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.
Mr Makenzie has, I daresay, from his own point of view, almost riddled the subject; and with many of his statements I am not at all disposed to disagree, because they are the rudimentary principles which I was first taught when I entered the garden as a lad - a good many years ago now. The principle of heating by hot water is being discussed, to my mind, in a very masterly manner in the pages of 'The Gardener' at the present time; and I am proud that it is one of our practical horticulturists (who are the bone and muscle of gardening) who is directing attention to another principle of heating which, if his reasoning turn out to be correct, will be a great boon to gardening generally, and remove obstacles which have hitherto been regarded as insurmountable. My object in writing these remarks is not because I wish to signalise myself upon this particular subject as far as the "principle" of heating is concerned, but, on the contrary, with the object of supplementing Mr Makenzie's remarks by taking another view which may not have come under his notice.
I may perhaps remark that I have had opportunities of witnessing the progress of horticulture in its various phases, and under varying circumstances. In addition to this, I have sometimes been consulted by gentlemen who lived in the neighbourhood where I resided as to the best form of house, its aspect and internal fittings, for cultivating certain plants or fruits at various seasons. This position sometimes brought me into contact with persons who had undertaken duties of which they are as ignorant as I am of the Zulu tongue. It must be borne in mind that a gentleman may be an accomplished scholar - his training may have been of the most profound and erudite character, he may have excelled in science, natural history, and mathematics - and yet be totally unfit to advise as a garden architect. To bring matters to an issue at once, I may state that my argument is, that no architect is an authority on practical gardening save the "practical gardener." This is no reflection upon the social position, the intelligence, or education of the architect who could span the Menai Straits with a tubular or suspension bridge, or who could lay a tunnel under the water from Dover to Calais. It is simply a matter of people confining their sphere of operations to what they thoroughly understand.
Now this is not so in gardening, and this is why so many of the misfortunes alluded to by Mr Makenzie occur in horticultural building and heating (for really the two branches are almost inseparably connected). The proper authority, the gardener, is not consulted in the first place; or if he is, it is when it is too late. Let it be distinctly understood that I recognise, in the fullest degree, the assistance that the experienced horticultural architect or hot-water engineer can render to the gardener, and vice versa; but however full the information of the former may be, he must have the "key-note " from the gardener, otherwise he will signally fail in executing his work, in nine cases out of ten, in a manner that will give satisfaction afterwards. I know from experience that there are persons who are often called upon to advise in horticultural matters who have no practical knowledge of building or heating, and yet have the courage, or rather the assumption, to usurp the gardener's duty, because the gardener does not resent their approaches in that dignified manner which would bring things to their proper level.
For the benefit of those who may not be acquainted with these gentlemen, I may state that their modus operandi is as follows:-
They get an introduction to a gentleman, perhaps through a friend, and the wiles of diplomacy are set steadily to work to extract from the gardener a practical base to work upon. I have found, as a rule, that these "quacks" are extravagant in their habiliments, with appendages which need not be described dangling about their raiment, and carry politeness to the extreme during the first interview. Their object is manifest enough, and it is a great strain upon patience even to " play " with or listen to the chatter of these "dressed dolls" - the "toys" of horticulture. Now, if you divest these small gentry of their external paraphernalia, you have nothing left but the skeleton of assumption in its meanest shape. I once heard one of these worthies say that he purchased the leading horticultural organ every week as a proof of the intimate knowledge he had acquired in heating and building from a perusal of the drawings contained therein. Half, if not more, of the horticultural buildings of Great Britain are rendered comparatively useless from the above cause and others of a kindred nature.
The very vitals of horticulture are being eaten to the core, and yet there is not a single voice raised in its defence from the experienced builder or gardener.
Mr Makenzie is quite right when he recommends to a body of practical men that the quantity of piping put in a house should be in proportion to its cubical contents; but surely Mr Makenzie must know that practical gardeners know all this vastly better than he can tell them, and are better able to decide as to the quantity of heat they require in an early or late vinery, a plant, stove, or intermediate house, from their own practice.
If there is anything I do like to see, it is that people occupy their proper positions in society without encroaching upon the duties of others.
In the main, I agree with much that Mr Makenzie has said with regard to boilers and heating. The fault I find is, that he has said so little that everybody does not know. I have worked the terminal saddle, the Whitley Court, and many others, with more or less success, according to the knowledge of those who "set" the boilers and arranged the work, which is, after all, the great point in heating; and I have also seen Wright's boiler (which Mr Makenzie has gone out of his way to condemn) giving the highest satisfaction at two places, in one of which the head-gardener is something of an engineer as well as a horticulturist.
The point which I would like to see Mr Makenzie determine for us is, how it is that we have for years been burying money in deep stoke-holes when it is quite practicable to do the work without them. I visited a garden some time ago, where, to obviate the necessity of sinking a deep stoke-hole, an expansion-box was fixed several feet above the boiler - the water rising in the flow-pipe into the expansion-box, and then descending perpendicularly a distance of 7 feet into the pipes, which are set on a "dead level" throughout their entire length, except that the return-pipe dips a little a few feet from the boiler.