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Art. V. On making Garden Besoms. By A. F. Seeing nothing, in any of your numerous works on gardening and rural economy, on the manufacture of an article the most essential to, and most generally used in, every well-kept garden, I have taken some pains to point out to you, and, through your Magazine, to my friends in the wide field of gardening, the manly use of besoms, and a very superior mode of manufacturing them. It is nothing of my own, nor is it, perhaps, new to some of your readers ; but certainly it is not known or practised by one in a hundred that have the greatest occasion to do so.
I need not tell you, or any other gentleman or gardener at all acquainted with rural affairs in this country, that besoms are made of birch, heather, or any other tough spray that can be most readily come at; but I must tell you that, when the birch is got in lengths of 3 ft. from the top, it is to be singled by tearing the strong forked branches asunder with the hands without any tool, and when this is done the besom-builders begin, two to forin the faggot, and one to bind; and, by the following contrivance, six score may be bound in an hour by one man.
A rope, of the strength and suppleness of window sash-cord, is to be attached to a beam in the roof of a shed, as in fig. 52., and it must be long enough to let one end reach the floor; this end is to be in a double of the cord for a man to put his foot into, like a stirrup. The faggot of birch, straight and the right size for the besom, is handed to this man, who puts his cord once round the birch, and, setting his foot in the stirrup, tightens the faggot in the place where the first tie from the tip is to be, and keeps it tight till he puts a tarred string twice round and ties it ; then, shifting his cord to the place where the other tie is wanted, tightens and ties that in like manner ; with such a thorough command of, and such an ability easily to compress, these otherwise unyielding materials, as cannot fail to please the workmen and profit the employer, who thus gets a day's tying done in an hour ; and, instead of making this trade an excuse for idling away wet days, the gardener
Fig. 52. Contrirance for may get a waggon-load of birch worked into besoms in
binding Birch Besoms. the course of a day, by half a dozen handy labourers.
Now for the wielding of the instrument after it is made ; and we shall take, as an example, the cleaning of a lawn after a morning's mowing. Every alternate swarth is to be raked with a common hay-rake, or other blunt. toothed rake, in such a way as to leave a breadth of two swarths for the long-handled besom. Along the centre of this cleared space, a man starts with a flattened besom on the end of a nine-foot handle, and sends all the that he meets with right and left, leaving these two swarths cleanly swept. A boy or a woman, with a short-handled besom, follows after, and sweeps ten yards of this ridge upward, and ten yards downward, thus leaving the lawn studded with heaps of grass 60 ft. apart one way, and 15 or 18 feet apart the other way. This is again basketed into the grass-cart by a man and a boy with a couple of boards and a besom. When this plan is followed all is regularity; the long-handled besom, doing the bulk of the brushing without ever having to touch a blade of grass twice over, is a manly straight-forward sweeper; for the person stands upright as a dart, and moves forward in a line, swinging his arms on even balance, furrowing the greensward, whilst the women and boys with their four-foot besoms lay it in heaps.
The handles of the besoms should be shod with iron in the form of an arrow head, and have a ferrule on the other end, to prevent the wood from giving way in the act of putting the heads of birch on the besom's tail; and, when
done in this manner, the same handle will last a life-time, and be softer and smoother for the hand than the rustic cudgels that besom-makers tail their faggots with, and sell to cockneys for garden brooms. Staffordshire, March, 1813.
ART. VI. The Squirrel. By CHARLES WATERTON, Esq. HORTICULTURE and zoology are contiguous provinces. Surely, then, no one in these days of liberality can find fault with Mr. Wighton for straying a little out of bounds. Let him not fear the apparition of a birch rod.
If squirrels injure the shoots of my spruce firs, which they are known to frequent, trivial indeed must be the damage, and quick the reparation by old Dame Nature, for the trees bear no marks of aggression.
Had the squirrel been wild, in the wild woods, at the time that Mr. Wighton saw it eat the birds, I should not hesitate to pronounce that individual squirrel to be carnivorous, because I believe that Mr. Wighton would only state what he conceived to be “correct.” Still, we must allow that there are exceptions to all rules. Don Quixote put Sancho Panza in mind that summer did not always set in with the appearance of the first swallow. Sir William Jardine shot a barn owl in the of hooting. Probably, neither the baronet, nor any body else, will ever perform a similar feat, for barn owls do not hoot.
I gather from Mr. Wighton's communication of January 3. [p. 117.], that his squirrel was in captivity when it partook of a carnal repast. This single fact at once precludes the possibility of the squirrel family being raised to the rank of carnivorous animals. The incarceration only of “a few days” might have injured the prisoner seriously, either in his nervous system, or in his gastric powers, or in his olfactory sensibilities. Now, a sudden derangement in all, or even in any one, of these component parts of a squirrel's frame, might have affected his health sufficiently to have induced him to try a change of larder; and, should this have been the case, I don't know a nicer morsel for the alterative system than a tender and a well-fed swallow. Under existing circumstances (loss of liberty, to wit), I am not at all astonished that Mr. Wighton's squirrel should dine on bird, raw or roasted we are not informed; even though the said squirrel were well supplied, on the same table, “with his favourite kind of food.”
I wish we knew more than we do of the carnivorous propensities, or the want of them, in certain animals. We might then be able to account tolerably well for many strange occurrences, which every now and then puzzle us so much, in the workings of zoo
logical gastronomy. So unaccountable, indeed, are sometimes the actions both of man and beast, not only in the eating department, but also in domestic arrangements, that we might really fancy the performers not to be quite right in their heads.
Whilst I am actually writing this, there are two geese on the lawn before me. One of them is a Canada goose, the other a barnacle gander. The latter is about half the size of the former. Notwithstanding this disparity, the old fool of a goose has taken the insignificant little fellow into connubial favour, although there are four and twenty others of the Canada species here, from which she has it fully in her power to make a more profitable choice. Singular to tell, this is the third year that these infatuated simpletons have paired, and the goose laid eggs, without any chance of a progeny.
And, in high quarters, sometimes unions take place, where the husband is ignorant of the language of his wife, and the wife of that of her husband.
How capricious, then, is the taste, not only of Mr. Wighton's captive squirrels, but also of geese, and eke of man himself! By only a few days!” loss of liberty, I have shown that Mr. Wighton's pretty squirrel preferred the flesh of birds to its own “ favourite kind of food."
My tom-cat, apparently an excellent mouser, will sometimes eat plentifully of dry biscuit, and turn up his nose at mutton chop. Sterne’s ass seemed to relish macaroon. Did all asses relish macaroon, we might doubt the fitness of the Spanish proverb, “La miel no es para la boca del asno :" Honey is not made for the mouth of the ass. Parrots in cages will pull off their own feathers, and eat them by the dozen. Blackbirds, although on very short allowance, caused by the frosty weather, would not touch their favourite ivy berries, which were thrown down in abundance for them in the garden of my friend, Mr. Loudon of Bayswater. I knew a healthy old owl who took her confinement so much to heart that she refused all kind of food, and died at last for want of it. And, when I was in the Mediterranean Sea, I saw a brute in the shape of man, swallow pieces of raw fowl (which he had torn asunder, feathers and all,) with as much avidity as Sir Robert Peel devours our incomes.
Should Mr. Wighton read this paper, he cannot fail to perceive that I have many serious obstacles to overcome, before I can arrive at the very important conclusion, that the family of squirrel is carnivorous in its own native haunts.
Walton Hall, March 8. 1843.
Art. VII. Arboricultural Notices.
DISBANKING Timber Trees to increase the Durability of the Timber is useful in the case of the resinous tribe, but injurious with trees that are non-resinous. This is the result of extensive experience in the South of France by M. Laure of Toulon. This gentleman has also found that the trunk of the white oak (Quercus pedunculata), disbarked when in full sap, has a power of reproducing the bark. Soon after disbarking, some drops of a fluid ooze out, which thickens and takes a green colour as soon as it comes in contact with the atmosphere; and this process of oozing out, thickening, and colouring, continues till the surface of the trunk, which had previously been laid bare as far as the soft wood, is covered with a rough granulated surface of a greyish colour without, and of a herbaceous green within. By degrees, a very thin pellicle is formed on the surface of this exuded matter, which ends in becoming the epidermis of a new bark ; and this bark, by the end of the first summer, becomes of sufficient thickness to admit of the descent of the sap from the branches to the base of the trunk. (Ann. d'Hort. Soc. de Paris, tom. xxxi. p. 17.) [We have known the same thing take place in the case of a pear tree, the trunk of which had been laid completely bare to the white wood all round, and for between 3 ft. and 4 ft. in length.]
Raising American Trees from Seed. --Mr. Charlwood's annual Catalogue of American Tree Seeds, just printed, is this year unusually rich in the genera Andrómeda, Juglans, Càrya, Magnòlia, Pinus, Rhododendron, and various others; and, as packets of these seeds may be sent by post to any part of the United Kingdom, there never was so fine an opportunity for provincial nurserymen and country gentlemen to enlarge their arboretums at little expense. We would recommend first procuring a catalogue from Mr. Charlwood, and next marking the species wanted, and returning it with an order at the rate of 1s. for every species marked. We mention this mode, because a gentleman with whom we have been conversing on the subject has complained to us that some of the kinds are sold only by the bushel, and that he only wants a few plants to extend his collection. — Cond.
Nuts with a bony Shell, such as those of the olive, holly, hawthorn, &c., which at present lie a year in the ground before they germinate, have been found to grow the first year when the nut is broken, provided the kernel is not injured. This has been effected in France, in the case of the olive, by the aid of a small press or a vice, with which, it is said, a female can break 2000 olive nuts in one day, without injuring the kernels. We doubt if this could be done so easily with the nuts of the holly or the hawthorn, but the suggestion is worth trying. (Annales d'Hort. de Paris, tom. xxxi. p. 15.)
Paulownia imperialis, in the Jardin des Plantes, showed flower-buds in the autumn of 1841, which stood the winter and came into flower on the 29th of April, 1842 ; thus proving the great hardiness of the tree when it can ripen its wood.
The flowers are of a fine blue, somewhat like those of Gloxinia caulescens, and they have an agreeable smell like those of Philadelphus. The Paulownia has been propagated to an amazing extent in France, so much so, that it is said already to have produced more money to commercial gardeners than any other plant known. The price has fallen from 5 guineas to 28. 6d. (Annales d'Hort. de Paris, tom, xxx. p. 406.)
Balsam Poplars. The following kinds are described by Dr. Fischer of St. Petersburg in the Garten Zeitung, vol. ix. p. 401., and also in the Botanical Register for March, 1843. We trust some nurseryman or private gentleman connected with St. Petersburg will endeavour to procure living plants of such of them as are not already in this country, or rather of the whole of them; for, though there are several of the names in Messrs. Loddiges's collection, yet the plants are too small to enable us to judge how far they answer Dr. Fischer's description. Should this meet the eye of Dr. Fischer, or of. any one else who possesses the whole collection, we beg to state that we shall feel greatly obliged by a plant or a cutting of each, for which we shall be glad to reciprocate.
Pópulus balsamífera L., P. tristis Fisch., P. longifolia Fisch., P. cándicans Hort. Kew., P. pseudo-balsamífera Fisch., P. laurifolia Ledebour, P. suaveolens Fisch.
Art. I. Catalogue of Works on Gardening, Agriculture, Botany,
Rural Architecture, &c., lately published, with some Account of
those considered the more interesting. A NARRATIVE of a Visit to the Australian Colonies. By James Backhouse. Illus
trated by three maps, fifteen etchings, and several wood-cuts. Svo, pp. 704. London and York, 1843.
Some of our readers may recollect an article on the indigenous esculents of Van Diemen's Land, in our Volume for 1835 p.338., by the author of the Narrative now before us. Mr. Backhouse was at that time in Australia, on a visit which occupied nearly six years, terminating with 1838. " It was undertaken, solely, for the purpose of discharging a religious duty. During its course, the writer kept a Journal, in which, having been trained to habits of observation, records were made, not only on religious subjects, but also on such as regarded the productions of the countries visited, the state of the aborigines, and the emigrant and prisoner population, &c.”
The work consists of 47 chapters, and 18 papers as an appendix, and it is illustrated by many very clever etchings, independently of large maps, and several wood-cuts. Every chapter is a personal relation of what took place with the author and his fellow-traveller, and recounts not only what relates to his “religious duty,” but what he observed as a naturalist, and more especially as a botanist. The two pursuits appear to have gone hand in hand, in the most natural manner; and it is impossible not to be deeply affected by the sincere piety of the author on the one hand, and on the other instructed by his observations on the animals, plants, and geological features, that fell in his way. Add to this the many incidents which befell him in a country under the peculiar circumstances of almost the only inhabitants being either aboriginal savages or convicts. In a word, Mr. Backhouse's Narrative is a singularly entertaining book, as much so as The Bible in Spain; but, though equally religious, yet quite in a different way.
In the appendix is an enlarged version of the paper already referred to, by which it appears that there is not a single plant indigenous to Australia worth cultivating for its fruit, or as a culinary vegetable, unless it be the common mushroom. Most of the European fruits and vegetables, however, thrive well. It will readily be conceived that in such a climate as Australia a green lawn cannot readily be obtained in the summer season; nevertheless we have a substitute for perpetual verdant herbage in a stemless evergreen Xanthorrhæ'a, or grass tree, which reminds us of a plant recommended by Duhamel for a similar purpose in the warmer parts of France, the ephedra (E. of Trees and Shrubs, p. 937.); while for dry sandy soils, both in France and England, M. Vilmorin recommends (Vol. for 1841, p. 199.) the Bromus pratensis.
We could extract many singular facts and entertaining passages from this work, but we prefer recommending the original. We intend, however, to return to it, and select a list of the plants mentioned, bringing together their habitats and such other particulars as fie scattered over the volume. We could wish, indeed, that this had been done by Mr. Backhouse himself, either in an appendix or in a botanical index.