This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", 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.
A few days ago we found ourselves journeying along the Great Western Rail way through Buckinghamshire to have a look at Wy combe, to pay a promised visit to Mr Miles, and to see his Pine-growing, for which his reputation stands deservedly high. As regards soil and climate, Buckingham is one of the finest counties in England; and in one of its warmest and most sheltered valleys lies Wycombe Abbey, the seat of the Rt. Hon. Lord Carrington. But as our notes are not ample enough to do justice to the place by a general description, we will speak of the fruit garden only, and the Pines occupy the first place. The pine-houses, or rather pits, are not very pretentious structures, but they are light and well adapted to their work. In one division there were twenty-eight plants, principally Queens, just about finishing their fruit. Among the lot there was not one ill-formed or small fruit. The Queens would average, I should think, 5 lb. apiece - many approaching 6 lb. - and the Envilles and Smooths amongst them would be much heavier. The plants were in 12 and 14-inch pots, were dwarf and squatty in habit, and more remarkable for the substance and rigidity of their leaves than anything else.
I do not recollect ever noticing pine leaves of such thickness, and it confirmed an impression I had previously entertained that great substance of leaf was always to be found in conjunction with large and fine fruit, and was of infinitely more importance than either length or breadth. As a case in point, I may mention that the Hurst House Pine has short but remarkably thick leaves, and its remarkable feature is its large fruit compared to the size of the plant.
Mr Miles' succession stock looked like unusually strong autumn-struck suckers, but I was informed that they were rootless suckers last March, and were intended to ripen their fruit in 17 months from the time they were detached from the old plants. A later lot of fruiting plants, consisting of Smooths, Charlotte Rothschilds, Queens, etc, were just showing fruit, and promised just as well as the others. Mr Miles prefers the C. Rothschild Pine to the Smooth Cayenne for all purposes, but in this some will not agree with him altogether; for the Smooth is, we think, more accommodating, easier grown, easier induced to show, and swells better as a rule. The soil which Mr Miles uses is a yellow fibry loam of the very best description, and the supply, we understand, was inexhaustible. In fact, the same soil forms the staple of the kitchen garden soil, and both fruit and vegetables showed how they delighted in it. Upon the refuse soil heap we saw some old balls of pine plants, which were so completely warped with roots that you might have kicked them like a football before you without breaking them. With such materials, and the skill and enthusiasm which Mr Miles brings to bear upon their culture, we could understand his great and constant success.
Wycombe is chiefly a fruit-growing establishment, and indoors and outdoors the same excellent results are observable. The houses and kitchen-gardens are compact, and always under the inspection of the head of the establishment; and it was easy to see that every department received much of Mr Miles' personal attention - as a rule, the secret of success in gardening. Early Grapes were a fine crop, fruit beautifully coloured; late ones very promising. Early Melons all cut and over early in June, and an abundant succession lot coming on. Cherries under glass nearly over, but just enough to show how plentiful and excellent the supply had been for weeks back. Our visit was, however, very hurried; and much regretting that we could not spend more time with such a kind friend and thorough gardener as Mr Miles, we found ourselves again hurrying through the rich Buckingham meadows and woodlands towards the Metropolis.
J. S. W.