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.
These well-known Nurseries have played a most important part in the progress of horticulture daring the present century. The Rose, the Hollyhock, and many other popular flowers have here found and still do find a congenial home. Wherever the progress of floriculture during the last fifty years is sketched it will be found that the Cheshunt Nurseries are related to many of its most valued triumphs, and have played an important part in helping to secure some of its most noted successes.
Cheshunt is about 13 miles from London, on one of the north high roads, that leading to Hertford and Cambridge. The dwelling-house, together with the shop and office adjoining, are well known to frequenters of that road; hundreds who do not know the locality, or have never seen the nurseries, have heard of them, and have come to regard them as one of those high places of floriculture that take the form of shrines to which florists instinctively turn their footsteps, as a place full of pleasant revelations and undescribed delights. The grandfather of Mr George Paul, the present proprietor, established the Cheshunt nurseries about sixty years ago. The site of the original nursery stood back some distance from the dwelling-house, and it is said it was once the site of the trial grounds of Messrs Minier, Nash, and Nash, the wholesale seedsmen of the Strand. This spot is now the Peach and Strawberry nursery. At the period of our visit we found here an excellent treat of Strawberries, as Messrs Paul and Son grow these largely as a staple article of trade. That superb variety Dr Hogg was in prime condition; so were many more of the leading kinds, for notwithstanding the drought a liberal mulching and plentiful supplies of water had brought the fruits to a high state of perfection.
Next, there was added the Church Fields nursery a piece of land of about 12 acres, situated near to the parish church of Cheshunt. Here, on the occasion of our visit, was spread out a glorious feast of Roses, there being about 40,000 standard Roses worked on the briar, and dwarf Roses worked on the Manetti stock, in the full flush of their superb floral beauty. The requirements of the growing trade made it necessary that new land should be added, and the home nursery of about 15 acres, with some outlying pieces of land, 4 acres in all, were joined to the ground already under cultivation. Here there were planted out in the open ground some 40,000 standard and dwarf Roses, besides seedlings; there were also a large number of pot-Hoses, Coniferse, Ornamental Trees, Evergreens, etc, in common with many other plants found in a nursery of such great extent. In 1S60 was added what is known as the Roselands Nursery, a fine piece of land about 24 acres in extent, having a fine fresh Rose soil; and here, in addition to standard Roses almost without number, can also be seen a wonderful collection of all kinds of pyramidal, standard, and dwarf trained fruit-trees in superb condition, having all that fine and free development a deep, generous loamy soil can impart to them.
Mr George Paul informed us that the Roses here would amount to something like 40,000 in number. Away at High Beech, a few miles north-west of the home nursery, is a further nursery of 15 acres, devoted to the culture of American plants, Hollies, etc, all in thriving condition, and doing as well as could be wished. Such is a general sketch of the disposition of the several pieces of land making up the Cheshunt Nurseries.
No one can have walked through these nurseries - every part of them during the present summer - without being struck with the order and cleanliness everywhere observed. Mr George Paul appears to regard his nurseries with the eye of an artist; a mass of weeds here, or an untidy spot there, would mar the effect of the pleasant picture he has in his nurseries. Their condition reflects the highest credit on his management: it is also seen in the quality of the stuff he grows. Deep and constant hoeing is another characteristic of the order in which the nurseries are kept. Never before, perhaps, has a dry summer better illustrated the advantages of deep hoeing, and a constant stirring of the surface, than the prevailing drought has at Cheshunt during the past few months. A man who not only hoes deeply, but takes a pride in the quality of his work, is a man Mr Paul rates at a high value, and he encourages him in a liberal manner.
We have already alluded to the high-class character of the fruit-trees, and the same praise is deserved in the condition of all kinds of nursery stock. The land shows the prevalence of drought, but the stock scarcely; all was healthy, vigorous, and doing well. To particularise would be to go through all the various items forming an extensive and varied stock; but such things as a grand lot of standard Limes, dwarf-trained Nectarines, Peaches, Plums, Cherries, and Apricots, trees of many kinds, shrubs, etc., were all in prime condition. That more useful class of trees and shrubs, those with variegated and ornamental foliage, are largely looked after, and almost complete collections have been gathered together. Variegated Sycamores, Ash, Acers, and many other things can be seen"; and in the spring time, when the young growth is fresh and at its best, the lover of pictorial trees will find a great field for study opened up in these grounds. In one part of the nursery grounds were to be seen collections of the several species and varieties of Lilacs, Weigelias, Spireas, etc, as interesting to the botanist as they are to the practical horticulturist.
Immense quantities of Aucuba Japonica were to be seen in one of the nurseries, grown mainly to supply the London cos-termongers with plants, which they pot and sell as window plants during the winter. As a general rule, a very large number of these get starved for want of water - a failing common to window gardeners in large cities, and especially in London, where such an extensive migratory population exists - but the demand is always a large one, and the supply must keep pace with it.