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 growth and preservation of the Ailanthus silkworm, as carried out at Hursley Park, under the immediate superintendence of Lady Heathcote, is simply experimental in its character, but its value for commercial purposes has to be tested.
From this interesting feature we pass on to the kitchen-gardens, which are situated on the east side of the pleasure-grounds, and indeed formed our starting-point, but the consideration and notice of which we deferred until the other portions of this fine place had been scanned, the department of vegetable gardening constituting the special reason why the gardens here were made the subject of the present illustration.
The whole of the grounds covered by the mansion and offices, lawn, shrubberies, and kitchen-gardens, consists of about 18 acres, and is enclosed from the path by a ring-fence, sufficiently high to exclude the deer. The kitchen-gardens comprise about 6 acres of this enclosure, 4 acres of which are surrounded on the north, east, and south sides with a high brick wall, the outer sides of which are devoted to the growth of trained pear-trees of all the best kinds, which are this season in fine health, and producing a heavy crop of fruit. A wide border in front of these trees is devoted to the culture of vegetables, and on its outer edge is a long line of circular-trained Apple-trees running from the north-eastern to the south-western corners, a broad grass walk again bordering the whole.
Inside the walled garden we find that in the centre, and running its entire length, is a very broad smoothly-mown grass walk, the same being carried crosswise. On either side of this walk is an herbaceous border, in which many of our old favourite plants are cultivated, the back of each border being fenced off by continuous lengths of trained espalier fruit-trees, the quarters devoted to vegetable culture being within. The inside portions of the walls are devoted to the growth of stone fruits; but the trees here, as in too many other gardens, bear evidence that our English climate has gradually become unsuitable to the culture in the open air of the more tender and choice fruits. Singularly enough, however, there is growing, in a sheltered corner in the garden, a large Violet Hative Nectarine tree, trained upon a trellis in umbrella fashion, that has not received any other protection than its situation affords, and is literally loaded with fruit that will ripen in September. This is a decided novelty, and is also an entire exception to the general rule.
The glass-houses are limited in extent, and are devoted almost exclusively to the growth of Grapes and the housing of plants in winter. These are enclosed by a remarkable Yew hedge, some 8 or 9 feet through, and which looks like a massive green rampart, so smooth and neat is it kept.
In furnishing from year to year the vegetable supplies requisite for a large private establishment, such as generally constitutes the household of a wealthy English gentleman, the gardener is called upon to exercise considerable forethought and good judgment; but that such essentials are not lacking here, a walk through the vegetable department will speedily show; and we now will glance at the crops as at present under cultivation to illustrate this. Of course, Peas are largely grown. The earliest sowings are put in in a warm border in February, and consist of First Crop and Sangster's No. 1, succeeded by Taber's Perfection and Dickson's First Early. Then large sowings of Champion of England, Laxton's Supreme, British Queen, Veitch's Perfection, and a fine late selected variety having the local appellation of "Merdon Castle." The gatherings commence at the end of May, and continue to the end of October. As will be seen by the above list, tall kinds are mostly grown for the main crops; but sticks are plentiful here, the expense of which is generally a grave question.
Of Potatoes, early and second early kinds are grown in the garden, the best and earliest of which seems to be Veitch's Improved Ashley's, a new variety, which is strongly recommended for its excellent table and cropping qualities. Some are raised in frames for the earliest supply, and are succeeded by those raised in the open air. The old Ash-leaf is also largely grown, and is followed by the Early Lapstone and the Milky White, both capital table varieties. Early Kidney Beans are forced in frames for Easter Day, and a large quantity grown in the open garden; added to which, that valuable Bean, the Scarlet Runner, gets considerable space. Broad Beans are not neglected, the earliest being Long Pods, followed by Johnston's Wonderful, and that very useful dwarf kind, Beck's Green Gem. Large beds of both Asparagus and Seakale are grown, and some raised for forcing every winter, for cutting on Christmas Day. Rhubarb is put into the Mushroom-house, and gathered from November until May. Cauliflowers grow here to great size; that capital variety, the Early Dwarf Mammoth, being the favourite.
These are wintered as young plants in frames, and put out under handlights in early spring, being cut from at the end of May. Supplies are maintained all through the summer and autumn, the Broccoli tribe continuing the supply all through the winter. Of these the earliest is Snow's Winter White, and the Penzance, succeeded by Backhouse's Protecting, Dilcock's Bride, and Cattel's Eclipse, which furnish cuttings up to May. Added to these, needing special mention, is Veitch's Wilcove Improved, which promises to be the best late kind out. Cabbages are always in season; the sorts chiefly grown are Atkin's Matchless and Wheeler's Imperial. An early planting of Brussels Sprouts takes place at the end of May, and another later on is put amongst the Potatoes: this useful vegetable is largely grown, and is supplemented by the Albert Sprouts, Early Ulm, and dwarf Green Curled Savoys, Scotch Kale, Buda Kale, and Couve Tronchuda, all capital winter greens. Very large beds of Onions, Carrots, and Parsnips are sown in drills 1 foot apart in March, and first-rate they looked.
Lettuces for the summer are Paris White and Green Cos, and for winter, Bath Cos, and all the year round maintaining a constant supply, which is largely assisted by Endive. Of Celery, the Sandringham White and Matchless Red, both fine solid kinds, are extensively cultivated. There are also many other useful vegetables grown that we must forbear to mention. Suffice it to say that nothing needful is lacking in its proper season.
And now, in conclusion, we have to acknowledge to Mr John Heath, the hon. baronet's respected gardener, our sincere thanks for his great kindness and hospitality, and depart with wishes for his welfare and that of his highly-esteemed employer. 0. S.