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.
Returning again to Plums, it may be stated that the season lasts about two months, the early and late varieties turning in about that time. A capital Plum is Sandell's Late, considered to be of very fine quality; it is the latest of all, and fit for general use. The crops of this variety were something astonishing. Mitchelson's, a medium-sized, oval - shaped, deep purple Plum, is also largely grown, and a great lot of this goes to Scotland. Goliath is also grown for market purposes, but the drought had told on it: it is a general good bearer. A fine late cooking Plum is Autumn Compote, one of Mr Rivers's varieties. Belle de Sep-tembre is another fine late Plum also.
Here we come upon a piece of Prince of Wales Plum, where the gatherers are busy at work. These and other trees are gone over three times by the pickers; the largest fruit, being also the earliest, is gathered as soon as ready; this allows space for the smaller fruit to swell, and another picking takes place when the smaller fruit is ready. Of the yellow Magnum Bonum a great quantity is grown; also of Pond's Seedling, an enormously large, bright red, oval - shaped Plum, some of the trees bearing very large clusters of fruit. Of Mitchelson's, Sandell's, Victoria, Prince of Wales, and Diamond Plums, there were plantations of large trees covered with fruit, the former preponderating. One great advantage about Mitchelson's Plum is, that it looks thoroughly ripe before it really is so, and travels well: it is a rich dark purple Plum, with a fine bloom on it. All the Plums that travel a long distance are packed before they are fully ripe, and being placed in the baskets when somewhat hard in the flesh, get nice and mellow by the time they reach their destination. They are packed in round baskets, which are usually denominated " sieves," green nettles being employed in the process.
Mr Dancer informed me that he had sent 400 bushels of Gisborne's Plum to Messrs Grosse & Blackwell of Soho Square, for preserving purposes.
Further, in the way of Apples, there were trees of Warner's King, Cellini Pippin, and Golden Noble, all very fine; also a good quantity of Hawthornden, which had been gathered by the 20th of August; of Pears, Beurre Box, a fine Covent Garden variety; Beurre d'Amanlis, of which there were very fine crops on large bush trees; Jersey Gratioli, a great lot, grown on fine young pyramidal trees; Aston Town also, a small Pear that sells well; the Hessel, of which very large crops could be seen - this is a Pear of which vast quantities are sent into Covent Garden market; and lastly, Beurre Capiaumont, a good market Pear also, that bears and sells well. Some standard trees of this had heavy crops.
Morello Cherries growing on bush trees in open parts of the ground appeared to be quite a new feature, and heavy crops have been taken from them; notwithstanding, the trees looked remarkably well. Underneath the large trees is grown the American Peach-blossom Potato, a large red round variety that will grow where no other will, and never takes the disease: it makes rank growth, but is said to be a good keeper, and of fine quality at the end of the winter. Among Currant trees, where it is more open, Brussels Sprouts are planted.
Moss Roses for cut flowers were quite a feature. Of these there was about three-quarters of an acre, and as many as forty-five dozen bunches have been sent to Covent Garden market on one night in the month of June, the average price obtained being about 6s. per dozen bunches. The Roses are well manured over the top to about the depth of 3 inches, the shoots are pegged down, and the young growth pinched back to three or four eyes. The Gooseberries are all gathered in a green state, and this for two good reasons: first, they sell as well as when ripe, and there is no waste; secondly, they are thus gathered at a season when labour is so not much in demand. The French or Dutch Horn Carrot, usually used for frame purposes, is here grown in the open ground very largely. About 2 1/2 inches in length and 1 1/2 in diameter, there is no waste, and it is a delicious eating variety. How truly Mr W. Robinson wrote of them in his book on French Gardens as "pretty dwarf tender little carrots." "They are always fresh, always to be had, and never contain a particle of the tissue which makes the coarser Carrots so much less valuable." Mr Dancer, it is to be presumed taking another hint from Mr Robinson's book, was growing Asparagus after one of the methods employed by the French gardeners.
On page 501 of ' The Parks, Promenades, and Gardens of Paris,' Mr Robinson states, "I first saw it (Asparagus) growing to a large extent among the Vines. The Vine under field culture, I need scarcely say, is simply cut down to near the old stool every year, and allowed to make a few growths, which are tied each to a stake: they do not overtop the Asparagus in any way, but, on the other hand, the strong plants of that show well above the Vines. It was not in distinct close lines among the Vines, but widely and irregularly separated, say 6 or 7 feet apart in the rows, and as much as 9 the other way. They simply put one plant in each open spot, and give it every chance of forming a capital specimen, and this it generally does. When the stems get large and a little top-heavy in early summer, a string is put round all, so as to hold them slightly together (the careful cultivator uses a stake), and the mutual support thus given prevents the plant from being cut off in its prime. We all know how apt it is to be twisted off at the collar by strong winds, especially in wet weather, when the drops on every tiny leaf make the foliage heavy.
The growing of Asparagus among the Vines is a very usual mode, and a vast space is thus covered with it about here." Acting on this idea, Mr Dancer had placed out a small plantation of Asparagus: how it will succeed he will be able to show next spring.
All rubbish, such as the prunings of trees, etc, is collected together, and burned, and the ashes so obtained used to sprinkle over plants affected by fly, which are dispersed if not killed by the application.
Such are a few of the chief features of one of the leading fruit - gardens about London. There are many of them, and they furnish many excellent hints and suggestions to observant minds. A walk through any one of them at any season of the year would not be labour altogether lost.