men, who knew very little of plants, and who were remarkable only for their persistence. Subsequently, more intelligent men came into this businessmen who employed others under them to travel and solicit orders from every man who was supposed to be in condi. tion to buy a tree. Then the natural result came. These men, having no general knowledge of plants, no appreciation of the most valuable and the most beautiful, would recommend and would sell only those which could be found abundantly everywhere.
Purchasers would gladly save themselves trouble, and order of those who would deliver at their doors something which they were told was beautiful, and knowing no better would be satisfied with the result. Had any of these dealers obtained, at a first class nursery, the requisite knowledge, horticultural taste would have continued to grow. As it was, a decadence commenced, and when in 1860 I returned from a fifteen months' examination of the horticulture of Europe, I was most unfavorably impressed with the commercial prospects of tree and plant culture. I saw clearly, however, that a grape fever was approaching, and we prepared for it. The first venture was two hundred thousand Delawares, grown in frames, under glass. For this, steam irrigation was requisite. Our subsequent cultivation was eight hundred thousand per annum of all sorts. It was a very compact business. Ten thousand Delawares would go in a box four feet square, and shipped by express C. 0. D., would bring back $1,000 in a few days.
One incident may illustrate. A man entered our office, and asked whether we would take $4,000 of Government bonds for five thousand Ionas, which we were then selling at one dollar each.
We consented. His plants went in a box four feet square, and he paid over his bonds.
This, as we apprehended, continued only a few years. All over the country glass houses were put up to propagate grapes, and the plants eventually became so abundant that there was no sale. The result was disappointing to the grower of plants, but to the public there was a decided gain. The best Delaware and Iona grapes were retailed in the city markets at five cents per pound.
Then, too, came in the California grapes. When fine Tokays and Black Moroccos were retailed at the corners of the streets for thirty cents per pound, there was little demand for Black Hamburgs or Muscats from under glass. Thus all exotic grape culture at the East began to languish. All ornamental culture was already suffering, because the intelligent men who organized the bands of tree dealers did not realize the importance of knowledge of plants; and looking back through a vista of twenty-five years, I am compelled to admit, that during that time there has been a steady decadence of horticultural taste.
I do not forget what H. W. Sargent has done, and what H. H. Hunnewell, or C. S. Šargent, or P. Wetmore, or Charles A. Dana, or others whom I could name, are doing; but I think of the masses. The masses are dependent on the dealers, and the dealers, with some exceptions, do not value the finest horticultural products.
I do not forget, that with the numerous village residences, has been steadily growing among the millions a desire to plant something—a fondness for flowers. By a decadence of horticultural taste, I mean a falling off in desire for or knowledge of the choicest things.
During this period of twenty years, the steady advance of horticultural taste in England has been marked. Gentlemen there would vie with each other in obtaining every new plant of merit, and old established nurseries doubled or trebled in size.
In this country there has been a marked change in the intelligence and culture of nurserymen within twenty or thirty years; but there existed, twenty years ago, in England, a class of nurserymen, whose intelligence and culture had been marked for years. From the great battle-field of life, we gather up continually our memories of the dead, and two score years have not dimmed my recollection of the pleasant friends of those days, and the white marked hours which they gave me. On my brain there are two pictures upon which I like to think. One was that of a white haired man of eighty, sitting by his fireside in Surrey, on an English morning in November, receiving me with cordiality, and the reverent attention of his sons with affection, while from the window, the broad leaves of rhododendrons enlivened the landscape.
I scarcely knew which most to admire, the affectionate trust of the father or the affectionate reverence of the sons. The other picture is that of a man, also white baired, but still in full bodily and mental vigor. The mind and the body have just passed away, but the memory of Thomas Rivers must always remain as a type of what a nurseryman should always bea gentleman in thought and manners; of broad culture in things of the world; of special culture in things of his business; of enterprise in all things of which he felt assured; of quick apprehension of possibilities; selfreliant, rather than dependent upon others, and ready to see and to avail himself of the various manias which are always appearing in the horticultural world.
The letters of Thomas Rivers to me, during the war, were very interesting, and full of humor, with a ready appreciation of our national characteristics, and an equal readiness to ridicule our faults or to praise our merits. This frankness made him a pleasant correspondent, for he was equally willing to receive a Roland for his Oliver. I am glad to speak of him here, be. cause he was a type of a class which has made England what it is—the most charming horticultural development in the world.
This decadence in America, which seems to me so clear, is not owing to any want of nurseries, for there are now a hundred where formerly there was one. It is owing, as I have stated, partly to the dealer and partly to the purchaser. The dealer cannot justly be censured for making bis money in the easiest way; but if the purchaser really desired to buy jewelry at the price of hardware, he would make himself acquainted with the best kinds, or failing that acquaintance, would write to the grower who produces all, to send him only the best.
If the dealer could be made to see his true interest, he would realize that the sale of one beautiful and rare plant in any town or village, would bring a dozen or a hundred applicants for the same the next season, and establish his reputation as a good caterer to the public appetite. He would then settle himself down for some weeks, each year, near a large nursery, wbere all these nice things are grown, make himself thoroughly acquainted with them, and be able to describe trees, even to connoisseurs, as Gladstone talks Greek to the Greeks, with perfect freedom and comprehension. He would find, then, greatly increased profit, and horticulture be given a great impulse.
What is needed very much, is a national horticultural society. For a quarter of a century we have met every two years, to give our opinion upon fruits. We have starred, and double starred, and triple starred, and local. ized every name, until a child can make out a list of the best fruits for any locality, from the catalogue of the National Pomological Society.
We have catered to the palate of the nation, but have done nothing to feast its finer sense- _that of vision. Let us have a national horticultural society. Let there be frequent meetings and discussions, and let judicious comunittees aid its deliberations.
A catalogue, formed froin this interchange of opinion, would have great value, would influence public taste, would guide public opinion, and give an impulse to horticulture, which would be felt throughout the country. I know of no one body so eminently fitted to initiate this movement as the Pennsylvania Fruit Growers' Society.
From the soil which Bartram planted, and Cope, and Landreth, and Buist, and others watered, should spring the tree, under whose broad shadows our children and our children's children may find gladness and beauty. I hope that this meeting may not pass away, without taking some steps to establish, as a permanent institution, the National Horticultural Society.
We have thus far looked back with longing to the former days, and we have glanced at the discouragements of the present. Let us now look forward to a brighter future and think with pleasure of the
Possibilities of Horticulture. During a winter's residence in Paris in 1860, and thinking over what I had seen of the use of glass in England, I built one of those castles in the air which all of us at some time build. Mine was a veritable building in the air, for it was a plan to cover New York houses with glass instead of slate, and convert the top story into a green-house receiving all the waste heat of the house, and making a delightful resort for its inmates. I happened to show the details which I had worked up to John Bigelow, afterwards American Minister, who was then staying at the same house with me. He was then one of the editors of the Evening Post, and being pleased with the idea, gave it a place in his paper. Subsequently, the American Agriculturalist expanded the plan with excellent drawings, and I hoped to see its frequent adoption. Only two or three, however, have found courage to chrystalize the idea into form, and the plan still remains among the possibilities of horticulture, which, I feel assured, will one day become realities.
Nearly twenty years ago, while wandering over England, I came from behind a mass of evergreens upon the gold embroidered lawn of Elvaston Castle. The effect was beautiful beyond description. All around in sinnous folds lay what seemed the coils of an immense boa constrictor, but was a hollow hedge of English Yew. It formed a compact and dense mass close at the top and sides, rounded in its form, in the distance velvety of texture, and with small gothic windows occasionally in its sides. Being formed of two rows of trees, there was abundant room in the interior for a walk, lighted by the windows at the sides. In the middle of the space inclosed by this hedge, or rather covered walk, grew a large Araucaria imbricata, while around were grouped hooded seats like bonnets, and formed of closely trimmed English Yews. But the great charm and brilliancy was in the Golden Yews of every form. Tall round columns and low pedestals, vases and birds and crowns, footstools and carpets all formed of closely trimmed Golden Yews, were scattered in profusion, while in straight and sol. emn exterior rows, like sentinels, stood upright Irish Yews and Golden Yews, trimmed to the same pyramidal form. The whole scene was fairy like, and in the moist atmosphere of England, the Yew had the brightness of burnished gold. The same effect is produced here by its young growth in June, but it becomes duller in August under our hotter sun. Yet it is among plants, as gold among metals, or rubies among stones. A very similar effect, though less brilliant, may be obtained here by the Golden Retinospora from Japan, a plant which, for various uses, is one of the most valuable of the many introductions from that country. Hardy among the hardiest, it is a rapid and healthy grower, and retains its golden tint throughout the year. It can be trimmed into various shapes as fancy may suggest, and when closely trimmed, will make a hedge of great beauty.
Some of the yews transplanted to Elvaston grounds were six hundred years old. Some of these, with large Cedars of Lebanon, were brought forty miles by the ingenious machinery contrived by Mr. Barron, who was then in charge. The finest existing avenue of Picea Nobilis was thus formed there, and no cost was spared to make one hundred and thirty acres of kept gardens all that a cultivated taste could desire.
In looking at Elvaston grounds, one is forcibly convinced that there is no limit to the possibilities of horticulture.
Different in its character, but scarcely less beautiful, is Trentham, the seat of the Duke of Sutherland. Upon a charming lake bounded by masses of rhododendrons and azaleas, the grounds are ornamented in every style