The Garden Guide

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

French orangeries

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261. The improvement which an English gardener may derive from the study of the floriculture of France is chiefly, we think, in the preservation of plants through the winter. Nothing can be more striking in this branch of the art, than the shutting up of orange trees, camellias, and other evergreens, not even excepting some descriptions of heaths, in barn-like buildings, or even cellars under ground, for three or four months, without once admitting air during the whole time; with little or no light, with no artificial heat, and without water. The plants remain during this period in a completely dormant state; and when gradually inured to light, air, and water, in spring, they appear to suffer no injury whatever: but, if too suddenly exposed to the influence of these agents, they are apt to drop their leaves. The secret of this perfect preservation, under such apparently unfavourable circumstances, lies in the dryness of the air of France, and in the gardener having previously, by withholding water, matured the growth of the leaves, and ripened the wood; in short, in his having reduced the plants to a dormant state before housing them. We are persuaded that more might be done in this way in England than is generally attempted; though our moist atmosphere will probably ever prevent us from carrying it to the same extent as is done in France. We certainly think that provincial botanic and horticultural gardens, connected with a central one in London, would be useful in England, as they would tend to diffuse both a taste for and a knowledge of botany and vegetable culture; though they are less wanted in a country like England, possessing a wealthy aristocracy, with rich and extensive gardens at their country residences all over the empire. Were the landed property of Britain more equally distributed, and were the laws relating to it similar to those of France and America, we should then say that the system of botanic gardens adopted in France would be of essential value in England. In the mean time the arrangement of the plants in the French botanic gardens, according to the natural system, deserves imitation in those of England.