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.
THERE is probably not an individual in the horticultural community whose feelings at this moment are not more or less imbued with the enthusiasm prevalent on the subject of Grapes; it amounts, in fact, almost to a furor, and is by no means confined to those who make Grape culture a specialty. All classes seem to be setting in with the general current, and we are glad that it is so. We can perceive wherein much good will result from it, not the least important of which will be a higher standard of excellence in the Grape itself, improved modes of culture, and a vast improvement in the public taste. Old varieties will give place to new and better ones, and the prejudices of the few whose minds can conceive of nothing more refined than a "fox," will be swept away like straws. Thus far, we can see no occasion for saying one word to check this spreading enthusiasm; it is doing a good work, and, up to a certain point, we mean to encourage it. When that point is reached, we shall have something to say.
Our present object, however, is to take advantage of the prevalent enthusiasm, and direct a portion of it to a particular point, and open up a source of enjoyment to the amateur, which has hitherto been thought to be beyond his reach. We here use the word amateur as meaning one who, without reference to riches or the want of them, mainly cultivates his plants with his own hands; and this is the only meaning the word ever should have among horticulturists. When we say, therefore, with this definition before us, that we propose to open up a source of enjoyment to the amateur which has hitherto been thought to be beyond his reach, we simply mean ,that in the one case the cost has been thought to be beyond the means of a man in. moderate circumstances, and in the other the labor greater than a rich man would be willing to undertake. Both these positions involve palpable fallacies, as will presently be seen. Let us state, however, more particularly, the classes whom we would include in our remarks. There are men in moderate circumstances who can not afford to keep a gardener, but who would gladly indulge their taste in this way, provided it could be done at a moderate cost.
There are men of considerable wealth, on the other hand, who. need physical recreation and amusement, and who would seek it in this way, provided it were not too exacting and laborious. These are the persons to whom we would chiefly address* our remarks, though there are others on the confines of both classes to whom they would be quite as applicable. We have no desire to indulge in imaginary speculations, or to mislead by placing too low an estimate on the labor and expense necessary to secure a fair and reasonable success; we have not, therefore, depended entirely upon our own experience, but have sought information among our amateur friends, all going, however, to confirm the conclusions at which we had already arrived. We are thus enabled to state, for the benefit of those who desire to embark in the culture of grapes under glass, with the views before indicated, that they may freely do so without any misgivings as to the amount of labor and cost, or the degree of pleasure to be derived from it. Among those thus engaged, there is a great unanimity of opinion on all these points. To be a little more precise, let us take the example of a house 10 by 30 feet.
A plain, substantial house of these dimensions, if erected against another building, can be built for about $150; and it will be as good, for all practical purposes, as one costing $500. A man who has the means can make a grapery cost almost any sum he pleases, and the cost is often increased at the sacrifice of real utility. The beauty of a glass structure of any kind should consist mainly in the objects which are grown in it, and not in mere external ornamentation; an excess of the latter, indeed, often renders the former wholly unattainable. But to return to details. A large item in the way of expense can be saved by making the borders on the inside of the house; and this plan should be adopted, not alone because it is cheaper, but because it is also better than an outside border. We have tried it for many years, and know it to be so. It has the advantage, too, of enabling us to erect graperies in positions where otherwise we could not have them; and if the plan were generally adopted, there is no reason why graperies should not become as common in the midst of our great cities as they now are in our suburbs.
But we shall probably be told that the great demand of time and labor incident to the care of a grapery, involving, as it does, no inconsiderable knowledge and study, will prove a fatal drawback to the amateur, even though we should reduce the item of expense within his means. The objection has force, and we are by no means inclined to underrate it; but we know that it has been very much over-estimated. Many amateurs already have sufficient knowledge to insure to them a good degree of success, and the intelligence and good sense generally possessed by this class of persons, render the attainment of knowledge on this subject both an easy and a pleasant undertaking. This knowledge once attained, the labor of taking care of a small grapery is reduced within moderate limits. Let us, for example, take a house of the size above named, and include all the operations incident to growing a crop of grapes, such as watering, pruning, thinning, Ac., Ac. If the growing season be taken, the average time required will not exceed one hour a day; and this one hour need not necessarily be given all at one time, but may be divided between morning and night.
Now there are very few persons who can not spare this small amount of time from their necessary business avocations, and who, in fact, do not daily waste much more in a manner which affords them neither pleasure nor profit. The work to be done, with the single exception of watering, is not laborious, but, on the contrary, mostly light and pleasant With the help of a man at the pump, the labor of watering becomes comparatively easy; and with the accessory of an elevated tank, or where a supply like the Coton can be had, it is reduced to mere play.
The above are the chief obstacles to be encountered by the amateur grape-grower, and his intelligence will place them under easy control. We shall probably be told of the importance of ventilation, and that this can not be attended to white one is absent at his business. The simple fact is, that a good deal too much ventilation is done in graperies; the little attention that may at limes be needed during mid-day can easily be rendered by al-. most any member of the family. The ventilators can be so set in the morning -as to seldom need alteration during the day, as we shall fully explain hereafter, when presenting our plans. The chief point is moisture, and this is the great desideratum which the amateur will have to provide for. But this also is within his control, and thus there is no real obstacle to the amateur indulging his taste to the utmost of his time and means.
We have said nothing of the pleasure to be derived from the care of a grapery, but we must here confess that this very thing was our chief inducement in writing this article. What we have enjoyed in that way we would gladly place within the reach of all our readers. We love a fine lawn; we love stately trees and flowering shrubs; we love a beautiful flower-garden; so also we love a choice orchard of apples and pears; and we love all these things more than most people love them; but if, unhappily, we were compelled to confine our attention to one thing, our present impression is, that one would be a grapery. And thus our readers can judge in what estimation we hold it as a source of unmixed enjoyment. Let us hope, therefore, that more of our amateurs will betake themselves to this elegant and profitable amusement. We shall do what we can in the way of plans to assist them.