The Garden Guide

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

Fruit forcing in France

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266. A sort of forcing seems to have been commenced in France towards the end of the sixteenth century. Cherries were ripened at Poitou by artificial heat in the sixteenth century, by laying hot limestones on the ground under the trees, and by watering the ground with hot water. The fruit was obtained by the 1st of May, and sent to Paris by post. It the following century, peas were sown in boxes, set in the sunshine in the daytime, and kept in the gardener's room in the night. They came to maturity about the same time as the cherries; and in a letter dated the 10th of May, 1706, Madame de Maintenon speaks of new peas as a rarity, which had been the principal talk at court for four successive days. (Theatre d' Agr. d' Olivier de Serres, edit. 1804.) Benard informs us, that arcades open to the south were first erected in Henry IV. 's time, for accelerating the growth of peas at St. Germain en Laye; and that, in the end of the reign of Louis XIV., Fagon, at the Jardin des Plantes, constructed some hothouses with glass roofs, which he warmed with stoves and furnaces, for the preservation of tender plants; and which gave rise to all the hand-glasses, frames, and hothouses subsequently erected in France. Melons and early cucumbers had been hitherto grown on beds of dung, and covered at night with loose straw; early salading was raised in pots and boxes, exposed to the sun during the day, and placed in sheds or arbours during the night. But Richard Senior, observing what Fagon had done, built for himself at St. Germain, and afterwards for Louis XV. at Trianon, hothouses, in which were seen, for the first time in France, peaches, cherries, plums, strawberries, bearing fruit in the depth of winter. In the Ecole Potagere, written about the year 1750, are the details relative to these buildings.