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.
Sir, - Much has been written within the last few years on education for gardeners. Without saying one word against it, for it is invaluable, particularly to the class of gardeners who represent the minority - the noblemen's gardeners - for my part, I think that little education is wanted for the generality of gardeners. In fact, I think education is rather a drawback than otherwise to many gardeners, for I really think that many employers do not care about educated servants. If they can get a man to produce plenty of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, that is all that is required of him. In fact, the generality of places require a man to be a thorough practical gardener, and at the same time to be a common labourer. That is one reason why I think education is only required by one gardener in fifty. If you will kindly allow me space in your valuable magazine, I will give your readers a short history of a gardener, if I might be allowed to call myself one. In the first start off I served an apprenticeship at a nobleman's place, where they kept about twenty men in the gardens; nest I went to another large place for improvement, where I paid to the head-gardener three shillings per week for two years, and one shilling for another year: I never learnt anything from the gardener himself.
My next place was to be foreman at a baronet's place: I stayed eighteen months there. The next move was to me quite a different scene of life. - I took a head-gardener's situation, where I had three men under me. After staying five years, I left, because I could not or would not garden according to the coachman's ideas (a man without education, only he had the gift of the gab). My next situation was a single-handed place, which I took more for convenience than anything else; but it turned out otherwise, for six other servants besides myself were turned away without warning, or, worse still, without character, in consequence of an event with which I had no connection. And now for the gardener's difficulties. After being out of work for four weeks, I went into the nurseries, or, what is more properly called the gardener's hospital; wages from 3s. 6d. to 15s. per week, paying 3s. for rent. After four months I got a good recommendation from a previous master to another place, where I stayed three years; and I must say I ought to have been there yet; but most of us throw a good chance away once in our lives. I have been sorry ever since I left it; although I had the chance to go back, at the time my false pride would not allow me.
My next move was what I thought a good chance; but, alas! what it is to think without knowing, for it turned out one of the most miserable places that man could go to, although it was a fine old place and belonged to a lady of rank. After three years' service I left to get my wages. My last move was to my present place. After so many years of experience in gardening, I have landed myself, wife, and five fine boys, in an out-of-the-way place, where I am expected to produce all kinds of garden produce, and make myself both a first-rate man and a common labourer for 20s. per week. So much for education for gardeners, and paying good round sums to head-gardeners for improvement. One in Despair.
[We give this as a sample of many letters on the same subject that have reached us. It in no ways proves that education is not both desirable and valuable as being one of the aids to a better position in the world. - Ed].
At the meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society, to be held on Tuesday the 21st December, the following prizes are offered - viz., By the Eev. George Kemp, F. E.H.S. and Member of Fruit Committee, for the best winter dessert of Apples and Pears, 3 dishes of each, £3 and £2.
We understand that the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society have resolved on issuing a bronze medal, to be called the "Rare Plant Medal," and to be awarded at any of the Society's meetings, for the first exhibition in this country of plants of great botanical interest.
We are informed that Lieut.-Colonel Scott, E.E., F.L.S., Hon. Secretary Royal Horticultural Society, offers for competition at the Society's first meeting in 1870 - viz., January 19 - Five Guineas (£5, 5s.), for an Essay on the "Principles of Floral Criticism".
Sir, - In spite of frosts and chilly weather I gathered this morning a perfectly ripe, full-sized Strawberry, which had reached maturity in the open air, and was accompanied by blossoms and fruit in other stages towards ripeness. The situation of the growth is low, not sheltered, in the valley of the Lea. Presuming this circumstance worthy of being communicated - to be chronicled as you may deem deserving or not. - I am, your obedient Servant, John Edgar Ker.
Stanstead Abbots, Herts, 17th November 1869.