The Garden Guide

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

French horticulture

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3. French Gardening, in respect to its Horticultural Productions 263. The hardy fruits of France exceed in number those of Britain, by the olive, the fig, the jujube, the pomegranate, and a few others little cultivated. Nature, Professor Thouin observes (Essai sur l' Exposition, &c. de l' Economic Rurale, p. 55.), has only given to France the acorn, the chestnut, the pear, the wild apple, and some other inferior fruits. 'Every thing else which we have, agreeable or useful, is the product of foreign climates, and we owe them in great part to the Ph£nicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and Saracens. ' The less ancient acquisitions are those of the crusades, or of accidental travellers. The vine, the peach, the fig, the mulberry, the cherry, and the olive were doubtless introduced to France by the Romans; the orange by the Italians; and the pineapple by the Dutch. Apples, pears, and plums are the fruits recommended for cultivation by Charlemagne, in his Capit. de Villis, &c., prepared about the end of the eighth century and referred to by Montesquieu as a chef-d'£uvre of prudence, good administration, and economy. The Abbe Schmidt informs us (Mag. Encyc.) that this monarch, who had domains in every part of France, gave the greatest encouragement to the eradication of forests, and the substitution of orchards and vineyards. He was on terms of intimate friendship with the Saracenic prince Haroun al Raschid, and by that means procured for France the best sorts of pulse, melons, peaches, figs, and other fruits. He desires that fennel, rosemary, sage, rue, wormwood, and above sixty other pot-herbs and medicinal plants, should be cultivated; one of these, which he calls anthyllis (thought to be the house-leek) was to be planted before the gardener's house, probably as being a vulnerary herb.