The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Stoke Place Garden

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Stoke Place, Col. Vyse. - July 30. The surface is not much varied, but the situation is elevated; commanding the vale of Windsor, the towers of the castle, and St. Leonard's Hill. The house is a plain old English structure of brick, and we were informed that it can be traced back to the possession of one of the cooks of Queen Elizabeth. Its present possessor is the author of several important works on military tactics. Great improvements have lately been made in the grounds, by the present gardener, Mr. Patrick, who has enlarged the piece of water; and, with the excavated soil, has beautifully undulated the surrounding surface. In doing this, it became necessary to earth up elms and cedars, to the height of from 4 ft. to 8 ft., and it is quite remarkable how little the trees have suffered by this severe and dangerous operation. The red cedar trees, when thus treated, are found to root into the new soil, and to grow with fresh vigour. The elms spread their roots to a great distance, and as the earthing up does not extend far from their trunks, they may be considered as saved by that circumstance. There are some fine old Carolina poplars here, abounding with mistletoe, which Mr. Patrick propagates freely, by rubbing the berries into the crevices of the rough bark. Under the surface there is a substratum, never thicker than 2 ft., of what is here called ragstone, a conglomerate of flinty gravel, generally known as plumpudding stone, with which Mr. Patrick has judiciously bordered the water in some places, and formed rockwork, for plants, and for the issue of water in the form of springs, in others. The most ornamental parts of these grounds display rustic pedestals and plant-vases of very tasteful design, by Mr. Patrick, sketches of some of which he has promised to send us. There is a circular flower-garden here, surrounded by festooned trellis-work, with an open trellis bower in the centre, in Repton's manner; and a great many figures on the lawn (perhaps rather too many), designed by Mr. Patrick. Numerous green-house plants are sunk in the turf, as at Dropmore, and one of the finest plants for making a small flowery tuft on grass is found to be the Petunia ph£nicea. But by far the most interesting feature at Stoke Place is the kitchen-garden, formed about four years ago by Mr. Patrick. The soil is of a soapy loamy nature, particularly suitable for fruit trees; and the consequence is, that the trees now on the walls, though only in their fifth summer from being planted maiden plants, cover the walls (which are 12 ft. high), and are loaded with fruit. We could hardly have credited this, if we had not seen it; but this kitchen-garden is the talk of all the gardeners for many miles round. Even Mr. Oldacre, who is not hasty in giving an opinion, and who has had a great deal of experience, allows it to surpass anything of the kind he has ever seen. Mr. Patrick trenched all his fruit borders 4 ft. deep, without mixing any dung with the soil. This is his general practice; and he finds that by it he avoids over-luxuriant unripened shoots and the mildew. In consequence of his young wood being thus always well ripened, he never suffers from frosts in spring. For example, this year he has as many apricots on his trees as they can carry; while about London the blossom was generally destroyed. Mr. Patrick never protects blossom by canvass; but, if at any time he finds protection necessary, he merely employs netting suspended a few inches distant from the trees. It is not to be inferred, from all this, that Mr. Patrick never applies manure to his fruit borders, or round his fruit trees generally; but he always spreads it on the surface in the way of mulching, in order to encourage the fibrous roots to come up, rather than to go down. He disapproves of cropping the borders; and, though he had crops on some of them, they were very slight ones. Where these existed, he pointed out to us how much weaker the plants were opposite the centre of each tree, where a semicircular space indicated exhaustion by the trees' roots. This effect was more striking in Mr. Patrick's border than in any other that we ever saw, in consequence of the tree roots lying so near the surface. However, Mr. Patrick has promised us an account of his mode of forming this garden, and managing the trees in it; and with that we are sure our readers will be much instructed. We cannot help noticing a beautiful crop of large morello cherries on standard trees, trained like cones, and covered with nets. The morellos on the walls, and also the peaches, nectarines, and plums, were all thickly studded with fruit. [Editor's Note: Stoke Place, near Slough, is a 17th century Queen Anne mansion now used (2005) as a conference centre].