Sunday, 4 January 2009

Monserrate 1890

Even in decay Montserrate was attractive ; and when in 1851 Sir Francis Cook purchased the estate on account of its horticultural capacity as well as on account of the beauty of the scenery, he recognized how much nature had done to give him a fit locality for his palace and his plants. When he took it, the slopes from the little plateau where the house stands were covered with orange groves and cornfields. The agricultural features were removed and tree-planting began. In a little more than thirty years the garden has been perfected. The climate and soil in that small territory vary almost as much as the latitudes, and furnish a genial home for the plants of the temperate belt and the tropics. The lawn, always well watered by irrigation and always green, slopes from the palace to the valley below, and while it is crowned with pines and chestnuts, nourishes the palm at its foot. The setting of the hillside picture is a sturdy cork-forest which reminds one of the weird woods in Dorè's fantastic landscapes. Beneath the trees the laurustinus, broom, scrub oak, ivy, periwinkle, Solomon's seal, and bracken flourish luxuriantly. The trees themselves are remarkable. As you stand on the terrace and turn your eye to the left a Thuja Lobbii over eighty feet high commands your attention, and behind this stand a tall Metrosideros robusta and a wide-spreading Eugenia latifolia of great height. Far down the slope stands a group of giant araucarias, overtopped, tall as they are, by the most luxuriant specimens of the eucalyptus. Along the brookside are callas, bamboos, the papyrus, and strelitzias in all their impressive beauty ; and in their midst a huge Cupressus macrocarpa spreads out like an ancient oak.
Along a path leading round a pretty waterfall is an immense variety of plants. There may be found great araucarias, and the Eryobotrya Japonica spreading its branches thirty-three yards in circuit. Descending the steps to the walk leading to the falls and going along the other side of the ravine may be seen the foliage of high palms, the finest collection in the world. Beneath the wall on the left are the Clianthus Puniceus, the Fuschia licacina, a rare and beautiful plant unknown to northern collections. The most prominent of the palms here are the Sabal umbraculifera, a tree six feet in circumference, and the immense Trachycarpus Fortunii, both fine specimens of these rare plants. 0n the right side is an Araucaria excelsa seventy feet high and eight feet in the circumference of the stem. At this point is a large reservoir for irrigation, covered with creepers and maidenhair ferns, while back of them a group of camellias show their gorgeous flowers, paths with ferns above and around lead up to the chief falls, and the Nile's White Lily adorns the banks of the stream. Lower down the stream the ferns increase and a fern-girt archway, surmounted by yuccas and aloes spans the path. Returning to the walk whence we diverged to see the valley of the tree-ferns, we cross the bridge and pass through an avenue of dicksonias to the ruined Chapel of Our Lady, which was removed from the site of the palace and is embowered in trees, ivy and roses, which cover its roof, while within reposes an ancient Etruscan sarcophagus. The view of the palace from this point up the lawn is very fine. Roses clamber over the trees in great profusion, and along the walls are trees and shrubs remarkable for grace and beauty.
This division of the garden is called "Mexico." Here you pass down the steps under an archway of Marèchal Niel roses, through groups of camellias, arcades of trees, with rhododendrons and agaves, banks of yuccas, Goa cypresses, and New Zealand dracænas. The brook discloses itself from time to time through a thick undergrowth of arbutus, heather, periwinkle, and foxglove. An arbor of laurels shelters you for a moment. Down the stream grow palms, New Zealand flax, bamboos, and fabianas. Passing groves of oranges and lemons the brook glides on and empties into the Varzea.
The south sloping lawn at the threshold of the Palacio is bounded by " Mexico," which is situated on a minor ridge, and sheltered at the west by a group of pine trees. Delicate palms, such as Phoenix retinata, Psychosperma Alexandra, Cocos plumosa and Weddeliana, the Houra Belmorana, the Rhopaloshylis, are planted here ; and you go thence directly into a dense growth of Yucca Parmentica and Agave Crimea, Mesembryanthemums and Gazanias fill up all the spaces. Aloes and yuccas abound in" Mexico," as well as date palms, and many tender plants seldom grown in the open air except in the tropics. Here we find Dracena Dracos, large cacti, Dasylarion acrotrichium, Opuntias echinium, Eucharis grandiflora, Dracaena Sheppardii, Bonapartea Funcea, Poinsettia pulcherrima, and Vresia glaucophyllas. The hillside above is covered with cedars, Eucalypti, and cork-trees.
I have given this elaborate list of plants, which ends here, hardly expecting it to be read. But I think they ought to be recorded ; and I am sure it will be as interesting to other horticulturists as it was to the English gardener who furnished it for public use.

From one English gardener to another, Thank you Mr. Burt. Too bad the author jumbled up all the botanic names!

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