The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Bourbon Restoration French Horticulture

Previous - Next

269. After the restoration, the culture of fruit and culinary vegetables received a great stimulus. Forced fruits and forced culinary vegetables are now common in all the Parisian markets, as well as mushrooms and salading; and pine-apples, which were introduced to the royal gardens at Versailles by Charles X., are now commonly to be met with. In the Annales de la Soc. d'Hort. de Paris will be found monthly lists of the articles brought to market, and the prices paid for them; from which it appears, that in 1827, when these lists were first published, forced articles were altogether wanting, and that they have been since increasing every year. The kitchen-garden belonging to the palace of Versailles was neglected for thirty years, from the commencement of the first revolution to the accession of Charles X. In 1828 it contained nothing very remarkable � and we observed that the pear trees against the walls were all trained in the fan manner; �but since that time it has improved rapidly. The forcing department of this garden is not without interest. It is coeval with the palace, and occupies nearly two English acres, originally chiefly covered with substantially built Dutch pits, with stone copings, &c. During the time of the Revolution, of Bonaparte, and of Louis XVIII., till 1819, it was entirely neglected; and the light downy seeds of the black poplars and willows of the neighbouring woods had sprung up from the ground and from the crevises of the walls of the pits, and attained even a timber size. The descriptions of forcing-houses here used were these three:� 1st, the old massive-walled pits; immediately within the walls of which, and above the bark bed, is an earthen tube, about four inches in diameter, serving as a smoke-flue; 2d, pits with walks behind, in imitation of Baldwin's, and which were built from a manuscript translation of Baldwin's pamphlet; and 3d, common pineries, not unlike those of Kensington Gardens. The sorts of pines cultivated were chiefly the Queen, obtained from Holland, and the Enville, from England; and, in 1829, M. Massey, the head gardener, visited London, in search of new sorts, and also to learn the mode of heating by hot water, though this mode is of French invention, and was applied, just before the first revolution, to the hothouses in the Jardin des Plantes. Now (1849) the French gardeners excel in their culture of pines. After the second revolution, the gardens at Versailles were improved by Louis Philip, and a kitchen-garden was formed, twelve acres in extent, surrounded by a broad terrace four or five feet higher than the area of the garden, which is still kept up. This terrace is occupied by a broad carriage walk, and a border for the fruit trees which clothe the surrounding walls. The walls are well covered with pear trees, peaches, and vines, and in the compartments are cultivated all the best French and Flemish, pears, en pyramide et en quenouille. Alpine strawberries are also grown in this garden in great abundance, and it is contrived that there shall be a supply of them all the year, by growing them in hotbeds during those months when they will not ripen in the open ground. The whole of the fruit and kitchen-gardens occupy about thirty acres, and when visited by Mr. Thompson in March 1847, the forcing department still occupied about two acres. Most of the houses were low and long. In one long range of houses, ten feet high at the back, and between six and seven feet wide, peaches are trained horizontally against the back wall, and along the front peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries, are forced in pots. Another forcing-house, which Mr. Thompson found only just erected, was but eight feet high at the back, four feet in front, and ten feet wide, while the length, consisting of twenty lights, was about eighty feet. The number of pine-apples annually fruited in these gardens is immense, and, besides innumerable smaller pits and houses, Mr. Thompson found four fruiting ranges, each a hundred feet in length, six feet wide, and seven feet high at the back. In one pine-house, consisting of Queens, Mr. Thompson found the fruit nearly ripe, and of a fair size. The plants were grown in small pots in sandy peat. 'In another house the plants were growing, not in pots, but planted in a bed of peat soil, laid on stable litter, well beaten, for bottom heat. They had a vigorous appearance, and will be two years old when they mature their fruit in the ensuing summer. The Cayennes and other large sorts were those so planted out. Some were planted out of pots into peat soil in January last, after their fruits were formed; the plants were thriving, and the fruits were swelling exceedingly well. ' In 1840 there was a house in this garden exclusively devoted to the culture of various kinds of Musa, but Mr. Thompson only mentions finding one Musa Cavendishu in fruit. The vines, Mr. Thompson observes, 'were being forced in wooden pits surrounded with dung linings. These pits were certainly of a very cheap construction, merely some posts and boards nailed together, and only three and a half feet wide; but the quantity of grapes produced in that limited width was astonishing. The vines were trained horizontally along the back, which was apparently not more than three feet high. A three-inch earthenware pipe was laid along the front for hot water, supplied by means of a small boiler placed at the end of the range. ' The orange trees at Versailles are magnificent. 'Their winter-quarters,' Mr. Thompson states, 'are below the terrace of the palace; consequently, they have only light in front, which, of course, is lofty, otherwise trees thirty feet in height could not be admitted. The number of orange trees is 1500. Some are 300 years old, with stems thirty-nine inches in circumference. One has the inscription 'Seme en 1421. ' Its age must, therefore, be 426 years, and it is probably the oldest exotic in existence. The trees are planted in boxes made of oak; and these boxes are said to last from fifteen to twenty years. ' (Journ. of Hort. Soc., vol. ii. p. 218.) Grapes for the table are chiefly cultivated in the village of Thomery, in the neighbourhood of Fon-tainebleau. The soil is a poor strong clay, and the surface a slope towards the Seine, and facing the north. The mode of culture is very peculiar. The plants are trained against mud walls, each plant being allowed only two branches, from which the bearing shoots are produced, and these are annually spurred in. The practice has been fully described in Lelieur's Pomone Francaise, and in the Bon Jardinier for 1827; and will be found in detail in this volume, where we treat on the vine. Grapes for the table are also grown in the market and flower-gardens within and around Paris, but incidentally and to a very limited extent. It is worthy of remark that the sort is almost every where the same, viz. the Chasselas de Fontainebleau, the Royal muscadine: the Frontignans, our Frontignacs, are also grown, but to a very limited extent. Graves for the wine-press are grown everywhere south of 46� north lat. on the west coast, and 49� north lat. on the east. The vines are kept low; and at a distance resemble a plantation of raspberries, excepting that they are not so regular. In the vale of Montmorency, where many of the stools are old, and where they are mixed with cherry and other fruit trees, the general effect is picturesque, and quite characteristic of that part of the country. We had a sketch made by an English artist on the spot, in 1829, which we subjoin (fig. 70.). The pine-apple is now much cultivated in France, particularly in the gardens at Versailles and Meudon. The mode of culture will be given when treating of the pine-apple. Mushrooms in the neighbourhood of Paris are cultivated deep under ground, in the caverns formed by the exhausted lime quarries. These quarries are not generally open to the day, as in Britain. They are worked more like coal-pits, and the stones are brought to the surface, up a cylindrical well or shaft, by means of windlasses, worked by large vertical wooden wheels (fig. 71. ). When the quarry is exhausted, and the bottom is not springy, or liable to be filled with water, it is let to a mushroom grower, who generally contrives to purchase a wheel and windlass that has become too frail to wind up stones, but which serves him as a means by which he descends and ascends; throwing down his stable dung, earth, and spawn, and managing them below, much in the same way as in England. Mushrooms are also grown in cellars in Paris, and in market-gardens on the surface of the ground. There appears to be two distinct varieties of this fungus: one grown in very firm soil, the colour of which is yellow; and the other, grown in very loose, black, rich soil, and on dung ridges, which is of a small size and delicate white colour. We found in 1828 both sorts in great perfection in the market-garden of M. Gallois, a l'Abbaye Saint Antoine.