Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Kellscraft Studio Logo


Tea-plants, &c., taken to Hong-kong — Shipped for India — I sail again for the north — Shanghae gardens in spring — "South Garden" — Double-striped peach and other plants — Moutan gardens — Fine new varieties of the tree-pæony — Chinese method of propagating them — Mode of sending them to Canton — Value there — Introduction to Europe — Size in England — Azalea gardens — Skimmia Reevesiana — New Azaleas — The "Kwei-wha" — The Glycine — Its native hills — Chinese mode of training it — The yellow Camellia.

IN the month of August the weather was excessively hot. As exposure to the sun at this time of the year is attended with great danger, and as I had some hard work before me in the autumn, I did not wish to run the risk of being laid up with fever. I therefore remained quietly under Mr. Beale's hospitable roof until the end of September.

In October and November I procured a large supply of tea-seeds and young plants from Hwuy-chow, and from various parts of the province of Chekiang. These were all brought to Shanghae in order to be prepared and packed for the long voyage to India. When they were all gathered together into Mr. Beale's garden they formed a collection of great interest. Here were tea-plants, not only from Silver Island, Chusan, and the districts about Ning-po, but also from the far-famed countries of Sung-lo-shan and the Woo-e hills. A number of Ward's glazed cases were now got ready for the reception of the plants, and the whole of them were taken down to Hong-kong under my own care. They were then divided and sent on to Calcutta by four different vessels, in case of accident.

As soon as I had got all the plants put on board I left Hong-kong again for the north. My object now was to engage some first-rate tea manufacturers for the Indian plantations, to procure a supply of the implements used in the best districts for the manufacture of tea, and to get together another large collection of tea-plants.

I reached Shanghae in the month of April, 1850. The winter had passed away, and spring was just commencing. Trees and shrubs were bursting into leaf and flower, birds were singing gaily in every bush, and all nature was teeming with life and joy.

Taking advantage of the fine weather and a few days of leisure I determined to make a tour of the gardens near Shanghae, some of which are of considerable interest.

The first I visited is about two miles from the south-west corner of the city, and is now well known to the foreign residents as the "South Garden." It was one of those in which I had found many new plants on my first visit to China.

This little garden covers about an acre of land, and is surrounded, like many of these places, by a ditch, which is connected with canals through which the tide ebbs and flows. On entering the gate, the first object which one notices is the gardener's house. It is a rude building of one story, and contains the old couple, two sons with their wives, and a large number of young children. The Chinese in the country always live in little colonies of this description. When a son marries, the wife is brought home, and a portion of the building is set apart for their use. Here they live together in the most harmonious manner, and the grandchildren, when they grow up and marry, occupy a part of the same buildings, rarely leaving the place of their birth.

"Ah, you have come back!" "Are you well?" "How did the plants get home?" "Were they much admired in England?" were the questions which were rapidly put to me by the old nurseryman and his sons; at the same time they brought a chair, and asked me to sit down under the awning of the cottage. I told them that most of the plants had arrived safely in England, that they had been greatly admired, and that the beautiful Weigela had even attracted the notice of her Majesty the Queen. All these statements, more particularly the last, seemed to give them great pleasure; and they have doubtless fancied the Weigela of more value ever since.

This garden contains many of the beautiful plants introduced by the Horticultural Society of London from 1843 to 1846. Amongst some pots at the entrance there were fine plants of the now well-known Wigela, the pretty Indigofera decora, Forsythia viridissima, and a fine white variety of Wistaria sinensis. Round the sides of the ditch were many magnificent specimens of Edgeworthia chrysantha, and Gardenia florida Fortuniana, growing in the open ground. Some of the Gardenias were 4 feet high and 15 feet in circumference. When covered with its large camellia-looking blossoms it is extremely handsome, and at all times forms a pretty evergreen bush. In a bed in the middle of the garden the white variety of Platycodon grandiflorus was in full bloom, and near it another bed of Dielytra spectabilis. Both these looked very handsome, particularly the latter; its large purse-like blooms of a clear red colour, tipped with white, and hanging down gracefully from a curved spike, and its moutan-like leaves, render it a most interesting plant, and one which will become a great favourite in English gardens. Several kinds of roses were growing in pots, and amongst them the new yellow, or salmon-coloured, introduced by the Horticultural Society. This rose deserves more notice at home than it has yet had; doubtless it will be more thought of when it is better known and properly treated. It should be planted out at the foot of a wall with a southern or western aspect, and allowed to scramble over it. It grows rapidly; the flowers are of a striking colour, and are produced in great profusion. Fine plants of Viburnum plicatum, and V. macrocephalum, were also noticed, both in pots and also in the open ground.

I also observed some young plants of the interesting palm-tree (Chamærops (?) excelsa) which I have already noticed in the earlier pages of this work. It is perfectly hardy about Shanghae, and thrives there unprotected throughout the severest winters. There were other palms, but this was the only one that seemed hardy.

Here were also some beautiful peach-trees with double flowers. Two of these have been already described by Dr. Lindley in the 'Journal of the Horticultural Society,' and named the "double white" and "double crimson" peaches. But, fine as these undoubtedly are, there is a third far more beautiful and striking than either of them. This produces large double white flowers, which are striped with red or crimson lines like a carnation. A tree of this variety in full bloom is one of the most beautiful objects that can be imagined. Sometimes the branches "sport," and produce self-coloured flowers — the colours being, in this case, either white or crimson. This fine tree is now safely in England, and in a few years it may be expected to produce a marked effect in our gardens early in spring.

These double peach-trees seem to be particularly well adapted for forcing, as they form their flower-buds fully in autumn, and are ready to burst into bloom with the first warm days in spring. A little artificial heat, therefore, will bring them into full flower about the new year, or any time from that period up to March.

As spring flowers they are highly prized by the Chinese. Itinerant gardeners carry them about the streets for sale in the northern Chinese towns. The flower-buds are then just beginning to expand; the buyer puts them into pots, gives them a little water, and places them in his window or sitting-room. In a day or two the buds burst, and the little tree is one mass of bloom. In this state all the three varieties are very beautiful, but I think the carnation-striped one is the handsomest of them all.

In the centre of the South Garden there is the family tomb — a large mound of earth covered with many pretty flowers. Here the old man's forefathers for many generations lie buried, and here he will sleep among the flowers he loved in his lifetime. This garden contains a good assortment of shrubs and trees which have been longer known than those I have enumerated. There are some beds of Reeves' Spiræa (S. Reevesiana), a beautiful shrub; the Chinese juniper, Hibiscus syriacus, Wistaria sinensis, Lagerstrœmias, plums, and the favourite la-mae (Chimonanthus), with which Chinese ladies decorate their hair.

I had now made the circuit of the garden, and came to the little wooden bridge by which I entered, and to the gardener's house. Having rested there, I walked on to the Moutan Gardens. They are situated about five or six miles west of Shanghae, and in the midst of an extensive cotton country. On the road I met a number of coolies, each carrying two baskets filled with moutans (tree-pæonies) in full flower, which were being taken to the markets for sale. When I reached the gardens I found many of the plants in full bloom, and certainly extremely handsome. The purple and lilac-coloured kinds were particularly striking. One, a very dwarf kind, and apparently a distinct species, had finely cut leaves, and flowers of a dark velvety purple, like the Tuscany rose of our gardens. This the Chinese call the "black" moutan, and I believe it is the same which Dr. Lindley has described in the Journal of the Horticultural Society, and named Pæonia atrosanguinea. Another kind, called the "tse," or purple, has double flowers of a large size; this is probably the variety reported to have 1000 petals, and which is said to exist only in the garden of the emperor. The third is called the "lan," or blue; this is a lilac variety, with flowers of the colour of Wistaria sinensis. There are others of various shades of purple, perfectly distinct from these, and equally fine.

The double whites are also numerous and handsome. The largest of these Dr. Lindley has named P. globosa, but there are four or five others nearly as large and double. Some of them have a slight lilac tinge, which gives a richness to the colour. The most expensive is one called "wang," or yellow, by the Chinese: it is a straw-coloured variety, rather pretty, but not so handsome as some of the others.

The reds (hong) are also numerous. Curiously enough, those kinds which are common in Canton and England are rare here. There are about half-a-dozen new varieties of reds in these gardens: one of them, called "Van-yang-hong," is the finest flower I ever saw. The flowers are of a clear red colour, unlike any of the others, perfectly double, and each measures 10 inches across. Altogether I numbered about thirty distinct varieties in these gardens.

Nearly all these fine varieties of the moutan are quite unknown in Canton. This may seem strange in a country where the people are proverbially fond of flowers, but the Chinese are so machine-like in all their movements, that after a little acquaintance with them we cease to wonder at the apparent anomaly. The fact is, the Canton gardens are supplied with moutans by another district, which lies much further to the west than Shanghae. From time immemorial the same gardens have supplied these flowers; they came always by the same road and at the same time of the year. Shanghae, until the close of the last war, never seems to have had any connection with Canton in so far as flowers were concerned, consequently these fine varieties of the tree-pæony never found their way to the south and from thence to Europe.

The moutan gardens are numerous, but each is upon a very small scale. They look more like cottage gardens than anything else, and are managed in the same way as gardens of this description generally are, namely, by the members of the family. The female part of the community seem to take as much interest in the business as the males, and are very avaricious and fond of money. I invariably found that I had to pay a higher price for a plant when they were consulted on the matter. The soil of these gardens is a rich loam, well manured, and thus rendered lighter in texture than that of the surrounding country in which the cotton grows.

The propagation and management of the moutan seem to be much better understood at Shanghae than in England. Our nurserymen always complain that they cannot propagate it with facility, and consequently this fine flower is invariably high in price. The Chinese method is as follows: —

In the beginning of October large quantities of the roots of a herbaceous pæony are seen heaped up in sheds and other outhouses, and are intended to be used as stocks for the moutan. The bundle of tubers which forms the root is pulled to pieces, and each of the finger-like rootlets forms a stock upon which the moutan is destined to be grafted. Having thrown a large number of these rootlets upon the potting bench, the scions are then brought from the plants which it is desirable to increase. Each scion used is not more than 1 ½ inch or 2 inches in length, and is the point of a shoot formed during the bygone summer. Its base is cut in the form of a wedge, and inserted in the crown of the finger-like tuber. This is tied up or clayed round in the usual way, and the operation is completed. When a large number of plants have been prepared in this manner they are taken to the nursery, where they are planted in rows about a foot and a half apart, with the same distance between the rows. In planting, the bud or point of the scion is the only part which is left above ground; the point between the stock and scion, where the union is destined to take place, is always buried beneath the surface. Kæmpfer states that the Chinese propagate the moutan by budding; but this must be a mistake, as budding is never practised in the country, and is not understood. He was probably deceived by the small portion of scion which is employed, and which generally has only a single bud at its apex.

Many thousands of plants are grafted in this manner every autumn, and the few vacant spaces which one sees in the rows attest the success which attends the system; indeed it is rare that a graft fails to grow. In about a fortnight the union between the root and the scion is complete, and in the following spring the plants are well-established and strong. They frequently bloom the first spring, and rarely later than the second, when they are dug up and taken to the markets for sale. When each has only one stem and one flower-bud, it is of more value in the eyes of the Shanghae nurseryman than when it becomes larger. In this state it is more saleable; it produces a very large flower, and is easily dug up and carried to the market. I could always buy moderately large plants at a cheaper rate than small ones, owing to these circumstances.

In the gardens of the mandarins the tree-pæony frequently attains a great size. There was one plant near Shanghae which produced between 300 and 400 blooms every year. The proprietor was as careful of it as the tulip fancier is of his bed of tulips. When in bloom it was carefully shaded from the bright rays of the sun by a canvas awning, and a seat was placed in front on which the visitor could sit down and enjoy the sight of its gorgeous flowers. On this seat the old gentleman himself used to sit for hours every day, smoking pipe after pipe of tobacco, and drinking cup after cup of tea, while all the time he was gazing on the beauties of his favourite "Moutan-whe." It was certainly a noble plant, and well worthy of the old man's admiration.

The tree-pæony is found wild on the mountains of the central provinces of China, and is cultivated as a garden-plant in all parts of the empire. It is called the Mou-tan-wha, or Moutan flower, by the natives, and hence botanists in Europe, retaining the Chinese name for the species, call it Pæonia moutan. It was first seen by Europeans in the gardens about Canton, but it is not indigenous to that part of China. The Canton gardeners carry on a large trade with the moutan growers, who bring the plants yearly in boats from the provinces of Hoo-nan and the western parts of Kiang-nan, a distance of at least one thousand miles. This takes place in the winter months when the plants are leafless and in a state of rest. The roots are packed in baskets, and have scarcely any soil adhering to them; in this simple manner they are distributed over all the empire without suffering any injury. On their arrival in the south they are immediately potted by the purchasers, and, owing to the difference in the temperature, soon come into bloom. In the winter months snow is rarely seen on the hills about Canton or Hong-kong, and oftentimes the weather is very warm. The change, therefore, acts upon the plants like a forcing-house, and soon brings the leaves and flowers to maturity. As soon as the flower-buds are fairly formed, the plants are eagerly bought up by the natives to ornament their balconies, halls, and gardens. The price of each plant depends not upon its size or strength, but upon the number of flower-buds which it has upon it. The first thing the Canton nurseryman does, when asked the price of a moutan, is to count the number of flowers which it is likely to produce; if it has only one bud, it may be worth a quarter of a dollar; if two, half a dollar, and so on. This is reasonable enough, when the circumstances of the case are considered. The moutan, when brought down into the hot climate of the south, will not thrive for any length of time. Being strong and vigorous when received, it blooms well the first year, but, being deprived of its natural period of rest — that is, a cold winter — it gets out of health, and, although it may continue to exist, is ever afterwards quite worthless as an ornamental flower. The southern Chinese, therefore, never attempt to preserve it after it has once bloomed, and hence the value of the plant to them depends entirely upon the manner in which it blooms during the first year after being brought away from its native climate. This circumstance keeps up the constant yearly trade between the moutan country and Canton.

According to Loudon, the first plant of the tree-pæony reached Europe in 1787. In the 'Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicum' we find the following notice of it from the pen of that indefatigable author: — "From Chinese drawings, and from the extravagant praises bestowed upon this plant in the 'Mémoires sur la Chine,' published by the missionaries, an ardent desire was excited, in Sir Joseph Banks and others, to import plants into England; and, previously to 1786, Sir Joseph Banks engaged Mr. Duncan, a medical gentleman attached to the East India Company's service, to procure a plant for the Royal Garden at Kew, where it was first received, through Mr. Duncan's exertions, in 1787.

"One of the largest tree-pæonies within ten miles of London stood, till lately, in the grounds at Spring Grove, where it was planted by Sir Joseph Banks. It was 6 feet or 8 feet high, and formed a bush 8 feet or 10 feet in diameter, in 1825. South of London there are equally large plants at Rook's Nest, near Godstone, Surrey, which were planted in 1818. North of London the largest plant in the country is at the seat of Sir Abraham Hume, at Wormleybury, in Hertfordshire. It is 7 feet high, and forms a bush 14 feet in diameter, after having been planted thirty years. It stands the winter, in general, very well, but, if the flower-buds swell too early in February, it becomes advisable to cover the plant slightly with a mat. In the year 1835 this plant perfected 320 flowers; but it has been known to bear three times that number. In most parts of Scotland the tree-pæony will grow without protection, and near the seacoast nearly as well as in England. The largest plants are at Hopeton House and in Dalkeith Park. In Ireland the plant attains a large size with little or no protection, as will appear by the notice of one 12 feet high at Lord Ferrand's."

A few days after visiting the moutan district I went to see the azalea gardens, which are equally interesting. About five miles from the city there are two nurseries, each of which contains an extensive and valuable collection. They are usually known as the Pou-shan Gardens, and are often visited by the foreign residents in Shanghae.

My road led me through a country which is perfectly level and in a high state of cultivation. The deciduous trees were covered with fresh green leaves, as yet uninjured by the attacks of insects; wheat and barley were in the ear, and the air was scented with the field-bean, which was now in full bloom. Clumps of trees were dotted over the country, generally divided pretty distinctly into two kinds — deciduous and evergreen. The deciduous clumps marked the spots where the villages and farm-houses were situated; the evergreens, consisting chiefly of cypress and juniper trees, were growing about the tombs of the dead.

Little more than an hour's walk brought me to the garden I had come to visit. There were no external marks, such as a name or signboard, to direct the stranger to the garden; indeed, a person unacquainted with the customs of the Chinese would never have dreamed of finding such a beautiful place as this in a poor country village. Going up a narrow passage between two houses, I reached the residence of the nurseryman. He received me with great politeness, asked me to sit down in his house, and called to one of his sons to bring me a cup of tea. Having drunk the refreshing beverage, I walked out with him to inspect his garden.

In the front of the house three or four flat stages were covered with Japanese plants, of which the old man had a good collection. A small species of pinus was much prized, and, when dwarfed in the manner of the Chinese, fetched a very high price; it is generally grafted on a variety of the stone pine. The Azalea obtusa, and some varieties of it with semi-double flowers, were in full flower, and are highly prized by the Chinese. The colour of this species is much more brilliant and dazzling in China than I have ever seen it in England. A beautiful variety, quite new, had small semi-double pink flowers, which it produced in great profusion. This will be a great favourite in England when its merits are known. Its novel colour, small leaves, and neat habit will render it most desirable for bouquets and for decorative purposes. I have named it Azalea amœna, and it is now in England.

On the same stage with this Azalea I observed a fine new shrub, which I mistook for a holly. It turned out to be a species of Skimmia, and I observe that Dr. Lindley has described it as Skimmia japonica. It is however quite a different plant from that known by the name in the gardens of this country, and I propose to call it Skimmia Reevesiana.1 It produces a profusion of whitish flowers, deliciously scented, and afterwards becomes covered with bunches of red berries like our common holly. Its glossy evergreen leaves and neat habit add greatly to its beauty, and will make it a general favourite when it becomes better known. The Chinese call this the Wang-shan-kwei, and it is said to have been discovered on Wang-shan, a celebrated mountain in the district of Hwuy-chow.

After looking over the plants upon the stage, I passed on to the main portion of the nursery, which is situated behind the house. Here a beautiful sight was presented to the eye. Two large masses of Azaleas, arranged on each side of a small walk, were covered with flowers of the most dazzling brightness and beauty. Nor were they common kinds. Generally they belonged to the same section as A. indica (the varieties of A. variegata do not flower so early), but the species so common in Canton and the south were comparatively rare here. A most beautiful kind, having the habit of A. indica and half deciduous, had its flowers striped with pale blue or lilac lines, and sometimes blotches of the same colour upon a white ground. Not unfrequently it "sports" like the double-blossomed peach already described, and then, in addition to its carnation-striped flowers, has some self-coloured purple ones on the same plant. This species has been named Azalea vittata.

Another species allied to this, which I have named A. Bealei, had red stripes, and a third was mottled and striped in its flowers, the colours being still the same. These are all quite new, and they flower early in the season, fully three weeks or a month before that section to which A. variegata belongs. A red variety, which flowers later, is particularly worthy of notice. Its habit is different from any known species; its leaves are dark green, shining, and evergreen; and its flowers are of a deep clear red, and very large. Each flower measures from three to four inches in diameter. It is said to be a Japanese species. Specimens of all these fine plants are now to be found in English gardens.

Passing over a little wooden bridge, I entered the third compartment of the nursery, which contained a collection of the common shrubs of the country. Along the banks of a ditch, through which the tide ebbs and flows, there is a row of the Olea fragrans. This is the famous Kwei-wha of the Chinese, and one of their most favourite flowers. It forms a good-sized bush, about as large as a lilac, and flowers in the autumn. There are three or four varieties, the main difference between them consisting in the colour of their blossoms. Those kinds which produce brownish-yellow flowers are the finest and are most highly esteemed by the natives. The bushes are seen growing near all the villages in the north-eastern provinces of the empire, and are plentiful in gardens and nurseries. When they are in flower in the autumnal months, the air in their vicinity is literally loaded with the most delicious perfume. One tree is enough to scent a whole garden.

In England we know nothing of the beauty of this charming plant. But there is no other amongst all the beautiful productions of the East which more deserves our care, or that would more richly reward it. And I am quite sure that English gardeners have only to take the subject in hand to ensure the most complete success. Look at Camellias, Azaleas, Gardenias, and a host of other things, all natives of China, and most of them much better grown, and brought to a greater state of perfection in England than amongst the Chinese themselves. And why should one of the most delightful plants of China be so neglected? All that is required is a span-roofed conservatory, where the bushes can be planted out in the bed, and liberally supplied with fresh air. During the summer months, when they are growing, they must be kept warm and moist, in order that the young wood may be well matured. In the autumn let them be kept rather dry, and give the house little or no artificial heat during winter. The plants will thus be subjected to a system of treatment similar to that which they receive in their native country. In the central and northern provinces of China, where the plant succeeds much better than it does in the warmer climate of the south, the winters are often extremely cold. The thermometer (Fahr.) is sometimes within a few degrees of zero. The summers are very hot: in the months of June, July, and August, the thermometer ranges, during the day, between 80 and 100 degrees, and the weather is generally very wet in May and June.

The flowers of the Kwei-wha are a source of great profit to the Chinese cottager, as well as to the nurserymen, who produce them in large quantities for the market. There is a great demand for them in all the large towns. Ladies are fond of wearing wreaths of them in their hair; they are also dried and placed in ornamental jars, in the same way as we do rose-leaves in Europe, and they are used largely for mixing with the finer kind of tea, in order to give it an agreeable perfume.

In all these gardens the Azalea is propagated readily and extensively. Layering is the common method employed, but grafting and striking from cuttings are also resorted to with success. During the hot summer months, both young and old plants are shaded from the mid-day sun. Most of these new kinds which I have been describing flower early, that is, in March and April: the section to which the A. variegata belongs flowers in May. After the flowering season has passed, the weather is generally moist, owing to a change in the monsoon. It is at this period that the plants grow most luxuriantly, and form their young wood, and this growth is completed and the wood ripened during the fine summer and autumn which follow. These northern Azaleas are exposed to severe colds during the winter. As I have already observed, the thermometer often sinks to within a few degrees of zero, and the weather is not unlike that which we have in England.

The Azalea is indigenous to China, and is found wild on every hill side, like the heath of our own country. About Hong-kong and Canton it is usually found in a wild state high up on the sides of the mountains, from 1000 to 2000 feet above the level of the sea. In latitude 25° north, in the province of Fokien, it is met with in less elevated situations, that is, from 500 to 1000 feet high; and when we reach Chusan, in latitude 30° north, we find it growing plentifully on the lower sides of all the hills, and never, or at least rarely, at a high elevation. We thus see how plants, which are naturally fitted for the temperature of one part of the globe, can accommodate themselves to another by choosing a higher or lower situation on the hills.

Although this genus is thus found spreading itself over a vast tract of country, yet the northern parts just indicated are evidently those in which it is most at home. All who have been in the island of Chusan will remember how beautiful the hill sides and woods were in the months of April and May, when the Azaleas were in bloom. Every hill was a garden gay with flowers, planted and reared by the hand of Nature herself. Before I saw these hills I thought nothing could be more magnificent than those gorgeous displays of Azaleas at our flower-shows, and certainly, if we look merely at individual specimens, many of those reared by the skill of English gardeners surpass those which we find in a state of nature. But Nature plants and rears with no sparing hand; her colours are clear and brilliant, and she is not confined to greenhouses and flower-tents in which to display her productions, but scatters them with wild profusion over the sides of the hills. It is here that she is inimitable, and it is thus that she produces effects which, once seen, can never be forgotten.

Before leaving these Shanghae Azalea gardens, I must notice one plant which was in flower at the time I paid this visit to them. It was a specimen of Wistaria chinensis, in a dwarfed state, growing in a pot. The tree was evidently aged, from the size of its stem. It was about six feet high, the branches came out from the stem in a regular and symmetrical manner, and it had all the appearance of a tree in miniature. Every one of these branches was now loaded with long racemes of pendulous lilac blossoms. These hung down from the horizontal branches, and gave the whole the appearance of a floral fountain.

The Glycine, or Wistaria Chinensis, has been long known in Europe, and there are large trees of it on many of our house and garden walls. It was introduced into this country from a garden near Canton, belonging to a Chinese merchant named Consequa; but it is not indigenous to the south of China, and is rarely seen in perfection there. Indeed the simple fact of its being perfectly hardy in England shows at once that it has a more northern origin.

Before the last war with China foreigners were confined to narrow limits about Canton and Macao, where they had no means of knowing anything of the more hardy plants of the north, which they sometimes met with in gardens, and introduced into Europe. Now, however, we can prosecute our botanical researches in a country which is nearly a thousand miles further to the north-east, and at many other places which lie along that line of coast. The island of Koo-lung-sû, for example, near Amoy, was taken by our troops during the war, and occupied by them for some years, according to treaty, until a portion of the ransom-money was paid. It seemed to have been a place of residence for many of the mandarins and principal merchants in peaceful times, and boasted of its gardens and pretty fish-ponds. When I first saw these gardens they were mostly in a ruinous condition, and everywhere exhibited the fatal effects of war. Many beautiful plants, however, still continued to grow and scramble about over the ruined walls. Captain Hall, of the Madras army, who was stationed there for some time, was very fond of botany, and took great pleasure in pointing out to me all the plants which he met with in his rambles. "I have good news for you," said he one morning when I met him; "come with me and I will show you the most beautiful plant on the island. I have just discovered it. It is a creeper, produces fine long racemes of lilac flowers before it puts forth its leaves, and is deliciously fragrant." What could it be? was it new? would it produce perfect seeds? or could young plants be procured to send home? were questions which rapidly suggested themselves. It is only the enthusiastical botanical collector who can form an idea of the amount of excitement and pleasure there is when one fancies he is on the eve of finding a new and beautiful flower. Captain Hall led the way, and we soon reached the spot where the plant grew. There had been no exaggeration in his description; there it was, covering an old wall, and scrambling up the branches of the adjoining trees; it bore long racemes of pea-shaped flowers, and scented the surrounding air with its odours. Need I say it was the beautiful Wistaria? But it was not found in a wild state even at Amoy, and had evidently been brought from more northern latitudes.

When I reached Chusan, in latitude 30° north, I found a remarkable change in the appearance of the vegetation. Tropical forms had entirely disappeared, or were rarely met with. Although the summers were as warm, or even warmer, than they were in the south, yet the winters were nearly as cold as those we have in England. At this place, and all over the provinces of Chekiang and Kiang-nan, the Glycine seemed to be at home. It grew wild on every hill-side, scrambling about in the hedges by the footpaths, and hanging over and dipping its leaves and flowers into the canals and mountain-streams.

But by far the most beautiful effect is produced when it attaches itself to the stems and branches of other trees. This is not unfrequent in nature, and is often copied by the Chinese and introduced into their gardens. One can scarcely imagine anything more gorgeous or beautiful than a large plant of this kind in full bloom. Its main and larger branches are entwined round every branch and branchlet of the tree, and from them hundreds of small ones hang down until they nearly touch the ground. The whole of the branches are covered with flower-buds, which a day or two of warm weather brings rapidly forward into bloom. To form an idea of the effect produced by these thousands of long lilac racemes, one must imagine a floral cascade, or a weeping willow covered with the flowers of the Glycine. There are some large specimens of this kind on the island of Chusan. One, in particular, was most striking. Not content with monopolising one tree, it had scrambled over a whole clump, and formed a pretty arbour underneath. When I saw it last it was in full flower, and had a most charming appearance.

The Chinese are fond of growing the Glycine on trellis-work, and forming long covered walks in the garden, or arbours and porticos in front of their doors. I have already noticed a large specimen of this description in the garden of the British consulate at Shanghae. There is another remarkable one in the garden of a mandarin at Ning-po. Growing in company with it is the fine new variety introduced lately by the Horticultural Society of London, and described in the Journal of the Society. In foliage and general habit the two kinds are nearly alike, but the new one bears long racemes of pure white flowers. The kind old gentleman to whom the garden belonged (he is dead now) allowed me to make layers of this plant on the top of his house, and during the summer months; when I was travelling in other districts, attended to them and watered them with his own hands. When I saw him about a year ago he told me he was then nearly eighty years old. One of the gentlemen who accompanied me (Dr. Kirk, of Shanghae), being introduced to him as a medical man, was asked if he could live one year more. The old man said he knew he must die soon, but he was most anxious to live for another year, but feared he should not. His presentiment was but too correct, for the next time I visited Ning-po, about six months after, I found the door of the mansion bricked up, and the garden neglected and overrun with weeds.

I visited several other nursery gardens about ten or twelve miles to the eastward of Shanghae. One of them contained a very remarkable plant which I must not omit noticing. Those who have read my 'Wanderings in China' may remember a story I told of my endeavours to find a Yellow Camellia, — how I offered five dollars for one — how a Chinaman soon found two instead of one — and how he got the money and I got taken in!

In one of these nurseries, however, I found a yellow Camellia, and it was in bloom when I bought it. It is certainly a most curious plant, although not very handsome. The flowers belong to the anemone or Warratah class; the outer petals are of a French white, and the inner ones are of a primrose yellow. It appears to be a very distinct species in foliage, and may probably turn out more hardy than any of its race.

1 In compliment to John Reeves, Esq., who has introduced many Chinese plants into this country, and who has been of great service to me while in China.

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.