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GARDENS AND FLOWERS.
Rolling this way, from Troy ruin,
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
GARDENS AND FAVOURITE FLOWERS.
"It does not appear," says a writer in "Innis' Telescope," "that either the Greeks or Romans indulged a taste for flowers; none at least that would imply their having gardens set apart for the culture of these pleasing objects; or that they ever endeavoured to improve their own wild and indigenous plants, or imported others from foreign countries. We can only consider the florid description of the garden of Alcinous as the effusion of poetry; and those of Cicero and Pliny were only vineyards with grottoes, alcoves, and arbours. It is not, in fact, above two centuries ago that our own gardens were probably, in point of taste, as well as of products, even inferior to those of the Greeks and Romans; and, for most of the embellishments we now possess of flower-beds, shrubberies, and conservatories, we are indebted to foreign countries.
"The nations among whom a taste for flowers was first discovered to prevail in modern times were China, Persia, and Turkey. The vegetable treasures of the eastern world were assembled at Constantinople, whence they passed into Italy, Germany, and Holland, and thence into England, and since botany has assumed the character of a science, we have laid the whole world under contribution for trees, shrubs, and flowers, which we have not only made our own, but generally improved in vigour and beauty. Nor can any nation on earth boast such an assemblage of various kinds of shrubs and flowers as may now be found in English gardens.
"Most countries have a predilection for some particular plants whilst all the rest are disregarded. In Turkey, for instance, the flowers which, after the rose, are principally
esteemed, are the ranunculus and the tulip, the latter of which grows wild in the Levant. This gaudy flower was first cultivated in Italy about the middle of the sixteenth century, under the name of Tulipa, obviously derived from tuliband, which, in the Turkish language, signifies a turban.
"It is well known that in Holland the tulip became, about the middle of the seventeenth century, the object of a trade unparalleled in the history of commercial speculation. From 1634 to 1637 all classes in all the great cities of Holland became infected with the tulipomania. A single root of a particular species, called the Viceroy, was exchanged in the true Dutch taste, for the following articles,-two lasts of wheat, four of rye, four fat oxen, three fat swine, twelve fat sheep, two hogsheads of wine, four tuns of beer, two tuns of butter, one thousand pound weight of cheese, a complete bed, a suit of clothes, and a silver beaker, the whole being worth 2500 florins.
"These tulips were afterwards sold according to the weight of the roots. Four hundred perits, something less than a grain, of the bulb called Admiral Leifken, cost 4400 florins; 446 perits of Admiral Vonder Eyk, 1620 florins; 106 perits of Schilder, 1615 florins; 200 perits of Semper Augustus, 5500 florins; 410 perits of the Viceroy, 3000 florins, &c. A bulb of the species called Semper Augustus, has been often sold for 2000 florins; and it once happened that there were only two bulbs in existence, the one at Amsterdam, the other at Haarlem. One of these sold for 4600 florins, together with a new carriage, two grey horses, and complete harness. On another occasion a bulb was sold for twelve acres of land; so great indeed was the rage for favourite bulbs, that they who had not ready money exchanged for them their goods, houses and lands, cattle and clothes. The trade was followed not alone by mercantile people, but also by the first noblemen, citizens of every description, mechanics, seamen, farmers, turf-diggers, chimney sweeps, footmen, maid-servants, old clothes dealers, &c.
"At the commencement of the rage everybody won and no one lost. Some of the poorest people gained in a few months, houses, coaches, and horses, and figured away like the first characters in the land. In every town some tavern was selected which served as a change, where high and low
traded in flowers, and confirmed their bargains with the most sumptuous entertainments. They formed laws for themselves, and had their notaries and clerks.
"These dealers in flowers were by no means desirous to get possession of them; no one thought of sending, much less of going himself to Constantinople to procure scarce roots, as many Europeans travel to Golconda and Visipour to obtain rare and precious stones. Tulips of all prices were in the market, and their roots were divided into small portions, known by the name of perits, in order that the poor as well as the rich might be admitted into the speculation; the tulip root itself was out of the question-it was a nonentity; but it furnished, like our funds, the subject of a bargain for a time.
"During the tulipomania, a speculator often offered and paid large sums for a root, which he never received and never wished to receive. Another sold roots which he never possessed or delivered. Often did a nobleman purchase from a chimney-sweep tulips to the amount of 2000 florins, and sell them at the same time to a farmer, and neither the nobleman, chimney-sweep, nor farmer, had roots in their possession, or wished to possess them. Before the tulip season was over, more roots were sold and purchased, bespoke, and promised to be delivered, than in all probability were to be found in the gardens of Holland; and when Semper Augustus was not to be had, which happened twice, no species was perhaps oftener purchased and sold. In the space of three years, as Munting tells us, more than ten millions were expended in this trade in one single town of Holland.
"The evil rose to such a pitch, that the states of Holland were under the necessity of interfering; the buyers took the alarm; the bubble, like the South Sea scheme, suddenly burst; and as, in the outset, all were winners, in the winding up, very few escaped without loss.”
Among the favourite flowers of the English horticulturists are the ranunculus, auricula, polyanthus, pricatus, camilla, dahlia, and rose. Of roses alone are grown upwards of 2000 varieties.
CHAPTER ON ROSES.
Of the early history of the rose, or who were its first cultivators, very little is known. Mention is made of it in the ancient Coptic manuscripts, though nothing concerning it can be distinguished, with any degree of certainty, on the Egyptian monuments. It is quite probable that the rose was planted in the celebrated gardens of Babylon, the formation of which is attributed to Semiramis, about 1200 years before the Christian era; and it also appears probable, from the testimony of travellers, that several kinds of roses passed over into Persia.
It is very certain that the rose was cultivated by the Jews during the reign of Solomon, about two centuries after Semiramis. In the Song of Solomon it is said, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys;" and in the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon, "Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they be withered."
It also appears by several passages of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, the author of which lived about 700 years after Solomon, that the Jews possessed beautiful gardens of roses, particularly at Jericho, "I was exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and as a rose-plant in Jericho;" xxiv. 14. "Hearken unto me, ye holy children, and bud forth as a rose growing by the brook of the field," xxxix. 13. "And as the flowers of roses in the spring of the year,' i. 8. These passages prove that the most fertile and beautiful portion of Palestine abounded in roses, palms, and cedars. They no longer, however, abound; for while "the cedars wave on Lebanon," and the solitary palm stands in its isolated beauty, the rose has entirely disappeared; and the the rose of Jericho, as it is called, is but a little plant of the family of Cruciferæ. The Greeks cultivated the rose at an early period, during the time of Homer, who lived about 200 O years after Solomon. In the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" the brilliant colours of the rose paint the rising of the sun, and Aurora has rose-tipped fingers and fills the air with the fragrance of roses. The rose was also consecrated to Harpocrates, the patron of silence, of which it was considered the symbol. Thus the expression "sub rosa" (under the rose) signified that all that was said should remain secret. It was the custom, in some of the northern countries, to suspend a rose over the table in the diningroom, to remind the guests that silence should be observed respecting all that might be said during the meal.
Anacreon, Bion, Theocritus, Apollodorus, and others, relate various fables respecting the origin and colour of the rose. A beetle is often represented on antique gems, as expiring, surrounded with roses; and this is supposed to be an emblem of luxurious enervation; the beetle being said to have such an antipathy to roses, that the smell of them will cause its death.
ROSES AND ROSE GARDENS.
From the earliest period, the Greeks gave to the rose the preference over all other plants, and distinguished it as the "Queen of Flowers." In the fragments which remain of Sappho, who lived about 600 years before the Christian era, this flower is placed in the highest rank.
The poets and writers of the East have abundantly celebrated in their works the beauties of the rose. According