This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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.
1 don't think your correspondent J. S.'s remarks on the above are any more than just. In the first place, he says when the master puts his young men in the " way " of acquiring a good practical knowledge of their work as operatives, etc. etc, his duty as a schoolmaster ceases.
Why should it cease? Surely not to their own advantage. J. S. has as much authority to state, that if a house of Vines is watered, and the heat turned on, one may expect well-finished bunches of Grapes at the end of six months without any more attention, as to say that the head-gardener is "at any time " to withhold his comments, advice, or encouragement. There are exceptions to all rules; but, as a rule, young men seeing the head-gardener withhold his more mature knowledge of general gardening get callous or indifferent. The first opportunity that presents itself, they leave. The exceptions " may excel" when they find the reins of government, as it were, fall on their own shoulders; but no conscientious gardener "will give up teaching " while he has anything to impart.
J. S. goes on to say that the first and most essential thing is to be an efficient workman; he must be civil and good-natured. These qualifications are a passport to success " in themselves." Intellectual ability is tolerated, if they can handle the spade or hammer in a tradesmanlike fashion.
Has J. S. ever had to do with a young man whose intellectual ability was even above mediocrity that could not handle either spade or hammer? We pass his remarks on "labourers versus journeymen " by merely stating that if he would give the tailor or the apothecary the same amount of attention he gives the coal-miner, he will have no cause to complain (we think) of want of interest in the discharge of their duties.
We have our own opinion, too, about character-giving, but cannot see it in the same light as J.S. No "honourable"gardener, let him be as good-natured as it is possible, can give a young man a character in his hand, ana then, when referred to, deny it. Our idea of the " honourable " man is, if a'character is to be given to an employee, to state the simple truth to the deserving; you can say no more. On the other hand, to the empiric say candidly, " That your inability to do in a satisfactory manner anything in connection with your profession, forbids me saying one word in your favour." Who knows but there may be the " smallest spark " of pride in that man; that the reproof may be kindled, and may be the turning-point of Lis existence? whereas, in these "confidential characters," he blames the world for not appreciating his abilities, instead of thinking for a moment that the blame lies on himself. J. S.'s concluding remarks are rather "staggering." We have been in one or two of the midland counties of England, and must say that there must be a great reformation since that time if the civility of the natives much exceeds that of the Scotch. J. S. must be labouring under a hallucination when he states that young men going to England (after serving an apprenticeship in a "gentleman's" garden, even in Scotland) would have any doubts about addressing a superior.
J. S. should bear in mind than there is a limit even to civility - any person going beyond which, in our opinion, appears ridiculous.
In conclusion, we agree with our Editor's remark that journeymen are not overpaid at 17s. per week, even with the perquisites they generally get. But there is no allowance made for the time they are in a nursery, where they are anything but overpaid; and in such a season as this there will be little else than broken time. Caledonicus.
[We are at a loss to understand how a head-gardener can direct the proper management of a garden establishment without teaching his subordinates. - Ed].
Allow me to say a few words on the remarks made in reference to under-garden-ers, by J. S., in your January issue, which I heartily endorse. I do not mean to go over the ground again, but rather wish to supplement him, where, according to my mind, he stopped short. He says, and says truly, that to attempt to teach some youths is like throwing pearls before swine; and further on, something to the effect that permanent labourers are generally to be preferred to journeymen-gardeners. I agree with him entirely, so far as my experience goes. Now, I ask what he did not ask, Who is to blame? I think it«a disgrace to the profession that, in this nineteenth century, it should be said that common garden-labourers are better qualified for the general work of a garden than men who call themselves gardeners. Who is to blame? Without hesitation I answer, head-gardeners.
How can it be otherwise? When a lot of young men are engaged, the first question they generally ask is, "What's the pay? " and are generally answered, 14s. 1.5s. or 18s. per week, as the case may be. Thus, at the very outset, before the head-gardener can possibly know who are worth the money and who are not, each and all are assured of what amount they are to receive. Some of them are possibly underpaid, and some are overpaid - yes, overpaid, for many professed gardeners are not worth half what they receive.
[This applies to all classes, as well as to gardeners. - Ed].
Instead of promising men a certain pay, whether they are worth it or not, why not state that they will be paid according to ability? As the general system is at present, every encouragement is given to men of indolent habits to practise those habits; while those who are really in earnest to do their duty efficiently and expeditiously, are kept in check by the knowledge that it is all one whether they trifle their time or not, so far as present reward is concerned. I have often known men, when remonstrated with on their careless way of doing things by their fellow-labourer or foreman, turn round and tell them that they got as much thanks and pay, and would get as good a character when they left, as those who tried to do their best. I do not contradict the statement, that the best men are generally most successful in the end; but I do say that the present uselessness (I can use no other word) of under-gardeners is chiefly due to the present pernicious .system of rewarding all alike. Under-gardenera are undoubtedly underpaid, as a rule; but as long as they are all paid alike, whether they are good or bad, so long will they continue to jog on, never caring nor thinking whether they are really gardeners or not.
But let head-gardeners adopt a system of paying according to ability, and then under-gardenera will become better workmen, giving more satisfaction to all concerned, while decidedly inferior ones will be obliged to try the besom of the scavenger or shovel of the navvy, as being a better paid job; and then gardening will cease to be disgraced by misnamed gardeners.
[We have several communications on this subject, but think our readers will not be greatly interested in much more of it. - Ed].