This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Gardening During the "time of the Roman occupation, through Saxon and Norman down to Magna Charta, horticulture appears to have been co-operative with agriculture, and to the total dismantling of the abbeys in 1540 was confined to the monasteries and baronial castles in a great degree. In this demolition not any of the abbeys were spared, except in cases where they happened to be parish churches also; as was the case at St. Albans, Tewkesbury, Malvern, and elsewhere. At the first-named place lived the earliest English author who treated on the subject of gardening. This was Alexander Necham, master of the grammar school at St. Albans, at the end of the twelfth century, and afterwards abbot of Cirencester. He was born about the year 1157 and died in 1217. His work, "De Naturis Rerum," largely compiled from the Roman agricultural writers, yet notices varieties of fruit which were then cultivated, as the St. Regie pear, and also enumerates apples, chestnuts, peaches, almonds, and figs, all of which, no doubt, were cultivated in the abbey orchard.
From him we learn that the process of grafting was then, as now, generally practised, but he makes no mention of the vine; hence we conclude the Romans had not a vineyard at Verulamium, or one in Saxon and Norman times in the monastic domain of St. Alban's Abbey. The first Earl of Salisbury, however, planted a vineyard at Hatfield, which is noted as being in existence when Charles I was taken there as a prisoner.
Other gardening works in manuscript, followed by printed works, appeared in rapid succession. Gerard's Great Herbal was issued from the printer's hands, 1577. Wheat in1596 was five guineas the quarter, and Lord Burleigh spent ten pounds per week in giving the poor employment in his garden at Theobalds in Hertfordshire. After Gerard came John Parkinson, who published his delightful folio Paradisus Terrestris, or a Garden of Pleasant Flowers, in 1629. Philip Miller's Gardener's Dictionary appeared in folio in 1731, and John Abercrombie's Every Man his Own Gardener in 1770.
In the nineteenth century gardening made rapid strides. John Claudius Loudon began to practise as a landscape gardener in 1803, and though, like Tusser and Arthur Young, failing at farming, advanced horticulture by his works, especially his Encyclopaedia of Gardening, 1827, and his Encyclopaedia of Plants, 1829, also his Encyclopaedia of Agriculture. These, with his other works, mark a distinct epoch in both our farm and garden literature, with which farming and gardening went side by side, acting and reacting most beneficially in the evolution of agriculture and horticulture.
The establishment of the Horticultural Society of London (now the Royal) in 1804 under the auspices of Sir Joseph Banks, Mr. (afterwards Sir) T. A. Knight, and other eminent scientific and practical horticulturists, gave an impetus to gardening and garden literature that is even yet not exhausted, but even more and more extending in scientific and practical gardening. Indeed, in the present state of horticulture England is ahead of all other countries in the taste for general gardening. The grounds and gardens attached to the residences of the nobility and gentry are replete with esculent vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants, indigenous and exotic, hardy and warmth-requiring. The gardens at Kew, near London, contain a collection of plants which is unrivalled in any other country. London and all the great cities and towns of the British Islands have parks and recreation grounds replete with trees, shrubs, and plants, some with "winter gardens"; even cemeteries are ornated with sylvan shadows and floral wreaths as well as monuments. Public institutions, such as hospitals and" homes," are decked in lawn and arboreal garniture, hotels and retreats made pleasant without and sumptuous within by beauties and dainties culled from home or market gardens.
Everywhere the eye is constantly struck with villas and cottages embowered amidst ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers, while in the rears are found neat compartments devoted to fruit trees and vegetables, with, in many instances, glazed and heated structures for growing plants requiring protection or more warmth than that of the British Islands. Even windows are utilized for the growth and display of exotic flowering or foliage plants, and balconies bedecked in summer with trailing and gorgeous flowers, and in winter enlivened by evergreens. In the so-called " slums " of large towns may be seen the thrifty London Pride, roof-top Houseleek, and window "Balm of Gilead," pushing greenery and emitting fragrance derived from mould (of a sort) in an old teapot minus spout or handle, in an atmosphere of murkiness and gloom scarcely pierced by meridian sun. Truly, Britons are gardeners - lovers of nature.
Success in all the cultures named depends upon the following practical points being strictly regarded: first, securing a market for produce. Secondly, suitability of land or water and environment for the purpose intended. Thirdly, practice of clean culture. The culture otherwise must fail, no matter how energetic, industrious resourceful, qualified and experienced the cultivator may be, and this quite apart from the militating influences of the conjoint interests pervading all the avocations which have to be carried on in accordance with legislative enactments in order to promote the national welfare.
Sporting, fishing, forestry, farming, and gardening are promoted and safeguarded by the electorate through the legislature and Government as considered most conducive to meeting the needs of the nation as a whole, and in behalf of each culture compromises have to be effected between the conflicting interests, so that they may be pursued without material prejudice, if not in some respects benefit, to one another. This implies contention on the part of the respective culturists with the wild or semi-wild land vertebrates, which directly or indirectly feed upon the produce of the soil or water, and are either helpful or hurtful to cultivated crops. The first demand national and international protection, and the latter decimation all round, even the neutral must, when unduly numerous, be limited in number, lest they inflict more damage than they contribute in benefit. To aid the judgment in arriving at equity in these important concerns, the habits and food of the chief wild creatures that still roam over the British Islands are given as consonant with experience, and by this data, balancing the good they do against the evil they commit - essential service may be rendered to the several pursuits by exercising discriminating judgment with a view to the success of each and all, and thus the animal and vegetable produce be increased to the profit of the rearers and growers and welfare of the whole inhabitants of the British Islands.