This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A portrait hangs on the wall before me, and the benignant features of an upright and intelligent gentleman seem to gaze steadfastly from the frame, at the writer, and a kindly smile lights up the once familiar face, such as there used to be in days gone by. Any reader of character would readily pronounce the facial expression as noble, winsome and good. No " human face divine " could be more so than was the late Mr. Thomas Rivers, of Sawbridgeworth, England. He was old and gray headed, when the likeness was taken: while the placid serenity of ripe and honorable years lovingly lingered around the lineaments of one of the best of men.
When a student in the " art and science of horticulture," I sought his sage counsel, and was encouraged with his friendly advice; and while sharing his hospitality and enjoying his confidence, my young ideas were taught to shoot. As a trainer of trees, he was remarkably adroit. Nothing arboreal or herbaceous could be fairer fashioned than which passed through his hands. The vast quantities of standard roses, every tree " a thing of beauty," multiplied by thousands, testified to the skill of the good old rosarian.
Famous as he was in floriculture, he was even more so as a practical pomologist. That he was one of the most successful nurserymen and fruit tree growers, par excellence, of the nineteenth century is unanimously acknowledged.
The two excellent brochures under his signa-ture, namely, "The Miniature Fruit Garden," and "The Orchard House, or Cultivation of Fruit Trees in Pots under Glass," are good guides to go by. The vim of the author and the vigor of his trees are perceptible in every line to the mind's eye of the reader, who follows his gifted pen. That such "reading made easy " for amateur fruit-growers, as well as practical cultivators, should win proselytes to pomology, is what might be expected. Our "kin beyond the sea" readily adopted his views, with most encouraging results. There, under canopies of glass, as well as on this side of the Atlantic, blossom and fruit many a goodly tree.
Of the writer's success in the "Orchard House,' who may be considered an old hand at the' business among fruits and flowers, it was well tested at Cleveland, several years ago, to the satisfaction of all concerned. During the months when the wind blew bitter and chill from off the frigid waters of Lake Erie, I successfully brought to perfection abundance of the under-mentioned fruits, namely: Peaches, Nectarines, Guavas, Plums, Apricots, Psidiums, Figs, Loquots, Sweet Limes, Grapes, Sapodillas and Strawberries, from all of which good crops were gathered. They were grown from ten to twelve inch pots, except the strawberries, which were fruited in five and six inch sizes. The Figs, Peaches, Grapes and Strawberries began to ripen the first week in April, and they, with the others named, continued to reach perfection as the season advanced, until all were gathered.
They were forced, of course to bring them on so early, and therein lies the chief difficulty of management. No one, unless he has had previous practice, should attempt to grow them so early, as both patient attention and skill are required to counterfeit a season congenial to their nature. To manage them in the cold orchard-house is simple enough to any intelligent person who has a fair knowledge of fruit growing, and takes delight in such operations. The expense, too, is very moderate, when fire heat is not used. And what is there, let me enquire, which affords more real pleasure at less cost, than pot culture of choice fruit? First, comes the interesting season of swelling bud, and beauteous blossom, according to their kind, with the tender formation of incipient foliage, to the full development of leaf and branch, among which, nestles the rich swelling fruit unto luscious ripeness.
The positive good, which thus fulfills the promised expectation, is then to be realized, while the tempting fruit bends down the bough, ripe and ready to enjoy.
To the man who knows what is good and is able to get it, the orchard-house is the place to find it. There let him wend his way to pluck fresh fruit from vines and bushes, and feast among the nectared sweets which await him, and while enjoying the delicious offering Pomona presents to his fastidious palate, he will heartily thank God and the gardener for the rare things he revels in.
Enough, perhaps, has been said to make a man's mouth water, to indulge in the paradisical luxuries the orchard-house produces, if he only wills it should. There are other kinds, besides those mentioned, both suitable and proper for the purpose recommended, but they will amply suffice to begin with, if any one elects to try. Yet, incomplete as the subject is, it would be still more so, if the Japan Persimmon was suffered to go unnoticed. As the climate seems somewhat unsuited for its general cultivation in the Northern States, why not make a pot-plant of it for the orchard-house, warm or cold grapery, where it could be supplied with all the conditions necessary to perfect a new fruit, well worthy of cultivation?
In conclusion, had the good Mr. Rivers been living now, the Oriental persimmon would have been a God-send to him. He would have petted and petted it into fructification, not more for his own personal enjoyment, than for the diffusion of its worth among his fellow-men.