This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The climate of North Wales, as may be judged from its adjoining the Channel, is mild and moist. Ferns and mosses are very abundant; all the smaller species of Asplenium are plentiful, such as Viride, Sep-tentrionale, Adiantum nigrum, Trichomanes, Ruta muraria, and even Lanceolatum. Curious enough, almost all these species we have gathered on Arthur's Seat. The common Polypody is as common as grass; in one instance we observed the whole roof of a house densely covered with it. Ceterach and Cystopteris are easily procurable, and even Adiantum Capillis veneris, but this we did not see. The Dwarf Furze was in full flower in September, which is peculiar, since we are accustomed to see the Whins in Scotland in bloom before Easter; but they are two different species. The common Co-toneaster is indigenous to the Welsh coast; bushels of the ripe berries could now be gathered. We backed out of Wales via Chester again, past orchards laden with apples, a small bright red variety being exceedingly abundant.
Our route homewards through Manchester, Sheffield, Barnsley, and Leeds has become notorious of late by coal-pit and railway disasters, which might compare in horrible interest with Tam O'Shanter's nocturnal ride from Ayr to Alloway Kirk, only the disasters which marked the various points of Tarn's route were microscopic compared to our modern horrors, as were Tarn's mode of locomotion - "Well mounted on his grey mare Meg " - compared to a modern train; but the philosopher would probably credit the whole to the "march of improvement." Passing through what is, perhaps, the longest tunnel in England, on the London and York railway, which took 8 minutes, the train soon arrives at Wortley station, close on Wortley Hall, the seat of Lord Wharncliffe. The park and grounds occupy the slope of a rising-ground facing the east, and the whole place has an air of comfort, compactness, and neatness. From the sloping nature of the ground the two main ranges of glass are made up with the houses on various levels, in order to face the south. Hambro' Grapes are fine in berry and finish, quite equal to those we saw at Garston. Peach-trees were also in first-rate order.
Two houses of Queen Pines were magnificent examples of good culture; in one house they were in part planted out; all were sturdy, broad-leaved, thick-necked fellows, bound to throw grand fruits next spring and summer. Six ranges of lean-to pits, substantially built and well heated, are a feature here; in one of them an immense crop of Tomatoes was colouring, the plants trained to a trellis close to the glass. Others were occupied with succession Pines, Pigs in pots, bedding-stuff, etc. Here are also forced French Beans, Potatoes, and Strawberries. The Keens, Dr Hogg, and Sir Harry, upwards of 1000, were very fine plants for forcing. The position of Wortley is high and inland, the flower-garden was therefore over before our arrival. The design is neat and tasteful, and occupies a sunk position under the southern windows of the mansion. Two large plant-houses built of iron - a stove and greenhouse, some distance apart - are prominent features in this part of the grounds, and are both well stocked with the leading flowering and foliage plants.
Mr Simpson has carried out many permanent improvements here since taking the management - such as remaking vine-borders, asphalting the walks, building new vineries and fig-house. A plentiful supply of clean soft water has been laid on all over the garden during the past summer, by which, with the help of hose and hydrants, every inch of ground and every tree can be drenched at pleasure; this is a boon to be envied, especially after the experience of the summer which has just passed. We have not space to particularise the many excellencies of this fine place, creditable to Mr Simpson's quiet ability, and gratifying to him in the enjoyment of his employer's appreciative encouragement. "What is now termed Wharncliffe Chace we suppose once formed part of the ancient Sherwood Forest, which also included the high ground around the tributaries of the Don. From here to the Dukeries, which also occupy part of the same famous ground, is a two hours' journey, so that Robin Hood must have had a pretty large hunting-field. Some idea of its intricacy and loneliness may yet be obtained by a walk through Clumber and Thoresby. We may suppose that Robin would be sorely puzzled were he to appear in the flesh and see the stately mansions which now preside over the scene, the scores of brick funnels vomiting forth coal-smoke, and also the famous gardens which have taken the place of the haunts of the wild-boar and fallow-deer.
Thoresby is in a transition state, fast becoming transformed into one of the points d'appui of gardening. Supposing lines drawn all over the kingdom between the principal gardens, like the railways on Bradshaw's map, Thoresby would be one of the places dignified with capitals. Two years hence will be time enough to give a full report on this fine place. The mansion is yet to finish and the flower- garden to begin; -what is already done has been well done, and on a grand scale. The vineries are the most spacious we have ever seen for lean-tos, and the crops, especially Muscats, extra fine. Figs are in grand health, as also stove and greenhouse plants. The Standard Mignonette for winter, grown in low span-pits, were models; and in numbers were the Dalechampia in fine flower, and magnificent specimens of the true Celosia aurea. Mr Henderson as well as Mr Simpson has caught the sub-tropical fever. One bed filled with Echeveria, we must confess, was striking. The grotesque-looking E. metallica which filled the centre in great luxuriance was very defiant, we had nearly said beautiful; and a chain pattern round the same of E. glauca, filled in with the choice tricolor Pelargoniums, was certainly unique and pretty.
Pines are also well done here - some planted out, but the most in pots; and it is high praise to say that they trod hard on the heels of those at Wortley. The Thoresby Queen is a most striking and distinct Pine, and ought to be more generally grown. It has the short spreading sturdy habit of the Common Queen, but densely covered with meal, which makes it very conspicuous in a collection. It swells a large pyramidal fruit, is more juicy than the Common Queen, and quite as free from stringiness, but not so rich as that variety. Indeed, we think it bears the same relation to the Common Queen as the Golden Champion bears to the Muscat Grape - they ought to be eaten together. The Thoresby Queen must certainly be more grown when better known: its habit and appearance at once recommend it.
The country for miles around Barnsley has the appearance of suffering from a slow and continued earthquake, from the sinking of old pit-workings: the roads are sunk and twisted into ugly gradients, the stone-fences are reft, and bowing hither and thither; even houses bow to the general disturbance.
A peep for a few hours into the Leeds Exhibition, a multum in parvo, was the finish to our fortnight's holiday of sight-seeing - it was the grand finale or transfiguration scene. It was a study for a season instead of for a few hours. The cases of miniatures of historical characters set in gold ,with the names engraven, contributed by the Duke of Buccleuch, were particularly interesting to us. The central hall was disfigured with a lot of poor scrubby dusty Palms, Altingias, and foliage-plants, which made one feel an itching to get at them with an engine in sanitary indignation.
The Squire's Gardener.