Plans are underway for a Children’s Arboretum at Marquand Park
We welcome you and your ideas at a community meeting on
November 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm
Historical Society of Princeton at the Updike farm
354 Quaker Road, Princeton
Please, join. Your ideas are very important to us
Among the newly acquired trees in Marquand park is a small Sciadopitys verticillata, commonly called a Japanese umbrella pine. Entering the park from the parking lot, you will find this tree by following the path that runs along the wooded area and ice house and then by veering left towards Marquand House and Stockton street where the path splits into two directions. The tree is in the lawn area on the left side of the path just after the split in the road.
The Japanese umbrella pine is not really a pine but the only member of a plant family called Sciadopityacreae. The tree can be easily recognized by clusters of 20 to 30 dark green needles that spiral out in a pattern resembling the ribs of an umbrella. Although the needles conduct photosynthesis, they are not the actual leaves of the tree. Hard-to-observe scale-like leaves are distributed below each cluster of needles along the shoot. The fruits or cones of the umbrella pine have thick and chunky looking scales and take two years to mature. The tree has a pyramidal shape when young and start looking more like a white pine when it matures. It is a slow growing tree.
Carl Thunberg, the Swedish botanist, first described the umbrella pine in his Flora Japonica (1784) after observing the tree in Japan and mistakenly classifying it as a Taxus. Franz von Siebold also saw the umbrella pine during his stay in Japan and meticulously illustrated its characteristics. He gave the tree its current name.
On the heels of the opening of Japan to trade with the rest of the world, a great number of Western plants men traveled to Japan in search of new garden species. Von Siebold returned to Japan in 1859 after having been expelled by the Japanese in 1829 but was soon pressured to return home again. Others were Robert Fortune who traveled to Japan on behalf of the Horticultural Society of London and the Scottish nurseryman John Gordon Veitch. An American physician by the name of George Rogers Hall from Rhode Island, who operated a small hospital in Shanghai, also made trips to Japan in search of new garden plants. It is possible that Hall, Fortune, and Veitch exchanged plant material and worked collaboratively on shipments home while in Japan because several tree species such as the Magnolia stellata and the Sciadopitys verticillata were introduced by them in Britain and the United States about the same time.
Hall sent his first shipment of Japanese plants to Boston in 1861 where they were cared for by the experienced horticulturist Francis Parkman. A year later, Hall himself brought home a second shipment of plants and seeds which he entrusted to the nursery Parsons & Co in Flushing’s, NY. Both shipments included Japanese umbrella pines. Soon thereafter, the Sciadopitys verticillata started to appear in horticultural and nursery literature. An umbrella pine is mentioned in the famous garden of Mr. Hunnewell of Boston in 1865 and Dr Hall himself was growing one in his garden in Bristol, RI. Richard S. Field, the first owner of Marquand Park, listed a Japanese umbrella pine as a “new tree” in an essay entitled: Our Evergreen Trees and Their Cultivation in 1867. Field does not mention where he acquired his tree but may have bought a sapling cultivated at the Parson’s nursery. This assumption is strengthened by the fact that Richard Field lists two other newly acquired trees, the Thuiopsis dolobrata and the Thuiopsis varietgata. These two trees were also part of the second shipment of plants sent by Roger Hall from Japan.
The Sciadopitys verticillata planted by Field maybe the same as the umbrella pine mentioned by Eleanor Marquand in the tree inventory of 1917. She also does mentioned a second one close to the Lily pond. But then, there is no mention of a Japanese umbrella tree in the Marquand park collection until it’s name appeared on a list of 50 recommended trees put together by Roland Machold and Robert Wells in 2015. A year later, members of the Foundation located and bought a small umbrella tree in a nursery outside of Princeton. The tree was planted in the park in the same year.
In their ground breaking article Princeton’s Mythical Gardener**, Greiff and Gunning include an interesting photograph of Marquand park made in 1868. The picture was taken by John Moran, a Philadelphia photographer. Guernsey hall is visible in the background so Moran must have been standing on the north-east/Stockton-street side of the park when making the photograph. What drew Moran’s attention, more than the trees or the flowers in the park, was a large spherical ball standing on a pedestal, seen in the foreground of the picture. He cleverly used its reflection to include an image of himself in the photograph.
Almost 100 year later a reflecting ball is mentioned again in an unpublished manuscript written by Eleanor Marquand Delanoy entitled Guernsey Hall (1964). In describing the house and park, she mostly used her own memories of living on the estate but also included information received over the years from her parents, Alan and Eleanor Marquand. According Mrs Delanoy, the north-east side of park (now the baseball field) had an enormous formal garden with walks and flower beds when her father bought the estate in 1887. In the middle of this garden stood a “huge mirror ball on a stand”, presumably the same as photographed by Moran.
The curious reflecting ball photographed by Moran and then mentioned again by Eleanor Marquand Delanoy, is called a gazing ball, mirror globe or globe-mirror. These balls were somewhat popular as garden decorations in parts of Europe in the Victorian era. Ludwig of Bavaria, nick-named Mad King Ludwig, ordered them for his gardens at Herrenchiemsee and they are also mentioned by visitors to Versailles and other French gardens. William Robinson in his Parks and Gardens of Paris (London, 2nd edition, 1878) highly disliked the practice of adorning the landscape with what he called “garden horrors” and hoped they would never be introduced in England but then lamented they were.
In America, the Central Park Commissioners paid $61 for globe-mirrors in 1868 so they probably were a feature in this park as well. The globe mirrors became unpopular at the end of the 19th century. They had a short revival in the 20th century and you can still find them occasionally at stores specializing in garden ornaments.
The Central Park globe-mirrors were ordered from Walker and Balen which mostly likely was H. Balen Walker, a manufacturer of mirror glass in New York city. Walker took out a patent on silvering glass in 1869 and explained his improved method in more detail in the 1870 edition of Scientific America. His silvering process had a much higher reflectivity than the traditional mercury process used at the time and therefore was perfectly suited for the manufacturing of globe-mirrors. Judging from the Moran picture, the highly reflective globe-mirror in Marquand park seems to have been made from silvered glass as well but if it was manufactured by the same company we will never know.
**Constance M. Greiff and Wanda S. Gunning, “Princeton’s Mythical Gardener”, Vol. LXXIV, 1, Autumn 2012, pp 9-33.
The Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa), also called the Empress or Princess tree, is a large deciduous fast-growing tree. With age, its trunk often grows irregular and sometimes becomes hollow inside. The tree has large heart-shaped leaves and is noted for its fragrant, tubular, funnel-shaped, lavender flowers. The Paulownia is native to China and was cultivated in Japan and Korea before being exported to Europe and elsewhere in the nineteenth century. In America, the Paulownia quickly became a popular garden and street tree and its rise to fame has a rich and well documented history.
In The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Affairs of 1846, Andrew Downing, the father of American landscaped gardening, introduced the Paulownia as a new ornamental tree to his readership. The article is an expanded version, but now with illustrations, of a description of the tree published two year earlier in Downing’s second edition of A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America. Also in 1846, a popular monthly nursery magazine The Cultivator advertised the sale of 500 Paulownia trees, 6 to 15 feet high at $1,00 apiece suggesting the tree had already been cultivated in America for several years and was in high demand.
Andrew Downing got much of his knowledge about the Paulownia from the German physician Franz von Siebold who included a detailed description of the tree in his Flora Japonica, a popular 19th century beautifully illustrated reference book on exotic plants. Von Siebold, at the request of the Dutch East Indian Company, had traveled extensively in Asia, gathered information about local plants, and must have directly observed the Paulownia while staying in Japan. He named the tree after Anna Pavlovna, queen consort of William II of The Netherlands and daughter of Tsaar Paul I of Russia, and dedicated the Flora Japonica to the princess as well.
For the illustrations of the Paulownia used in his 1846 article, Downing specifically mentioned von Siebold’s as his source. However, Downing’s illustration of a branch with flowers and seeds differs slightly from von Siebold’s version and seems to have been copied from illustrations in contemporary French botanical magazines and printed in reverse. The picture of the tree seems too generic for a direct provenance.
Von Siebold was not the first to provide the West with an illustration of the Paulownia. That distinction goes to Englebert Kaempfer, who traveled to Japan for the Dutch East Indian Company about a century earlier and carefully illustrated the leaf, flower, and fruit of the Paulownia in his Amoenitatum Exoticum of 1712. Kaempfer also is famous for bringing the first seeds of the Ginkgo tree back to Europe and reportedly planting these in the Hortus Botanicus in Utrecht.
Planting Paulownia seeds in Europe is not documented until 1834 or 1836 when M. Neumann, a horticulturist at Les Jardin des Plantes in Paris received seeds from the Count of Cussy who during his travels to England had acquired several small porcelain vases that contained Paulownia seeds from a member of the British East Indian Company called Kiernon or Kiernan. Because the British East Indian Company primary traded with India and China, the seeds probably originated from China, and not Japan. Some seeds successfully germinated, and the young plants were cared for in a greenhouse in the Jardin des Plants. After three years, noticing that the plants were not thriving, Neumann moved them outside where they started to do much better, and eight years after the seeds were planted a Paulownia finally bloomed for the first time.
As mentioned before, the Paulownia is a fast-growing tree and propagation turned out to be easy. Cuttings of young shoots according to Neumann were planted in a shady place under glass and readily struck root. Also pieces of the root of the Paulownia were placed under an inch and a half of soil in a hot house and generated new plants in about two weeks. And of course, the parent tree in the Jardin des Plants by 1842 was producing seeds in large quantities as well.
Not all Paulownia trees cultivated in Europe in the 1840ties were descendants of the Jardin des Plantes’ seeds. In 1841, Carl Ludwig Blume, a colleague of Franz von Siebold kept Paulownia plants originating from Japan alive on ships destined for Europe. After arrival, these plants were then cultivated and propagated in botanical gardens in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Others must have imported plants and seeds as well. By 1844, three different variants of the Paulownia originating both from China and Japan were described, all probably contributing to the rapid spread and increasing popularity of the tree.
Downing did not included the Paulownia in his 1841 edition of A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America but then added a description of the tree to his 1844 edition suggesting increased interest in the tree as well as the availability of Paulownia plants in America. This seems also supported by Downing reporting in 1846 that descendants of the Jardin des Plantes’ Paulownia were first offered for sale in Europe in 1843 and that as far as he knew no Paulownia plant had flowered yet in America, but he expected some would probably do so in the next year (1847).
It is tempting to speculate that the Paulownia tree next to the parking lot in Marquand Park is a direct descendant of the Jardin des Plantes tree or one of the other early imports into Europe. In the decade of 1840-1850, Richard Field was actively expanding his collection of trees, showed great interest in the cultivation of new and exotic plants, was familiar with the writings of Andrew Downing and was a contributor to his journal. Acquiring one of the early available plants would have been relatively easy for him.
The Marquand Park Paulownia tree is recorded in a 1917 list in the same location and again appears on a map of trees in the park in 1959. If the tree was planted around 1845 it would now be about 180 years old and probably one of the oldest Paulownia trees on record – a little too old for a Pauwlonia tree. Given the way Paulownias propagate, the current tree more likely is an offshoot of an earlier planted tree, possibly growing in the same location. Looking at its complicated root structure, it is easy to imagine that it harbors several generations of Paulownias.
A.J Downing, “Two New Ornamental trees” in The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, Vol 1: pp. 16-17, July 1846.
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