The Garden Guide

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

Russian horticulture gardens

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3. Russian Gardening, in respect to its Hortcultural Productions 473. Dutch and German fruits were introduced into Russia with the Dutch and French taste in gardening, by Peter the Great. With the English style, Catherine introduced English gardeners and English fruits. Before this period, the wild pear, the wild cherry, the black currant, the cranberry, and the strawberry must have been almost the only fruits seen in aboriginal Russia: all these may be gathered in the woods. The apple is abundant in the Ukraine; and a century ago, as at present, may have been sent to Moscow for the use of the higher classes. At present, the imperial family, and a few, perhaps six or eight, of the first nobility, enjoy almost all the European fruits in tolerable perfection, chiefly by the influence of glass and fire heat. The quantity of pines and grapes grown in the neighbourhood of St. Petersburgh is indeed an astonishing feature in its horticulture. Pines, grapes, and peaches, being grown so as to ripen in August and September, enjoy, in these months, abundance of sun, and nearly equal in flavour these grown in England or Holland; but the apple, pear, cherry, and plum, being in that part of the empire considered as only half-hardy fruits, rarely ripen in the open air so as to be fit for the dessert; and are generally planted in houses, or against walls, and brought forward by glass. About St. Petersburgh the branches of the cherry tree are protected by burying them in the soil, as the French do these of the fig tree, in the fruit-gardens of Argenteuil. The climate being less severe about Moscow, the hardier fruits ripen some what better in the open air, but still in a far inferior manner to what they do at Edinburgh, which is in the same parallel of latitude. We have seen apples, pears, cherries, &c. fit to eat in the hothouses of the imperial gardens at Tzaritzina, in April, but without flavour. Peaches grown or forced to ripen in August and September, says an experienced English gardener, long resident in St. Petersburgh, are not so good flavoured as these ripened in May, June, and July; as frequently in August and September we have cold nights; and it is observed, that if the thermometer remain below 6ᆭ of heat (say 45ᆭ Fahr.) for any time, the peaches and apricots become insipid, and without flavour. Apple trees about St. Petersburgh generally remain unprotected in the open air, but some times in very severe winters they are injured by extreme frosts. Plums rarely ripen unassisted by glass, the season being too short. Cherries of the best sorts are all protected by being planted in large sheds, and covered with shutters during the winter. Early in the spring these are removed, and the trees entirely exposed to the open air, in which manner the fruit ripens to perfection. Apricots force equally well as peaches: there is a house in the Taurida garden containing nine trees planted in the ground, which frequently produce 5000 apricots.