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 traveller who journeys by rail from Southampton to Andover, or the pleasure-seeker who makes his annual trip by road to Stockbridge Races, must be equally familiar with the locale, of Mottisfont Abbey, and have both admired its charming seclusion, and, especially at this period of the year, have longed to partake somewhat largely of the delicious coolness so characteristic of its watery surroundings and noble umbrageous trees. Certainly the place partakes of a pleasant greenness, even in the hottest weather, that is most refreshing, and which is produced by the abundance of water that flows through it.
A pleasant walk of a quarter of a mile from the little railway station brings us to the Romsey Lodge, where we are gratified to find her ladyship's able gardener, Mr Jones, waiting to be our escort. Proceeding up the carriage-road, the ear is struck by a rumbling sound as well as that of a rush of water; and turning shortly to the left, we come upon a large pumphouse, in which a huge hydraulic wheel is revolving, driven round by the force of the very element that it is thus forcing in large quantities to the top of the Abbey for the supply of all its internal requirements, and also to the stables, farm, kitchen-garden, and the whole of the glass-houses. A little further on to the lawn, still to the left, flows a clear stream of cool spring water that rises from a large hole or well a little higher up. This well is about 10 feet in depth and the same in diameter, and as the water passes out from it, it falls down a slight declivity, and thus forms a pretty cascade. The flow is incessant, the stream being about 5 feet in width and 12 inches in depth, thus furnishing a supply of delicious water that would in populous localities prove a valuable boon.
Immediately in front of the east side of the Abbey runs an artificial river of about 35 feet in width and 2 1/2 feet deep, believed to have been made in the days of old by the monks, who were at one time the owners of the property, and which enjoys its own quiet course independent of the main river - the Test - for several miles. This river is crossed by a neat foot-bridge, by which means access is obtained to the large extent of lawn and woodland on the other side. Especially noticeable, growing on its banks, are some enormous Box-trees, which are very luxuriant here. The lawn surrounding the Abbey is studded with some noble trees of great vigour and beauty, prominent among which are two enormous specimens of the Oriental Plane, the largest of which has around its trunk a circumference of 32 feet, and breaks off into two huge stems, and measures, the one 17 feet and the other 13 feet round. The entire circumference of the branches is about 300 feet. Of the Abbey itself little information could be gathered, but it is believed to have been built in the year 1100, and that the present building constituted but one of the wings of the original edifice.
To the archaeologist it would, no doubt, prove a pleasing field of research, as it is scarcely possible to dig on any part of the lawn without meeting with some portion of the ancient foundations; and but a few months since a fine human skeleton, much of which was in a good state of preservation, was found in what seemed to have been an old well. The present building has its principal fronts looking north and south, and bears upon its external surface the marks of many years' exposure to our uncertain climate.
At the eastern extremity of the lawn is situate the flower-garden, which is sheltered from the wind by a capital Box hedge. The beds are filled for the summer decoration, and promise in their arrangement to produce a display at once unique and effective. Two large round beds especially we noted, that will make a sensation, each containing from 250 to 300 plants. The first had an outer ring of the new Viola, Blue Perfection, inside of which was the dwarf orange scarlet Pelargonium, Harry Hieover, and then a ring of a dark Coleus, a band of which was also carried in the form of a cross through the centre of the bed, thus leaving four spaces, that were filled with Mrs Pollock variegated Zonal Pelargonium. The other bed had an outer circle of Mrs Pollock, next that Purple King Verbena, then a ring and cross of the white-foliaged Ceataurea can-dissima, the quarters being filled with the deep scarlet-flowering nosegay Pelargonium Stella. Close by here is an ancient stone summer-house, a window in which has each alternate pane filled with blue or buff coloured glass. The visitor looking through the first sees all the ground covered with snow, and through the latter bright summer sunshine.
There is also an ancient stone coffin standing behind the arbour.
We are now conducted across the park in a westerly direction to the kitchen-garden and forcing-houses; and as the special feature of this notice is to illustrate early fruit-forcing, we will at once proceed to describe what is done in this branch of horticulture by one of the most successful fruit-growers in the county of Hants.
Of course, in this department the Vine stands pre-eminent, and our introduction to it in its most advanced form of bearing is some pot Vines, growing in a Pine-pit, each of which carries six or seven bunches of ripe fruit. To show how speedily the Grape Vine can be made to yield produce, it will be sufficient to state that these pot Vines were started from eyes in February of last year, and were grown into a stout cane about 6 feet in length. These were again placed in heat on the 1st of November, and were cut from in the middle of April last, a period of fourteen months only. The kinds grown are Black Hamburg, Muscadine, and Buckland Sweetwater. We now turn to the earliest house of Grapes, started on the 1st of December last with heat. Here the Vines are loaded with bunches of Black Hamburgs, many of which were ready for cutting by the middle of May. At one end, grafted on the Black Hamburg, is a rod of the Golden Champion, a fine new Grape, that has in this instance large berries, but small bunches.
It is, however, not yet ripe.