This section is from the book "A History Of Gardening In England", by Alicia Amherst. Also available from Amazon: A History Of Gardening In England.
"Retired leisure That in trim gardens takes his pleasure".
That is the walk, and this the arbour ; That is the garden, this the grove".
THE period now to be surveyed falls naturally into three divisions. The first, the reign of Charles I.; the second, the Commonwealth; the third, the Restoration. The development of gardening in each of these has its own distinctive character. The current of slow progress in horticulture runs on smoothly, but garden design does not alter much until the third portion of the time. During the Commonwealth, there was a movement towards the improvement of orchards and market gardens, and the reign of Charles II. witnessed a great revival in gardening in all its branches. The early part is merely a continuation of the gardening in the time of James I.; the men whose works have already been quoted were still alive— Parkinson, Johnson, and the Tradescants—and they form a link with the Elizabethan age. Sir William Temple and John Evelyn, whose names are so intimately connected with the garden history of the Restoration, in like manner connect that period with the brilliant days of gardening at the close of the seventeenth century.
Each succeeding generation of gardeners had a very poor opinion of the capabilities of their predecessors, while they thought the excellence of their own gardens could hardly be surpassed. Holinshed maintained that there never were such gardens as those of Elizabeth's reign, but by the middle of the seventeenth century gardening was so much advanced that the early years of Elizabeth were looked back upon as a time of almost primitive horticulture. After a large allowance is made for probable exaggeration, the fact remains that the progress was sufficiently marked to be felt by the writers of the time. Rea, writing in 1665, "to the Reader" of his Flora Ceres and Pomona, says his reason for publishing his work was that after " seriously considering Mr. Parkinson's garden, of pleasant flowers, and comparing my own collections with what I there found (I) easily perceived his book to want the addition of many noble things of newer choicing, and that a multitude of those there set out, were by time grown stale, and for unworthiness turned out of every good garden." Rea is writing about the pleasure garden, but Hartlib, ten years earlier, writes in the same strain of nursery gardening.
Hartlib, a Pole by birth, settled in England early in Charles the First's reign. During the Commonwealth he received a pension from Cromwell of £100 a year. His Legacy of Husbandry is a review of agriculture, and his remarks are most practical. He is strongly in favour of increasing the number of nursery gardens and orchards, and argues chiefly on the ground that gardening improved the land, and would pay well, if properly managed. " Gardening though it be a wonderfull improver of lands as it plainly appears by this, that they give extraordinary rates for land . . . from 40 shillings per acre to 9 pound and dig and howe, and dung their lands which costeth very much . yet I know divers which by two or three acres of land maintain themselves and family and imploy other about their ground; and therefore their ground must yield a wonderful increase or else it could not pay charges ;—yet I suppose there are many deficiencies in this calling, because it is but of a few years standing in England, and therefore not deeply rooted nor well understood. About fifty years ago, about which time ingenuities first began to flourish in England, this art of gardening began to creep into England into Sandwich and Surrey, Fulham, and other places." He goes on to say that old men in Surrey remembered " the first gardeners " to plant cabbages, coleflowers, and to sow turnips and carrots: " they paid 8 pound per acre yet the gentleman was not content fearing they would spoile his ground because they did use and dig it. . . . Many parts of England are wholly ignorant . . . where the name of gardening and howing is scarcely known. . . . Gardening - ware (unless about London) is not plentiful or cheap. . . We have not nurseries sufficient in this land of Apples, Pears, Cherries, Vines, Chestnuts, Almonds, etc. : but gentlemen are necessitated to send to London some hundred miles for them." Further on, however, he says that " there are many gallant orchards" in Kent, about London, in Gloucestershire, Hereford, and Worcester, and these we know had existed a long time previous to the fifty years he ascribes to them. In Kent and Surrey, he adds, plums usually " pay no small part of the rent".
It was not the Puritan party only who were occupied in the improvements of orchards. One of the great Royalist families took a prominent part in the work. To this day, at Holme Lacy, in Herefordshire, is to be seen the same long green walk flanked with yew hedges, down which Charles I, may have passed, when he stayed with Lord Scudamore, the year which is marked in history by his loss of the battle of Naseby. After the death of the king he had served so faithfully, Scudamore went with the expedition to the relief of the French Huguenots at Rochelle, and on his return to Holme Lacy, occupied himself with planting and grafting apple-trees. He introduced the Red Streak Pippin, from which the choicest sort of cider was made. Ambrose Philips (1671-1749) commemorates this fact in his poem " Pomona." He praises the Musk apple, and adds :—
" Vet let her to the Red-streak yield, that once Was of the sylvan kind, uncivilized, Of no regard, 'till Scudamore's skilful hand, Improv'd her, and by courtly discipline Taught her the savage nature to forget— Hence called the Scudamorean plant, whose wine Whoever tastes, let him with grateful heart Respect that ancient loyal house".
The orchard at Holme Lacy still remains, and the garden now possesses one of the finest walls of " cordon" fruit in the country. Walter Blith, Author of The English Improver, or a New Survey of Husbandry, 1649, was another " Lover of Ingenuity," as he styled himself, and he also impressed upon his countrymen the advantages of planting orchards, and urged those in other parts of England to copy what was done in the West of England, and to plant " the Vine, the Plumb, the Cherry, Pear, and Apple," he advises also " the more planting of cabbage, carrot, onion, parsnip, artichoak and Turnep".