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The Author of the following work has been occupied, at intervals, during nearly forty years, in preparing for the press materials for a complete account of the fruit trees and vegetables cultivated in the gardens of Great Britain. The result of these enquiries is now presented to the reader, in a form which, it is thought, is so condensed as to comprehend the greatest quantity of information in the smallest compass, and which at the same time is sufficiently diffuse to render it possible for the reader to acquire as much knowledge as is either important or indispensable in regard to any particular variety. Those points which are so peculiarly interesting to all Gardeners, such as the kind of stock upon which a given variety will succeed better than upon another, the comparative value of each kind of fruit, — the aspects that it requires, — the different names under which it is known in England or elsewhere, — the books in which a faithful figure may be found, the purposes for which it is best adapted, — the seasons when it is in the greatest perfection,--and topics of a similar kind, have been in all cases treated with especial care. This there are few men more competent to do well than Mr. Lindley, whose long practical experience, and ample opportunities of investigating such subjects personally during a series of many years, have been such as have rarely fallen to the lot of any one.
The forcing department has been considered foreign to the purpose of this work, and is therefore entirely omitted. In recommending particular modes of cultivation, it has been wished to present the reader with one or two methods of operation, that experience has shown to be simple and effectual, rather than to introduce a great number of different plans, among
which the unskilful reader can never know which to select in preference, and where the chances are, perhaps, in favour of his making choice of that which is least adapted to practice.
While thus much may be said of the Author and his work, it is at the same time necessary to explain why no mention is made of some sorts which are common in particular districts. In such cases it is to be understood, that the variety omitted is considered either so like some kind already described as to be undeserving of particular notice, or so little valuable as to be unworthy of cultivation.
In all other respects the work speaks for itself. Under that impression, the Editor would only add, that nothing in the following pages is to be ascribed to himself, except the introductory matter, and such typographical errors as may have remained uncorrected during the progress of the work through the press.
London, July 1. 1831.
In all books upon Gardening a great variety of modes of operating are comprehended, each of which has, it may be supposed, its own peculiar merit under particular circumstances. In several the very same mode is repeatedly recommended, with slight variations of phraseology, in speaking of many different subjects; and it has at last become a common complaint, among those who seek for information from books upon horticultural subjects, that they can find plenty of rules of action, but very
few reasons. No greater boon could be bestowed upon the gardening world than to reduce all horticultural operations to their first principles, and to lay bare the naked causes why in one case one mode of procedure is advisable, and another in another. But there are few persons who are competent to undertake this task; it requires a combination of great physiological knowledge, with a perfect acquaintance with the common manipulation of the gardener's art, and much experience in all the little accidents which are scarcely appreciable by the most observing cultivator, with which the mere man of science can necessarily have no acquaintance, but upon which the success of a gardener's operations often mainly depends; which are to the cultivator signs as certain of the issue of his experiments, as to the mariner are the almost invisible changes in the appearance of the heavens by which the weather is prognosticated.
Deeply impressed with a persuasion of the justice of
the foregoing observations, and sincerely regretting that there should be no present expectation of such a task being undertaken by any one fully competent to it, the Editor of this work ventures to throw himself indulgence of the public in attempting, not to carry into effect such a plan himself, but to sketch out, in regard to the Fruit Garden, what he thinks the method should be upon which a more competent person would do well to proceed.
All our fruits, without exception, have been so much ameliorated by one circumstance or another, that they no longer bear any resemblance in respect of quality to their original. Who, for instance, would recognise the wild parent of the Coe's or Green Gage Plum in the savage Sloe, or that of the Ribston and Golden Pippin Apples in the worthless acid Crab ? Or what resemblance can now be traced between the delicious Beurré Pears, whose flesh is so succulent, rich, and melting, and that hard, stony, astringent fruit, which even birds and animals refuse to eat? Yet these are undoubted cases of improvement resulting from time and skill patiently and constantly in action. The constant dropping of water will not more surely wear away the hardest stone, than will the reason of man in time compel all nature to become subservient to his wants or wishes. But it would be of little service to mankind that the quality of any fruit should be improved, unless we found some efficient and certain mode of multiplying the individuals when obtained. Hence there are two great considerations to which it is, above all things, necessary that the attention of the cultivator should be directed, viz. AMELIORATION and PROPAGATION.
Amelioration consists either in acquiring new and improved varieties of fruit, or in increasing their good qualities when acquired. It will be as well to consider these two subjects separately.