The Landscape Guide

Life of John Claudius Loudon his wife

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Tour of France and Italy

He now seems to have determined on devoting his time principally to his pen; and he began to collect materials for the well-known Encyclopedia of Gardening. It is probable that the first idea of this work had occurred to him while he was traveling, from the great number of gardens he had seen, and the various modes of gardening that he had found practised in different countries. At any rate, he determined to commence his work with a history of gardening, and a description of the gardens of various countries; introducing illustrative drawings engraved on wood and printed with the text, this being, I believe, the first time any engravings, except mere outlines, had been printed in that manner. It was necessary, in order to complete his plan, that he should see the gardens of France and Italy, in the same manner as he had seen those of the North of Europe; and, for this purpose, he determined to set out on another tour, though his health was at that time so very indifferent, that one of his friends, who saw him at Dover, told him he looked more fit to keep his bed than to set out on a journey. Mr. Loudon, however, was not easily deterred from any thing that he had resolved upon, and he proceeded by way of Calais and Abbeville to Paris, where he arrived on the 30th of May, 1819. After seeing every thing deserving of notice in Paris, and becoming acquainted with many eminent men there, from the letters of introduction given to him by his kind friend Sir Joseph Banks, he left on the 10th of June for Lyons; in the Botanic Garden of which city he saw for the first time a living plant of the Vallisnèria, which had not then been introduced into England, and which be had Only seen in a dry state in the Hortus Siccus of Sir Joseph Banks. From Lyons he went to Avignon, and then he visited the celebrated fountain of Vaucluse. Afterwards he proceeded to Marseilles, and thence to Nice, from which city he sailed in a felucca for Genoa.

During the whole of his tour through France he visited the gardens every where, and made memoranda of every thing that he thought would be useful for his intended work. He also made sketches of all the principal places, as he had previously done in the North of Europe.

Before leaving Genoa he procured a collection of orange trees, which he sent to England for his greenhouse at Bayswater. He also saw, for the first time, slate boxes used for orange trees, in the garden of Signore di Negre, near Genoa. In this city, also, he first met with his friend Captain Mangles; and, joining him and Captain Irby, they traveled together along the shores of the Mediterranean, leaving Genoa on the 6th of July in a felucca for Leghorn, where they arrived on the 8th, and thence proceeded through Pisa to Florence. During the whole of this tour Mr. Loudon's Journal is entirely filled with descriptions of the gardens he visited, observations on the different modes of culture he saw practised, and various remarks on the habits of plants. One of the latter, which appears to me worth recording, is, that he found Saxifraga crassifolia killed by a very slight frost in Florence; though it will bear a considerable degree of cold in more northern climates. From Florence he went to Rome, and thence to Naples; after which he visited Pompeii and Herculaneum, returning through Rome to Florence on the 21st of August. In these cities he visited all that is generally considered worth seeing; and, of course, did not neglect his favourite gardens.

About this period he saw for the first time a specimen of the trick often practised by the Italian gardeners, which is called by the French Greffe des Charlatans This consists in taking the pith out of the trunk and branches of an orange tree, and dexterously introducing through these a rose tree, or any other plant which it is wished shall appear to have been grafted on the orange. Care is taken not to injure the roots of either; and, if put cautiously into the ground, both will produce leaves and flowers.

The next place he visited was Bologna, near which he passed a day or two with an Italian family who were enjoying the pleasures of the vintage. He then went through Ferrara to Venice; the first part of the road to which was bordered by hedges, in which were vines laden with grapes hanging from tree to tree. At Deux Ponts, he embarked in a boat, and found the canal nearly all the way to Venice full of beautiful aquatic plants, among which was the Vallisneria. He was very much struck with the imposing view that he first obtained of Venice, including the grand square of St. Mark, with its winged lion on a granite column. He also remarked the freshness and brilliancy of the paintings; and he noticed that the Post-office at Venice was built upon immense piles of logwood. The whole of the first night that he passed in Venice he was unable to sleep, from the number of persons that were singing in parties in the streets. The following morning he hired a gondola, and went through the city, with which he was exceedingly delighted; for, as he says, emphatically,' "It is impossible to know what Italian architecture and Italian paintings really are, without seeing those at Venice." Before leaving this splendid city, he procured a living plant of the Vallisnêria, which he placed in a little tin can containing water, and carried himself, when he was traveling, lest any harm should happen to it.

The next place he visited was Padua, where he saw the celebrated Botanic Garden. The road from this to Vicenza was bordered with hedges of Hibiscus syriacus. he had now entered upon the district where silk is chiefly produced, and found on each side of the road vast plantations of white mulberry trees. Thence he proceeded to Milan; after which he visited the splendid gardens of Monza, with which he was most exceedingly delighted. He found here square pots universally used for the plants in the greenhouses, in order to save room; and the tubs of the orange and lemon trees sunk in the ground, to keep the plants moist. he found the tuberoses most luxuriant, and scenting the air. The Botanic Garden at Milan is small but well filled. On leaving Milan he visited the Borromean Isles; but thought the beauty of Isola Bella somewhat exaggerated.

The little can containing the Vallisnèria had occasioned him a great deal of trouble during his journey through the North of Italy; and he found it still more difficult to take care of while he was crossing the Simplon into Switzerland, as he was obliged to perform the journey on a mule. However, to use his own expression, he nursed it as carefully as he would have done a child, and the Vallisnèria was in perfect health when he arrived at Geneva on the 13th of September, 1819. Here he visited the Botanic Garden, and formed an acquaintance with the hate Professor De Candolle. He afterwards visited Basle; saw the establishment of M. Fellenberg, and proceeded through Strasburg to Paris, where he only slept one night, and then set off for Belgium. The one night that he passed at Paris proved unfortunately fatal to the Vallisneria. The inn he went to happened to be crowded when he arrived, and he was placed in a very small bedroom, that was so hot and close he fancied his poor plant looked drooping. To revive it, he opened the window, and placed the tin can on the window-sill, taking great care to secure it that it might not fall. In the morning, however, though the tin can remained, the plant was gone; and he was never able to ascertain what had become of it, though he supposed it had been carried off by sparrows.

At Brussels he found the Botanic Garden in those days nothing; but he liked the park and the promenade on the ramparts, to which the Botanic Garden has since been removed. At Ghent, he was also much pleased with the Botanic Garden, and with the generally luxuriant appearance of the plants in the private gardens near the town. In Bruges and Ostend he found little to see; and he returned to Bayswater on the 9th of October.


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