The Garden Guide

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

Flemish Fruit gardeners

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3. Dutch Gardening, in respect to the Culture of Fruits and Culinary Vegetables 187. The Dutch and Flemings are eminent as fruit gardeners; but, as Harte observes, they are better operators than writers; and having at the same time a good deal of the spirit of gens de metier, we have scarcely any thing to offer in the way of historical information. Those gardens which Gesner and Stephanus inform us were so richly stocked with flowers early in the sixteenth century, would, no doubt, be equally so with fruits and legumes. One of the earliest books on the horticulture of the Low Countries is Henry Van Oosten's Der Niederlandische Garten, 8vo, Hannau, &c., 1706. They appear at that time to have had all the fruits now in common cultivation, in considerable variety, excepting the pine-apple. This fruit, Miller informs us, was introduced about that time, by De la Court, of Leyden, from the West Indies. It is generally said that about the same period all the courts in Europe were supplied with early fruits from Holland. Benard admits (quoted in Repertory of Arts, 1802) that this was the case with the court of France so late as the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. Miller informs us that De la Court paid great attention to gardening, and especially to the culture of wall-fruits; and that he tried the effects of different kinds of walls, and different modes of training. Speechly, early in the eighteenth century, made a tour in that country, chiefly to observe the Dutch mode of cultivating the pine and the grape: they forced, he informs us (Tr. on the Vine), chiefly in pits and low houses, and produced ripe grapes of the sweetwater kind (the pareyl-druyf) in March and April. The Low Countries are celebrated for good varieties of the apple and pear. The supplies of these articles sent to the markets of Brussels, Antwerp, and Amsterdam are equal to, if not beyond, any thing of the kind to be met with elsewhere in Europe. The climate of Flanders suits these fruits; that of Holland is rather adverse to flavour, from its moisture; but peaches, pines, and melons attain a larger size than in France. Tournay is so much celebrated for its pears, that the Ghent Society, in 1816, offered a prize for �the best explanation of the causes of the superiority in size, beauty, and flavour, of the pears grown at Tournay.� (Neill's Hort. Tour, p. 333.) Forcing in pits and frames is carried to great perfection in Holland; and melons, grapes, and pines are, at the present time (1832), sent to the London and Paris markets, and sold at prices for which they cannot be grown in England. The vine has long been cultivated in South Brabant, on land said not to be fit for any other produce, and excellent wine produced. (Gard. Mag., vol. ii. p. 87.) There are now vineyards between Namur and Liege, near the lofty castle of Huy, where the vine was never cultivated before. (Ibid., vol. vi. p. 596.) Vineyards are common towards the Rhine. The level pieces of ground next to that river are exceedingly well and neatly cultivated with grain and vegetables, interspersed with orchards of fruit trees, apples, pears, cherries, and walnuts: the sloping sides of the hills are covered with vineyards; and above these the higher parts are clothed with forest trees or coppice wood to their very summits. (Tour in South Holland, 1830.)