The Garden Guide

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

Fruit nursery gardens in France

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278. Nurseries. France long supplied a great part of Europe with fruit trees, from the celebrated nursery of the fathers of the Chartreux, near the Luxembourg, established in the time of Louis XIV., and including eighty acres. (Catalogue des plus excellens Fruits qui se cultivent chez les Chartreux, &c. 12mo, Paris, 1752.) That establishment does not now exist; but Villa Herve, the son of its former manager, has the care of the collection of fruit trees and vines in the national garden of the Luxembourg. The extensive collection of grapes in this garden was formed by Chaptal, the celebrated chemist, when minister of the interior, with a view to ascertain the best sorts, and distribute them in the provinces; and the fruit trees were brought by the elder Herve, from the Chartreux. (Preface to the Catalogue of the Luxembourg Garden, 1814; Cours d' Agriculture, &c. art. Vigne.) When Blaikie went to France in 1776, there was not a nursery for timber trees and ornamental shrubs in the kingdom. About Vitry only a few of such forest trees were cultivated as were used in avenues; and so few fruit trees, that the sorts were not tallied, the cultivators, like the orange nurserymen at Nervi (p. 45.), recognising the few sorts by the leaves and bark. The principal nurseries in France for timber trees, hedge plants, and fruit trees, are at Orleans, about ninety miles, and at Vitry, about five miles, from Paris. The growers at Vitry are not, like the English nurserymen, a few individuals who have acquired large capitals, but a numerous class of small proprietors, who cultivate their own soil, and bring their trees to market in the same manner as is done with other garden produce. The more rare articles of the trade are grown almost entirely by Paris nurserymen, and a few others in the very largest towns; and when the former have an order for fruit or forest trees, they procure them from the country, or attend the next weekly tree market at Paris or Orleans. It must be confessed that this is a very bad method of selling trees; for, after the roots have been two or three days exposed to the air in severe weather, the trees, If they grow at all, have little chance of thriving. Vitry may be described as a village of nurserymen; a circumstance sufficiently indicated by the following signs to the public houses there: � Au rendezvous des pepinieristes; au bon pepinieriste; cafe des pepinieristes, &c. It was estimated in 1828 that there were about 400 growers here, and at Choisy, the adjoining village; each of whom cultivates his own property, and grows trees, alternately with corn, forage crops, and culinary vegetables, in the open or enclosed fields. Since that period, the numbers of nurserymen at Vitry are nearly doubled. The quantity of ground covered at a time by trees in this neighbourhood is supposed to be nearly 4000 acres. The principal demand for forest trees in France is for lining the public roads; and they are, therefore, allowed to grow till they attain considerable size, without much trouble being taken in transplanting them, as in Holland. By far the greater number of the fruit trees grown here are exposed for sale in the streets of Paris; and the same may be said of the shrubs and roses, of which only the more common sorts are dealt in by the nurserymen of Vitry.