The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
The Nursery Garden
The Nursery Garden.
Our note-book refers to a Nursery Garden in Brisbane, where the assemblage of varied plants, growing in the open air, is more diversified than at any other spot on the surface of the globe. Meandering through this Paradise of Acclimatisation, we branched off with a reverie on the plantation of little baby trees, in serried rows, ranging through the Gum, Pine, Oak, Elm, Palm, Sequoia, Redwood, Wellingtonia, and all the majestic kings of The Forest.
In a delicious summer day's ramble through the Gippsland woods, we nipped up one of the myriad of tiny stringy bark trees, and reflected on how we had thus spoilt a life which might have extended as far into the future as the execution of Charles I. is in the past. At Hatfield Park, the seat of the Marquis of Salisbury, we are shown several oak trees said to be a thousand years old, and the cedars of Lebanon bear their record of two thousand.
Our Gippsland jaunt extended over a bush fire area, where all round, as far as the eye could reach, the forest was a tree-cemetery of great blackened trunks, prone, upright, or leaning on each other's shoulders, a realisation of what we once saw in a theatrical spectacle called the "Cataract of the Ganges, or the Burning Wood of Himalaya." The ground was almost foot-deep in ashes and cinder, steamy after rain. But this sight was not so painful as another in which we wandered, a large forest of fine trees all bleached as white as skeletons. It suggested Dante's grim Inferno.
We have been much impressed by engravings in Harper's Weekly, showing the fruits of destruction in the American forests. The finest speech Sir Julius Vogel ever made was that in which he introduced the New Zealand Forest bill. In Victoria, the page 6 devastation has been frightful, especially in saplings for mining purposes.
Yet there is another side of the picture. The last bush fires in Michigan were worse than any known in Australia. They denuded vast areas of trees. But it is said that the earth will be so fertilised, by the thick showers of ashes, as to yield a magnificent agricultural country, excelling Nebraska and Arizona.
We have heard Mr. Fitzgibbon, the Melbourne Town Clerk, recall how he rode with Governor Latrobe over Royal Park, as chalked out, and Latrobe dilated on his generous provision of lungs for the city, in Royal Park, Fitzroy Gardens, Carlton Gardens, the Botanical, and Studley Park. But how Royal Park has been mangled with the abortive Model Farm, the abandoned Industrial School's workhouse, or rather Gaol, the railway, and the villa frontages. Even the Zoo is an infringement. What we love is the ample sylvan Park, the Walmer, Longleat, Kinross, or Lus-combe, of dreamy British reminiscence. Mr. Fitzgibbon in his praiseworthy antagonism to the villa Runemups, has shown how the London Corporation had to buy hack Epping Forest. Even the dog of the poor Cit feels that he must have a bite at grass sometimes.
Let us heartily congratulate Mr Guilfoyle on his triumph at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, with their quartette of refreshing lawns, the velvety grass kept green all the summer. Amid suburban greenery we find Review pabulum as abundant as hay under the sharp and flashing knives of the chaff-cutting machine. Mr. Hodgkinson, too, is splendidly vindicated in the Fitzroy Gardens, where the superabundant foreign trees are so picturesquely varied by the slashed flower-beds, in the grass, of bright scarlet geraniums and white carnations. Observe, also, how Carlton Gardens have become a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Since the Exhibition was built there, a wilderness of kerosene tins, brickbats, and bottle-ends has been magically transformed into a luscious garden.
Years ago Baron Von Mueller took us over the hill of the Prince's Bridge Reserve, and proudly displayed the 1600 young pine-trees he had planted, as a forest in which young and old Melbourne would recreate in the Twentieth Century. Alas! they were torn up. Government House, that compound of Osborne Palace, and a railway locomotive now occupies the site. Nevertheless the Baron was wise.
One's imagination is fed vividly by the al fresco fetes so popular at the mansions of the wealthy around Melbourne. We conceived our romance of "Semiramis," with its magnificent festival by night in the illuminated Hanging Gardens of Babylon, from Sir Thomas Merino's ball at Toorak, where the thrum, rasp, and page 7 tootle of the band, in view of the lights of Melbourne, wreathed witchery round the garden, hung with Chinese lanterns, as the shadows of the dancers flitted on the canvas of the marquee, and the carriages came crushing up the gravel.