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.
This may be made a most desirable tropical orchard-house tree, and so managed as to give its quota to the Christmas dessert. Trees of one or two years old, that have been protected from the winter, in a cold pit, should be potted early in May into 13-inch pots, and protected from frost by being placed in the orchard house, or any cold frame or pit, till the first week in June. They may then be placed out of door for the summer in a sunny exposure, sheltered from boisterous winds. Liquid manure may be given to them once a week, and they should be lifted once a fortnight, to prevent the roots which would make their way through the bottom of the pot from becoming too large. They may remain in their summer quarters till the end of September; but if one or two frosts occur in that month, they should be protected by having a piece of calico or a little hay thrown over them. At the end of the month they will be covered with young green figs, and if removed to the tropical orchard house they will ripen their fruit towards the end of November and through December. If it is wished to retard the ripening of the fruit on some of the trees, they may be placed in the common orchard house or a cold-pit till the first week in November. They will then, on being removed to the tropical orchard house, mature their fruit even as late as January. The most prolific and best varieties for winter figs are the White Ischia, (this is sometimes called incorrectly the Nerii; it is a most abundant bearer,) the Brown Turkey, or, as it is often called, Lee's Perpetual, and the White Marseilles, I have in these few pages given the outline of what may be done towards increasing our garden luxuries.
The culture of tropical fruits is not a new idea; but I have endeavored to give a new version of an old idea. There is now no occasion for the bark-bed, in which it was once thought necessary to plunge the pots containing the plants of all tropical fruits. A perpetual hotbed, on which to place the trees - which may or may not be a new inven-ticm - is now easily formed by hot-water pipes: and I well know, and again say, that a tree standing on a hotbed will make a healthier although slower growth than one that is plunged into a bark-bed. Moreover, the latter is always disagreeable from its requiring to be turned and renewed, as well as from its unpleasant smell.
It will be seen that I have confined myself to the description of a comparatively small tropical orchard house; this I have done that I might be consistent. Large gardens have, for the most part, great gardeners who know how to build houses, if the means are provided, much better than I can tell them; but when the system of culture is understood, I can see no reason why the large span-roofed houses described should not be built in gardens of moderate size. The great object is to have abundance of heat at command; the central border, therefore, in a large span-roofed house would require four 4-inch hot-water pipes, each side border two; and to heat the air would require four 4-inch hot-water pipes round the sides. In such a house the trees might be suffered to grow to a goodly size and give a great abundance of tropical fruits from the delicious little Lee-chee to the exquisite freshly gathered Maltese orange.
I have been content with the enumeration and description of only a few tropical fruits; when their culture is better understood the list may be extended; for in all tropical climates there are numerous fruit-bearing trees and bushes utterly unknown to English gardens. It may perhaps be said that some of the kinds of fruit I have recommended, will form trees too large for a house of the dimensions given: this ought not to influence the cultivator; for, as is well known, the fig grows into a very large tree when the soil and climate are favourable, and yet bears well in a pot of moderate size. Collectors have for many years past paid much more attention to Orchids and Pines than to tropical fruits, only because their culture has not been carried on in England with spirit. Let us hope that, owing to the introduction of hot water as a means of heating, the low price of glass and bricks, and the low price of timber, we shall see tropical orchard houses rising up and rivalling the now numerous orchard houses in their agreeable results.