This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The cold vinery under the care of James Matheson, whose name has become familiar to the horticultural public by means of his various essays on grape growing, deserves more than a passing notice. This house is a lean-to, 60 feet long by 25 wide, built in an old stone quarry under the lee of a hill, occupying one of the most sheltered positions imaginable. The house is principally noticeable on account of great length of rafter, being over 27 feet, thus affording a fine opportunity of developing the vines on the spur system; and nobly has this been taken advantage of by this enterprising gardener. The vines are planted 4 feet apart, and are 5 years old this spring, (1862;) they are now as thick around as a man's arm, and for fine appearance exceed any thing it has been our fortune to meet with. The first year they were cut back to 18 inches; the second, 7 feet of wood was allowed to remain; the third about 4 feet; the fourth, 2 feet; and last year 18 inches. On one of these vines a bunch of the well-known variety, Muscat of Alexandria, was grown weighing over 9 pounds, last season; in addition to this magnificent bunch, about 50 pounds of fruit was taken. From a white Syrian, Mr. Matheson expects a twelve pound bunch this year; and we think he will have it, as he has the wood.
These vines were one year old when planted, the border being inside and outside; the vines planted about 18 inches from the front wall. The soil is naturally well adapted for the culture of the grape, being a sandy loam, and the border evinces careful preparation by skillful hands. The house is essentially a cold house, although provided with a flue. Artificial heat is not resorted to, to forward the vines; the situation of the house is so protected that the vines start considerably earlier than they would in a more exposed position.
Mr. Lovering's house is 80 feet long by 24 wide, and 24 high; 22 vines are grown on each side on the spur system, with the border inside and outside. About thirty pounds of fruit are taken annually from each vine. Forcing is not resorted to, and the hot water apparatus only used for the purpose of excluding frost The vines break about the middle of March, and fruit is in season from the middle of August until Christmas. The house is a costly structure, and will not be copied except by those of abundant means, although for beauty of appearance, especially when the vines are in a fruiting condition, it will compare favorably with any house that we have seen. Ventilation is effected by means of sash so worked that all are opened and closed simultaneously.
Curvilinear houses are well adapted to grace the grounds of the wealthy, especially where early grapes are not sought; for economy they will not be chosen. For a specimen of a cheap, complete curvilinear house, the reader is referred to a building opposite to Monument Cemetery, Philadelphia. This house, if memory serves us, not having seen it for several years, is over 50 feet long and about 20 wide; we think it was built by contract for six hundred dollars, while the house first alluded to cost, we should judge, as many thousands. A skillful gardener could take as much and as fine fruit from the cheap structure as from the more costly.
Curvilinear houses, to our eye, present a more pleasing appearance than any other form of house. They are easily managed, but should always be provided with the means of securing artificial heat if desirable. The borders of this form of house are usually made inside and outside - vines planted near the inside front wall.
Among the well-kept places with which West Philadelphia abounds, those of Mr. M. W. Keen and Mr. Altemus are conspicuous. Mr. Keen's grounds embrace about an acre, and are judiciously laid out. Among the many beauties, a fine specimen of the Magnolia grandiflora, in full flower on the 20th of April, was especially noticeable. Some pear trees, trained on espaliers, attracted our attention, being remarkably full of fruit buds, and presenting a novel feature. This mode of training pear trees, although well adapted to the gardens of the curious and the skillful, is not to be recommended for general purposes, as the sun is found to have an injurious effect on the bark of the trees. The vineries, lean-to houses, about 50 feet long each, bear testimonials to the skill of the gardener, Mr. John Stowe, to whom we are under many obligations for varied marks of attention. The residence of Mr. Keen, taken altogether, presents many attractions. Here, surrounded with all the advantages of the city, may be enjoyed the pleasures and freedom from restraint peculiar to a country life.
The residence of Mr. Altemus, somewhat further out, contains about the same amount of grounds, the most marked feature of which are the graperies, which have become very well known under the care of Mr. John Sanders. The borders are altogether outside, the vines planted without, and trained on the spur system, and the entire houses, some three hundred feet, heated with hot water piping. A house of nectarines in full bloom presented a magnificent sight, not soon to be forgotten, the trees being in tubs, and trained on espaliers. Out of doors here, as well as at Mr. Keen's, are to be seen some well-attended pear trees, showing how grateful the pear is for a moderate amount of attention. Still further up in the village, we were taken to see some 70 trees, (pears,) planted about 6 years ago, and which have been under Mr. Keen's gardener during the past three years. To those doubting the practicability of growing the pear with profitable returns, we would recommend a visit to these trees. They have had no specific treatment, and have been properly and judiciously pruned into the pyramidal form. The return from these trees, the gardener informed us, (the ground occupied being less than half an acre,) would be over one hundred and fifty dollars; the expense of treating them, nothing.
A thorough spading of the ground two years previously had been their only cost. And while on the subject of pears, let me ask why it is that the Winter Nelis (two of which were among the collection alluded to, and very thrifty, beautiful trees) is so exceedingly difficult to obtain of our nurserymen? They all have it, it is true - in their catalogues - but nowhere else; for instance, to be specific, an order was sent in succession, last autumn, to Wm. Reid first, then to Smith & Hanchett, then to Maxwell & Brothers of Geneva, for this tree; all replied in the negative. At last we prevailed on Hovey & Co. to send us 12, (20 the order called for.) and without Mr. Hovey's attention, we might have wanted the tree. The variety is set down as a poor, straggling grower, and is thought to be tender when young; but our nurserymen should either take its name from their catalogues, (especially their trade lists,) or keep up a stock.
[We should like to be near Mr. Matheson when those big clusters ripen; something very persuasive would happen. In regard to curvilinear houses, there can be no doubt that they are the most beautiful as well as the best that can be built. The additional cost is not necessarily great. - Ed].