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.
Thus far we had cleared out of our way two important points of difference, and now turned to the more congenial, but not less interesting, duty of lifting and taking notes of the seedlings and more recent kinds. I think we started with the Old Lapstone, the parent of a numerous progeny. Why, I was quite startled this year to note in my large collection how many of the sorts developed the Lapstone foliage, a growth that, once seen, can at all times be recognised - upright, stiff, with rounded incurved leaves - a most desirable sort of haulm to get to a good variety; but I fear that betwixt the sorts that now yield this form of foliage there is rather too much of the tweedledum and tweedledee difference. Here are a few of them: Lapstone, Haigh's do., Huntingdon Kidney, Rixton Pippin, Lady Paget, Pebble White, Crystal Palace, Ashtop Fluke (how Ashtop?), Daintree's Kidney, Yorkshire Hero, and Beaconsfield Kidney, which latter Mr Fenn thinks, as I do, is just the old Pebble White, but having a rougher skin than the Lapstone. Mr Turner's other new variety, Union, is an early round that closely resembles Walker's seedling round in general features.
The Waterloo Kidney as usual lifted a fine sample, and it is without exception one of the handsomest and best bred of the White Kidneys that we have.
Now we come to one of Mr Fenn's newest and choicest productions, the Rector of Woodstock, which is decidedly a good stock. It ranks as a second early, haulm of moderate growth, and turns out such handsome white round tubers, and (for we tasted them) of such excellent quality, that it must be pronounced in Potato circles a real acquisition. This Potato has been the result of most careful selection, as some dozens of seedlings, all of the same family, were lifted, and all good, but the Rector was the best; and we were thus enabled to sign and seal Mr Fenn's judgment, as well as that of the Fruit Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society, who last year awarded this variety a first-class certificate of merit. A fine seedling round, pink in colour, of handsome appearance and good cropper, is approved, and so is a handsome Red Kidney that is very promising. Then we come upon a batch of seedlings raised from that capital round variety Early Emperor, the pollen parent being Onwards, and lift a red round, much like the Emperor parent, but does not run out like that variety. This seedling was both handsome and prolific. Next was a pink round, much the colour of the American Rose. It was rough in skin, early, and handsome, and is named English Rose. This is a very promising kind also.
A white round, with purple-blotched eyes, very handsome and promising, is next approved; and so is a peculiarly good-looking, rough-skinned red kidney, out of the same batch, that we dubbed Fenn's Bountiful, for it is a good cropper and a real beauty. The last selected of this breed is a strong-growing white round, having pink eyes, which is very handsome, and will make a superb exhibition variety. One more seedling was from a cross between Shutford seedling and Hogg's Coldstream. This was a fine white round that will by-and-by take a prominent place as a fine early. I think this is the one we dubbed, in a gallant spirit, Eliza Fenn, after Mr Fenn's kind and hospitable better-half. Mr Fenn grows altogether a large collection, having nearly all the best-known sorts that are in the market, and many of these also were looked over, but notes of them may well be left until some other time, when I may also embody with them mention of the results of my own trials. I must, however, not omit to bear witness to the great care and patient attention that Mr Fenn bestows upon the culture of his favourite esculent, as also upon the still more difficult duty of selection.
A high appreciation of beauty in shape and outline rules his judgment; and so much did the handsome and almost perfect form of many of his new seedlings impress me, that when the next day, on passing through Reading, I looked in upon the show then being held, I became so shocked with a sight of many of the big, coarse, ugly Potato monstrosities there staged, as to have suffered for some time afterwards from Potato nightmare. I exhort people who will show Potatoes, in the future to have some regard for the outraged sensibilities of Potato critics.
Years ago, long before Moules's system of earth-closets had been unearthed, Mr Fenn put the system into operation at Woodstock. I saw his modus 0perandi, and can vouch for its simplicity, originality, and effectiveness. This is the source from which is obtained the manure that has for some years grown the Woodstock Potato, and capital stuff it is. The best time for its application is early in the winter, and then it becomes thoroughly incorporated with the soil. It, moreover, keeps the soil light and porous, and is altogether exempt from most of those objections that apply to other strong manures when used for potato-culture.
Mr Fenn has three specialties, in each of which he is well posted - viz., Pota-tatoes, Bees, and British Wine-making. Of the first I have written; of the second, I can only say that his hives are of the best design, full of busy bees, and that his honey is delicious; and of the third - well, readers should see and taste for themselves who can. The fine old rectory-house has its entire front enveloped with Grape Vines that are bearing, goodness only knows how many bunches; but we saw that on one chimney only there must have been, at least, half a hundredweight of fruit; and then there is a large portion of garden-wall also covered with Vines, and from the entire produce I suppose will soon be brewed wine enough to fill the large cellars under the rectory-house.
Some clay or other, perhaps, the Potatoes, Bees, and Wines will make a noise, for Mr Fenn has a right to look forward for the fruits of his labours. May the kind geniality of disposition that so strongly permeates the character of our Woodstock friend always be his! and when once more he shall shoulder the fork and go forth to his annual Potato harvest, may I be there to see !