| James Comley
(1835-1902) "was born at Perry Hill, England, and in his early childhood he became very fond of horticulture, so much so that he was apprenticed
for six years to learn the profession of gardening in all its branches. But at the end of five years he had become so proficient, under
the instructions he had received at the Marquis of Landsdowned establishment -- next door to his father's freehold -- that he was allowed to
graduate a fully competent gardener. Shortly after this he came to America, and becoming acquainted with Mr. Evers, a copartnership was
formed under the name of Evers & Comley, as flower merchants and decorators [by 1860]. They had the honor of decorating the Revere House when
the Prince of Wales was there, also the Boston Theatre, on the occasion of the grand ball given in honor of the Prince, now King Edward VII
of England. After remaining in business in Boston for several years, he removed to Worcester, where he devoted himself to the general
florist's business for three years and then returned to Boston. About this time he became acquainted with the late Francis B. Hayes.
This was in 1870 and Mr. Comley was in Mr. Hayes' employ for many years after. In the year 1892 Mr. Comley took a trip to Japan and on
his return brought with him many rare plants and seeds from that interesting country. He [had] been also very fortunate in producing some
fine seedling roses, rhododendrons, and other plants, which added materially to his reputation as an enthusiastic horticulturist. Mr.
Comley was a large exhibitor at the shows of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and his exhibits of rare and curious flowers and plants
added very materially to the success of the exhibitions. Mr. Comley was a man one could depend upon, for his word was as good as his bond.
He was genial in his intercourse with mankind and generally beloved by all who knew him. His last exhibition before the Massachusetts
Horticultural Society was at the Chrysanthemum Show in the fall of 1901, when he was awarded a silver medal. While busily engaged in the
vocation he loved, apparently in good health, on February 1, 1902, he suddenly expired, deeply regretted by all who knew him." 1
| "My Visit to Japan; Its Chrysanthemums and other
Flowers" by James Comley (1894) includes these paragraphs:
"[Seen in late October 1893, t]he Yokohama Gardeners' Association grounds cover 200 acres of land; include
greenhouses and stores too numerous to mention, and the floral and nursery business is carried on in the most perfect manner.
Palms, pćonies, plums, cherries, evergreens, magnolias, and all classes of shrubs are in cultivation; also 600 to 800 varieties
of chrysanthemums, including about seventy altogether new ones, which I obtained. But the most curious feature of all, was
the hundreds of thousands of dwarf trees from five to 500 years old, the most beautiful collection of its kind in the world.
It is impossible to buy any plants from a private garden. The gentry are as proud as the most ancient of British nobility.
It is necessary to cultivate personal acquaintance with the proprietor, who, if assured the plant desired is only for private use
in another country, may present a specimen. I visited nearly 100 such places in Yokohama, and every commercial place of note,
gathering one or two choice things in each.
 "In Yokohama there are about 6,000 Europeans, many of whom have married native women. The theatres of Tokio are grand. I was surprised by the size and beauty of the Imperial Opera House, and as much pleased with the music and dancing. Japanese gardens are the most fairy-like places. You see in them tiny trees and flowering plants, ponds, bridges, summer-houses, lanterns; here, dwarf pines six or eight inches high, but 125 years old; there, others one foot high, but 500 years old. In the garden of Yeiju-in -- within the temple grounds -- there are many pćony plants, mostly old, but one is 100 years old, and is eight feet high -- quite a tree. Most of the soil of Japan is a rich peaty loam; this is interspersed with a yellow light clayey soil. Both are extremely fertile, and in each there seems to be planted that which is peculiar to that soil. The fertilizer most used is rice straw, cut into small pieces, as with a hay cutter. But cultivators depend mostly upon irrigation from the rivers, and most careful cultivation; not a weed nor a waste piece of land will be seen in a long railroad journey. The farmer utilizes every bit of land he possesses. But farm tools are very crude. The bog-hoe is the chief tool used; occasionally a black bull may be seen hitched to what is called a plough, but the implement is so small it looks like a toy.  With the hoe, the blade of which is four inches wide, the soil is turned over, left a few days exposed to the sun, then levelled and seed put in. Every crop but rice is planted in rows, straight as an arrow. Men and women work in the fields. I saw some rice-threshing going on. Young women and children drew the rice straw across the teeth of a saw-like blade, by which the seeds were dislodged. It is a matter of wonder to our gardeners, how it is the Japanese curtail the growth of plants as they do. After noticing the plants in Japan, and the appliances and treatment, and considering all observed circumstances therewith connected, it is my opinion that the glazed, or marble pots they use, and which are not porous, retain moisture longer without watering, and also make frequent repotting unnecessary. I mean to experiment on this line. One can learn nothing from the Japanese gardener about it; I noticed all over Japan that they use very finely sifted soil for potting, and press the soil down very firmly about the plant roots. They seem to understand the true art of watering plants, and this seems to me to be the main secret of their success." 1
1 "In Memory of James Comley,"
Transactions of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, 1902, Part I
(Boston), September 6, 1902, pp.
2 James Comley "My Visit to Japan; Its Chrysanthemums
and other Flowers," (Transactions of the Worcester County Horticultural Society, 1893-94, Part II
(Worcester, MA: Worcester County Horticultural Society), 22nd February, A.D. 1894, pp.