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 not many things impossible to human energy." So spoke the Earl of Derby at the banquet of the Manchester Horticultural Exhibition, in perhaps the most interesting and sensible speech that ever was uttered at any horticultural gathering. We need scarcely tell our readers that we seldom wander into subjects which may be considered only distantly related to horticulture. But the sentence of the noble earl which we have quoted is well worthy the careful consideration of all aspirants in horticulture. Energy, it need scarcely be said, is of vast importance in any walk of life; and the energetic are sure to make their way and mark, often in spite of difficulties, and always when circumstances are anything like favourable. If such horticultural gatherings as the recent very successful one at Manchester have stimulated and advanced the science of horticulture, they have done so mainly by rousing and calling out the energies of individual cultivators. Those superlative examples of fruit-growing which have been exhibited on such occasions, we would impress on the minds of our younger brethren, were not the result either of chance or magic. No ! They were the result of labour - plodding, continuous, and untiring labour.
They were so many splendid results developed from the womb of nature, at the price of well-directed energy: at times, it may be, exhaustive, and demanding the sacrifices of rest and ease. Who, of the mere uninitiated spectators at Manchester Exhibition, could sum up the amount of energy, skill, and care required on the part of a cultivator in the far north to enable him to bring to such perfection such a splendid general collection of fruit; to pack them, and carry them for hundreds of miles, and stage them with a freshness and bloom as if they had never been touched, - thus enabling him to take first honours against others from the better climate and soils of the south, and even backed by all the resources of a regal establishment % Or who of them could fully appreciate the energetic attention and good generalship which enabled another to bring such magnificent clusters of Grapes, in the most unique order, from the indifferent climate of Durham and the smoke of its coal-pits ? Or that which enabled another to stage, from under the dripping cloudy skies of Westmoreland, the largest Queen Pine on record %
No matter what amount of money a gentleman spends on his garden and hothouses, unless there is the determined and energetic and intelligent application of the means allowed, the productions must of necessity fall short of being first-rate. This must hold good as a rule; while, on the other hand, many first-rate cultivators have to cope with the most untoward circumstances, which any amount of energy can never overcome - and such men are the objects of pity and not of blame.
Energy and excellence in the highest profession or humblest calling are, from many combined reasons, indispensable in order to succeed; and our young brethren who yet have the chance more or less of making their position in the horticultural world, should live and work under the impression of that fact. If they will learn to labour and to wait, it will not matter much whether their sphere of action be the more favoured counties of the south or the more barren north; if they are studious, energetic, and painstaking, they will make their mark. And we would remind them that it is not necessary to labour under the most favourable auspices to be able to send forward the largest Grapes and Pine-Apples on record. If a gardener is idle, slovenly, and careless, he is almost certain to be one of those who are heard complaining that their calling is overdone and the market glutted. The sooner these relinquish the garden the better for it and them. It has been said of labour that it is the arch elevator of man, and that patience is the essence of labour. Whether that be rightly put or not, it is scarcely necessary to say that success and position in gardening are inseparable from well-directed labour and patience. We are not now speaking of exceptions, but of the rule.
Successful gardeners must think hard - and that is hard work, harder than trenching - and they must work physically too. We never knew a kid-glove gardener that was much of a power in the horticultural world. We do not mean by this that a gardener at the head of a large horticultural establishment is regularly to take off his coat and tuck his sleeves up, but there are certain things to be done in a garden which few eminent cultivators ever delegate to others. Indeed, so far as the principle now under consideration is concerned, true life in any sphere is inseparable from effort and exertion, and the life of a true and successful horticulturist is particularly so. We are not now speaking of those make-believe powers which would like to have gardeners revolving round them as satellites to reflect only their own borrowed light, but of those who, with wearied limbs and throbbing brows, have brought horticulture to what it is.
Sorry we are that, while we thus comment on the Derby text and impress its imprint on the minds of gardening aspirants, we cannot point to a more remunerative goal within the reach of even the most successful. And while we challenge any one to contradict what we have advanced as being the necessary elements of success in a gardener's character, we avow it is grievous and passing strange to think how gardeners are rewarded for their intelligence, character, and energy as compared with a valet or a footman. It would be well if employers would institute a careful comparison between what a valet or a footman costs them and what a head-gardener is paid, and if the comparison resulted in their making a careful selection of their gardeners, and paying them much better, none concerned would profit so much as employers themselves.