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.
There are two nice Cucumber-houses, one for summer and one for winter work, and from these fruit can be cut each day in the year. For winter work, a good variety, known as Volunteer, is a great favourite. Melons are not largely grown, as this fruit is not very highly esteemed on the Baron's table. The new Burghley Park green flesh appears to be a good variety.
The kitchen-garden is in keeping in all its general features with such a place. The Plum wall is a fine feature, and includes a good number of varieties; the leading kinds are Green Gage, Golden Drop, and Jeffersons. Pear-trees can be seen in great numbers, trained in the pyramidal form, but with the branches brought down in a pendant form, as is common in some of the French gardens. The large collection comprises all the leading kinds, and some three years ago Mr Forsyth cut down something like 200 fine old standard Hazel Pear trees, and grafted on them the best sorts obtainable at the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Chiswick; so there will be no lack of Pears by-and-by.
Varied collections of plants are grown at Gunnersby, and there are several houses for their cultivation; but they are used for furnishing the residence here and the London mansions. Exceptions to this are seen in a small but very choice collection of Orchids in excellent health - a house of stove and handsome foliaged plants, and two span-roofed houses for the same. Among the latter are many kinds of Coleus, especially of the golden-leaved varieties, which prove of great value for furnishing purposes. There is a span-roofed house for the culture of Pelargoniums; and there is another house of similar construction divided by a partition into two parts; the roof of one of these is entirely covered by a fine plant of Stephanotis floribunda, which produces a vast number of flowers. On the 16th of June last Mr Forsyth sent to the Baron's residence in Piccadilly 200 trusses of blooms, and vast numbers are cut during the blooming time. In the other division Lapagerias were planted out; a fine plant of the red variety was in full bloom, and the beautiful white variety was rapidly opening its flowers. They are both planted out in pit-beds 6 feet in length, in a soil composed of rough peat mixed with charcoal, and plenty of drainage underneath.
They have an abundance of water, but the nature of the soil, and the drainage beneath, causes it to pass away from the roots very freely. There is also grown here a very fine collection of Azaleas for house-decoration in London, and the supply of cut flowers for the same purpose is something enormous. Every morning a cart is despatched to London with plants, vegetables, flowers, and fruit.
The flower-gardens and pleasure-grounds are charming in the extreme; and the former are so disposed that only glimpses of them can be gained from the front terrace of the house. The grounds are finely wooded; magnificent Elms tower up aloft with the growth of many years in their majestic proportions. Thorns, Sycamores, and Beech bear them company, and some grand Cedars of Lebanon spread out enormous spreading branches from colossal trunks; and underneath the Cedars and other trees are verdant carpets of evergreen Ivy. Dotted about are fine specimen coniferous plants, Magnolias, and other trees, more or less valuable for their flowers or foliage. Lighting up borders of Rhododendrons, or lending a radiance to the sombre hues of huge clumps of shrubbery, can be seen vigorous-growing heads of Acer negundo variegata; and with these are also used other ornamental-foliaged plants to aid the production of similar results. The greensward is most deliciously verdant; all the summer through it has been kept watered by a long tube composed of iron and leather, and running on wheels; portions of the tube are finely punctured with holes, and a stream of water forced into the tube at a high rate of pressure "distils a gentle rain " over a considerable portion of tur'f surface.
It plays in one position for about twenty minutes, and then is removed to another part of the lawn. A man can work it and fill up his time about the flower-beds.
One of the flower-gardens gives lines of basket-beds, with a wire-fencing round the margin, and handles also, over which climbing Roses, etc, were growing. Decided colours are sparingly used; neutral and soft tints, with plenty of foli-aged plants, are employed, and a charming effect results. All the beds have an outer margin of some foliaged plant, such as Cineraria maritima, Stachys lanata, Pyrethrum Golden Feather, etc. Some beds of a dark-coloured Heliotrope were very fine and somewhat unusual, as the Heliotrope is somewhat sparingly used as a bedding-plant now. A mass of Coleus Verschaffeltii, edged with a silvery-leaved plant, was very fine indeed. Dotted about the ground, mostly under the shade of tall trees, or filling up open spaces, were fine beds of Cannas, Castor-Oil plants, and suchlike, with suitable edgings. Some mixed sub-tropical beds, having Abutilon Thompsoni, Dracaena terminalis, and other foliaged plants, plentifully mingled with Lilium auratum and similar rare flowering-plants, were very fine indeed, and a pleasant study, so many different kinds of plants being used in their composition.
Another flower-garden on the north-west side of the house gave a huge circular bed filled with Stella nosegay Pelargonium; round this was a broad gravel walk, and then a circular line of small round beds, each planted with Mrs Pollock, and banded together by means of a low archway of Convolvulus major trained over from one to the other. Round this circular line was another of beds in the shape of segments of a broad circular band, edged with box, each of which was filled with Christine Pelargonium; and all encircled with a series of iron archways over which were trained climbing and pillar Roses. Round the large piece of ornamental water are clumps of fine trees and banks of Rhododendrons, and at intervals fine plants of the Pampas Grass in threes, that are grand objects in autumn, when the waving silvery spikes are reflected in the shining waters beneath. Huge clumps of Arundo conspicua were very fine also, some of the plants having many heads of the peculiar silvery inflorescence it produces.
The front of the mansion has a broad terrace-walk, on which are placed in the summer months Orange-trees, Fuchsias, etc. From this point there gradually falls away, towards another piece of ornamental water in the distance, one of the most charming sloping banks of turf our eyes have this season been refreshed by, happily without an obtrusive flower-bed to desecrate it. Almost in the middle of this slope stands a trio of majestic Elms: -
"Grandeur, strength, and grace Are here to speak of Thee. Not a prince In all that proud old world beyond the deep E'er wore his crown as loftily as these Wear the green coronal of leaves with which Thy hand has graced them:" and others of equal imposing proportions screen the dwelling from the noonday sun, the scaring tempest, the "swift dark whirlwind," and the keen edge of the northern blasts. It is a lovely spot in the charming grounds of Gunnersby - beautiful, sublime, and peaceful. It is one in which "To meditate In these calm shades Thy milder majesty, And to the beautiful order of Thy works Learn to conform the order of our lives".