Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/121

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THE BOTANIC GARDENS AT KEW.

Among the many questions sent to Kew from all parts of the world, there must "be some of trivial importance, or which could be perfectly well answered at the local botanic gardens. But all genuine inquiries receive attention. Debate has been gravely held, opinions even have been formed and reported upon such matters as a South African cane which some gentleman in those distant parts thought adapted for fishing-rods; upon the value of West African palm-kernels as material for coat-buttons; upon a pithy stem which the government of a West India island believed suitable for razor-strops.

One function of a national institution very seriously regarded at Kew is the training of young men to fill botanic situations in the colonies. Something is demanded of such young men beyond the practical knowledge which suffices at home. Instruction is given them in the principles of scientific botany, and those general conditions which rule the practice of horticulture under differing circumstances. The advantage of this system all around scarcely needs illustration. While serving the interest of the colonies, it increases the sources of information for Kew, since all these emigrants keep up more or less of a correspondence with the institution in which they were trained.

The village of Kew lies on the south side of the Thames, about six miles westward from Hyde Park Corner in London. "The Gardens" are a favorite resort for holiday-makers and tourists, being visited by six or seven hundred thousand persons yearly. Painters also flock there in summer-time. When the crown surrendered its rights to them in 1840, the Gardens had an area of eleven acres, and contained ten greenhouses of one sort or another. Sir William Hooker promptly begged permission to annex the Orangery and the land adjacent; then a part of the Pleasure Grounds; and after that the Royal Kitchen and Forcing Grounds. All these petitions being granted, by 1847 the Gardens had reached their present dimensions—about seventy acres. Three years later the rest of the Pleasure Grounds was granted for the establishment of an Arboretum, making the total area little less than two hundred and fifty acres. "The Arboretum is the richest in Europe, no doubt," says the writer in The Saturday Review, "but probably inferior to that of Harvard University, where special attention has been paid to this department." This admission in a British journal, and The Saturday Review above all others, should be very gratifying to Americans. The failure of Kew's Arboretum to be the finest in the world is explained on the ground that the soil—sandy and shallow, resting on a stratum of gravel—is unsuited to many kinds of trees. In former times, also, when an imperial collection had to be got together as quickly as possible, and as cheaply, specimens