The National Encyclopædia


GARDEN

A garden, as distinguished from a farm, is a piece of ground designed for the cultivation of plants not actually indispensable to man for food.

The possession of a garden is one of the earliest indications of civilization in man. It may be fairly considered that the taste for gardens has been at all times commensurate with the wealth of nations generally, their peaceful habits, and advance in the social relations of life.

The first great step that was made by gardeners to advance their art beyond mere mechanical operations was the invention of glass-houses, in which plants might be grown in an artificial climate, and protected from the inclemency of the weather. Until this was effected, it is obvious that the cultivation of exotic plants in Europe, especially its northern kingdoms, must have been much circumscribed. Mr. Loudon refers the invention of greenhouses to Solomon de Caus, architect and engineer to the elector palatine, and who constructed the gardens at Heidelberg in 1619. But there can be no doubt that buildings of this description claim a higher antiquity. The specularia of the Romans were certainly used for the purpose of forcing roses and some other plants; they were essentially greenhouses, although perhaps more like our garden-frames. Greenhouses were in use among the Italians in the middle of the sixteenth century, though probably without artificial heat. If heat was required, it would be supplied by stoves or such other means as were used for domestic purposes. Ray says that in 1684 the greenhouse in the Apothecaries' garden at Chelsea was

In France gardening has never been in a very flourishing condition... for the quality of their fruit the French are chiefly indebted to their climate; for the abundant supply of the vegetable market, the demand occasioned by their peculiar cookery; and for the excellence of their written works to a few clever men rather than to the general habits of the community.

heated by means of embers placed in a hole in the floor; and it appears from a section of a greenhouse in the electoral garden at Mannheim, published in 'Medicus Index Plantarum,' that a German stove was used there as late as 1771. We, however, agree with Mr. Loudon in considering the invention of glass roofs for greenhouses to be an era from which the principal part of modern improvements takes its date. This happened in 1717. Up to that time the want of light must have rendered it impossible to employ greenhouses for the growth of plants, either in winter or summer; they could only have been hybernatories, receptacles in which plants might be protected from wet or cold during winter, but from which they were transferred to the open air as soon as the spring became sufficiently mild. The substitution of glass roofs, by increasing the quantity of light, put it at once in the power of the gardener to cultivate permanently in his greenhouse those natives of hot countries which are not capable of bearing the open air of Europe even during the summer. Since then there has been a gradual improvement in the construction of greenhouses, the object being to supply the plants with as nearly the same amount of light when under the glass roof as they would have had if in the open air. The modern invention of curvilinear iron roofs has accomplished this end in a most remarkable degree; for they substitute an obstruction to light amounting to only 1/23 or 1/27 for a loss equivalent to 1/7 or even 1/5.

The mode of heating such houses is usually by furnaces and flues, but it is often now done by steam, or by hot water led through the house in tubes, and by hot air admitted into the atmosphere of the house. In addition to these improvements, the rapid and uninterrupted communication now existing between all parts of the world has placed the plants of various climates within the reach of all those who take delight in their cultivation; and another important reason for the present flourishing condition of European gardens may be seen in the extension of the education of the working gardener. Great numbers of gardeners are now well informed in the higher branches of their profession. Instead of trusting to certain empirical rules, or to receipts for gardening operations, they make themselves acquainted with the principles upon which their operations are conducted; they acquire a knowledge of botany and vegetable physiology, and some even of physical geography; and thus they place themselves in the only position from which they can securely advance to the improvement of their art.

Although the restoration of gardens took place among the nobles of Italy, and many noble instances of wealth and taste applied to such purposes still remain, yet there are none of much note, except for their picturesque features and fine architectural embellishments. Those of Naples, Florence, and Monza, near Milan, are the most remarkable, especially the last.

The Dutch, although too much attached to the stiff formal style of clipped hedges, straight walks, and architectural puerilities, have always had a great reputation as gardeners. Their wealth and their commerce with the Cape of Good Hope and the East Indies, gave them for awhile extraordinary advantages over other nations. For a long time the Garden of Leyden was considered the richest in Europe, and there are few that surpass it at the present day.

In Belgium there are small public gardens, both at Antwerp and Ghent, and one of the finest in Europe is at Brussels. It contains a range of hothouses, 400 feet long, ornamented with a rotunda and porticos, and an extensive collection of plants.

Among the German princes a taste for gardening has grown up in a degree unknown in any other country except among the English. A love of the beautiful, a fondness for natural objects, a quiet, contented character, so characteristic of the German nations, has no doubt been the cause of this. The most remarkable are those of Munich, Berlin, and Vienna.

Rivalling these imperial structures are the gardens of St. Petersburg, founded by the late Emperor Alexander on Apothecaries' island in the Neva. In a country with such a climate as Russia gardening can hardly exist except under glass roofs, and it is necessary to call in aid all the resources of art in order to overcome the difficulties of nature. It is not surprising, then, that in this situation the glasshouses should exceed in extent those of all other parts of Europe. Altogether there are 3624 feet of such buildings, forming a double parallelogram, the principal sides of which are 700 feet long and from 20 to 30 feet wide. The middle range is 40 feet high in the centre.

In France gardening has never been in a very flourishing condition; it is true that great quantities of vegetables are raised for the market, that the fruits of France are justly celebrated for their excellence, and the flower-markets of Paris are well supplied; it is also true that numerous excellent works on gardening have been written in France. But for the quality of their fruit the French are chiefly indebted to their climate; for the abundant supply of the vegetable market, the demand occasioned by their peculiar cookery; and for the excellence of their written works to a few clever men rather than to the general habits of the community. In flowers their taste is more that of the Romans than of other European nations, for they are contented with a few showy kinds of sweet-smelling flowers, especially roses. The Garden of Plants at Paris, which is the largest of the public establishments in France to which the name of garden properly applies, is not an exception to this statement, so far as plants it contains are concerned; and there are few judges of gardens who would assign to it a place among the first class of European gardens.

Horticultural societies now exist in almost all the towns, and in many of the villages and rural districts of Britain. They have done much to promote the growth of flowers, fruit, and vegetables, and have also fostered a taste for gardening among the humbler classes.

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, seven miles from London, contain the largest and most choice collection of plants, both native and exotic, in England. They have been arranged with great skill and care. The hothouses and conservatories are very numerous. There are also a palmhouse, 362 feet by 100, and 60 feet high, two greenhouses nearly as large, and a museum. The gardens extend over about 75 acres, and the pleasure grounds connected with them to 240 acres. The expense of the gardens is defrayed out of the public purse, and a very liberal management has for many years been pursued.

The Royal Horticultural Society was established in 1808, and possessed a large experimental garden at Chiswick till the year 1860, when it was replaced by a new garden at Kensington Gore, at a cost of 100,000l. The progress of the society was very rapid, and its usefulness has been very great, but during its later years at Chiswick it somewhat degenerated, and it has not been a success at Kensington. A very successful establishment of a nearly similar kind is the Royal Society's Botanic Garden, which occupies the inner circle, an area of eighteen acres, in Regents' Park. It has a very spacious conservatory, greenhouses, and an excellent collection of plants.

The Botanic Garden of Edinburgh is one of the finest and best managed in Europe. It consists of sixteen acres, delightfully situated, and includes everything that can be required for the purposes of teaching. The houses are remarkably good, and the healthy condition of the plants deserving of all praise. It is particularly celebrated for its beautiful specimens of heaths. Besides these, there are botanic gardens at Dublin, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cambridge, and Oxford; fine public gardens in Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, and other large towns; and a garden at Chelsea, belonging to the Apethecaries' Company, who maintain it for the use of medical students of the London schools. Horticultural societies now exist in almost all the towns, and in many of the villages and rural districts of Britain. They have done much to promote the growth of flowers, fruit, and vegetables, and have also fostered a taste for gardening among the humbler classes.