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.
This place is situated in the south-west side of London, and about midway between Ealing and Kew, though comprehended in the parish of Ealing, and can be readily reached by railway to Ealing, Acton, Turnham Green, and Kew. It has acquired a high reputation as a place for the production of first-class fruits, and from it are drawn the large supplies of fruit, flowers, vegetables, etc, to meet the requirements of the Baron's palatial mansion in Piccadilly, as well as those of other members of the family.
The present area of the park and grounds is some 100 acres, but recently a further space of 140 acres has been enclosed on the Ealing and Brentford sides of the desmene, for the purpose of extending the park. When this is laid out and planted, it will give it what it has hitherto much needed, surroundings in keeping with the mansion, and the splendid liberality with which the estate is maintained. The kitchen-garden is about 14 acres in extent, 5 acres of which are wholly within walls; a wall running from east to west, however, bounds a space of some 9 acres. There is a great extent of glass, and there are also two flower-gardens, besides many supplementary beds; also two pieces of ornamental water, from the middle of the largest of which rises a jet capable of reaching a height of some 60 feet. The mansion occupies the highest part of the grounds on its eastern boundary, and is effectually screened by belts of fine trees, some noble Cedars of Lebanon, etc. The quiet and repose pervading the place, although so near to London proper, and its encircling associations of country and rural life, constitute it a most charming and pleasant place of residence during the summer months.
The gardens and grounds have been under the management of the present gardener, Mr "William Forsyth, for the space of twenty years. Incapacitated by physical infirmity - though yet in the prime of life - from actively superintending the duties belonging to a place so well maintained, Mr Forsyth is just on the point of retiring from the service of Baron Rothschild, whose munificent liberality has made abundant provision for him for the remainder of his life. Into comparative retirement Mr Forsyth will carry with him the regrets and best wishes of many attached friends and brother horticulturists.
An inspection of the glass structures gave some eight vineries; the late house a fine span-roofed building, 62 feet in length by 42 feet in width. This is mainly planted with Black Hamburgs on the restriction system, with here and there a row of the Golden Hamburg. This Grape Mr Forsyth regards as a finely-flavoured Sweet Water, but it must be eaten as soon as ripe, as it will not keep; therefore it is practically useless as a late variety. A range of four old lean-to vineries is now to be removed, and a new range now in course of construction substituted. This will be 150 feet in length by 26 feet in width, with a broad walk at back 6 feet in width; the communication between each house by folding-doors. The roof of the new range will take a half-span form. A simple contrivance will raise the top sashes simultaneously at both sides, so as to ventilate the house when necessary. Four years ago this range was thoroughly planted with young Canes, and so concurrently with the new houses will be good crops of fruit.
Gunnersby is well known for the fine quality of the Pines grown there, and as a cultivator Mr Forsyth has made a good reputation. Here, then, can be seen plenty of succession pits, and two capital fruiting-houses, each 33 feet in length by 16 feet in width. It is not too much to state that Pine-Apples are cut all the year round at Gunnersby, but a supply during the London season - i.e., from the first week in February to the end of August - is particularly studied, and there is never a lack of fruits through that time. All the Pines are planted out, suckers and all, and not a single one is cultivated in a pot. A good number of Queens are grown, also smooth and prickly-leaved Cayennes, Black Jamaica, and Charlotte Rothschild; of the latter variety Mr Forsyth has exhibited, before the Royal Horticultural Society, some fruits 9 pounds in weight. The Pines are grown in a soil composed of two-thirds good rough peat and one-third loam; and when the fruits are swelling some manure-water is given, but not so frequently as some cultivators administer it.
In order to keep up such a constant succession as is here required, Mr Forsyth finds the oftener the suckers are planted the better; and so, as soon as they are sufficiently large to admit of their being planted out, it is done.
The forcing of Strawberries is a great feature at Gunnersby, and the average quantity of pots cultivated in a season is about 6000. Already Mr Forsyth has some 5600 fine plants well established in pots. For early forcing he depends mainly on Keen's Seedling, and to succeed this, Empress Eugenie, British Queen, and a few other varieties for later work. The White Bicton is much appreciated, and about a thousand plants of that variety are forced annually. To succeed these there are about 1 1/2 acres of Strawberries out of doors of similar kinds to those mentioned. Dr Hogg promises well for next year's fruiting. Ripe fruit is always gathered by the first week in March, and sometimes in February.
A prime feature is the Fig-house, or rather a series of three succession-houses in one length of nearly, or quite, 200 feet. The first crop is commenced in March, and the successive crops last up till the autumn. The principal varieties grown are the Brown Turkey and the White Marseilles. There are other varieties, but they are not so much relied on as these. This house, in the early part of the summer especially, is a great treat to the visitors at Gunnersby.
The Peach-wall is 140 yards in length, and is covered with a lean-to range of glass 10 feet in height at the back by 5 in width. Here a gathering is always made by the last week in May or the first week in June. The leading Peaches are Grosse Mignonne, Bellegarde, Violet Hative, and others; of Nectarines, Elruge, Roman, and Violette Hative. Enormous crops of fine fruit have been the order this season.