The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 2: The Influence of Climates on Gardens

Gardening climate in England

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962. The climate and country of England, Sir W. Temple considers as highly favourable for gardening. 'Perhaps few countries,' he says, 'are before us in the number of our plants; and I believe none equals us in a variety of fruits which may be justly called good ; and, from the earliest cherry and strawberry, to the last apples and pears, may furnish every day of the circling year. For the taste and perfection of what we esteem the best, I may truly say, that the French, who have eaten my peaches and grapes at Shene, in no very ill year, have generally concluded that the last are as good as any they have eaten in France, on this side Fontainebleau; and the first as good as any they have eaten in Gascony : I mean, those which come from the stone, and are properly called peaches; not those which are hard, and are termed pavies ; for these can not grow in too warm a climate, nor ever be good in a cold, and are better at Madrid than in Gascony itself. Italians have agreed my white figs to be as good as any of that sort in Italy, which is the earlier kind of white fig there ; for, in the latter kind and the blue, we cannot come near the warm climates, no more than in the Frontignac or Muscat grape. My orange trees are as large as any I saw when I was young in France, except those of Fontainebleau ; or what I have since seen in the Low Countries, except some very old ones of the Prince of Orange's ; as laden with flowers as can well be; as full of fruit as I suffer or desire them ; and as well tasted as are commonly brought over, except the best sorts of Seville and Portugal. And thus much I could not but say in defence of our climate, which is so much and so generally decried abroad. The truth is, our climate wants no heat to produce excellent fruits; and the default of it is only the short season of our heats and summers, by which many of the latter are left behind and imperfect with us. But all such as are ripe before the end of August are, for aught I know, as good with us as any where else. This makes me esteem the true regions of gardens in England to be the compass of ten miles about London, where the incidental warmth of air from the fires and steams of so vast a town, makes fruits, as well as corn, a great deal forwarder than in Hampshire [unless we except the south side of Portsdown Hill, which is one of the earliest spots for ripening corn in England] or Wiltshire, though more southward by a full degree.'