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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 forins 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.