The second means is by what the nurserymen may do.
We are very well aware that the first thought which will cross the mind of a selfish and narrow-minded nurseryman (if any such read the foregoing paragraph) is that such a course of gratuitous distribution of good plants, on the part of private persons, will speedily ruin his business. But he was never more greatly mistaken, as both observation and reason will convince him. Who are the nurseryman's best customers? That class of men who have long owned a garden, whether it be half a rood or many acres, who have never planted trees or, if any, have but those not worth planting? Not at all. His best customers are those who have formed a taste for trees by planting them, and who, having got a taste for improving, are seldom idle in the matter and keep pretty regular accounts with the dealers in trees. If you cannot get a person who thinks he has but little time or taste for improving his place to buy trees, and he will accept a plant, or a fruit-tree, or a shade tree, now and then from a neighbor whom he knows to be "curious in such things," — by all means, we say to the nurseryman, encourage him to plant at any rate and all rates.
If that man's tree turns out to his satisfaction he is an amateur, one only beginning to pick the shell, to be sure, but an amateur full fledged by-and-by. If he once gets a taste for gardening downright — if the flavor of his own rareripes touch his palate but once, as something quite different from what he has always, like a contented, ignorant donkey, bought in the market — if his Malmaison rose, radiant with the sentiment of the best of French women, and the loveliness of intrinsic bud-beauty once touches his hitherto dull eyes, so that the scales of his blindness to the fact that one rose differs from another, fall off for ever — then we say, thereafter he is one of the nurseryman's best customers. Begging is both too slow and too dependent a position for him and his garden soon fdls up by ransacking the nurseryman's catalogues, and it is more likely to be swamped by the myriad of things which he would think very much alike (if he had not bought them by different appellations), than by any empty spaces waiting for the liberality of more enterprising cultivators.
And thus, if the nurseryman can satisfy himself with our reasoning that he ought not object to the amateur's becoming a gratuitous distributor of certain plants, we would persuade him for much the same reason, to follow the example himself. No person can propagate a tree or plant with so little cost and so much ease as one whose business it is to do so. And we may add, no one is more likely to know the really desirable varieties of trees or plants than he is. No one so well knows as himself that the newest things — most zealously sought after at high prices — are by no means those which will give the most permanent satisfaction in a family garden. And accordingly it is almost always the older and well-tried standard trees and plants, those that the nurseryman can best afford to spare, those that he can grow most cheaply, that he would best serve the diffusion of popular taste by distributing gratis. We think it would be best for all parties if the variety were very limited, and we doubt whether the distribution of two valuable hardy trees or climbers for five years, or till they became so common all over the surroundings as to make a distinct feature of embellishment, would not be more serviceable than disseminating a larger number of species. It may appear to some of our commercial readers an odd recommendation to urge them to give away precisely that which it is their business to sell, but we are not talking at random when we say most confidently that such a course, steadily pursued by amateurs and nurserymen throughout the country for ten years, would increase the taste for planting and the demand for trees five hundred fold.*
The third means is by what the horticultural societies may do.
We believe there are now about forty horticultural societies in North America. Hitherto they have contented themselves year after year with giving pretty much the same old schedule of premiums for the best cherries, cabbages, and carnations, all over the country, till the stimulus begins to wear out, somewhat like the effects of opium or tobacco, on confirmed habitues. Let them adopt our scheme of popularizing the taste for horticulture by giving premiums of certain select small assortments of standard fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, and vines (purchased by the society of the nurserymen) to the cultivators of such small gardens, suburban door-yards, or cottage inclosures, within a distance of ten miles round, as the inspecting committee shall decide to be best worthy, by their air of neatness, order, and attention, of such premiums. In this way the valuable plants will fall into the right hands, the vendor of trees and plants will be directly the gainer, and the stimulus given to cottage gardens and the spread of the popular taste will be immediate and decided.
* Record should be made of the very great influence for good exercised by the nurserymen of America during the past 100 years, not only in the particular manner recommended by Mr. Downing, but in many other ways. It need not go unremembered in this connection that Mr. Downing himself was first of all a nurseryman. — F. A. W.
"Tall oaks from little acorns grow" is a remarkably trite aphorism, but one the truth of which no one who knows the aptitude of our people or our intrinsic love of refinement and elegance will underrate or gainsay. If, by such simple means as we have here pointed out, our great farm on this side of the Atlantic, with the water-privilege of both oceans, could be made to wear a little less the air of Canada-thistle-dom, and show a little more sign of blossoming like the rose, we should look upon it as a step so much nearer the millennium. In Saxony the traveller beholds with no less surprise and delight on the road between Wiessenfels and Halle quantities of the most beautiful and rare shrubs and flowers growing along the foot-paths and by the sides of the hedges which line the public promenades. The custom prevails there among private individuals who have beautiful gardens of annually planting some of their surplus material along these public promenades for the enjoyment of those who have no gardens. And the custom is met in the same beautiful spirit by the people at large, for in the main, those embellishments that turn the highway into pleasure grounds are respected and grow and bloom as if within the inclosures.
Does not this argue a civilization among these "downtrodden nations" of central Europe, that would not be unwelcome in this, our land of equal rights and free schools?