These led the way, and other Agriculturists followed this good example, and tried by their writings to give a stimulus to the industry of market-gardening. Ralph Austen, in 1653, wrote a Treatise on Fruit Trees, and dedicated it to Hartlib. The first part of his work, full of arguments in favour of gardening and fruit-culture, based on scriptural authority, and interspersed with texts, is typical of the puritanical style of the times. In another of his works, The Spiritual use of an Orchard or Garden of Fruit Trees, this is carried to such excess that there is but little information about gardening, although every process, grafting, transplanting, and so on is compared to some stage in a Christian's life. This puritanical spirit is also apparent in the title of Adolphus Speed's book, in 1659, Adam out of Eden, and the rest of the title-page is indicative of the practical side of these writers. It runs thus:" Shewing Among very many other things, An Approvement of Ground by Rabbies from £200 annual Rent to £2000 yearly profit all charges deducted." But how this feat was to be accomplished it is needless to go into!
During the Commonwealth, gardening was treated from a more practical point of view; what would pay best to cultivate, was considered, and how the soil could be most improved, and made more fruitful. Not many gardens were laid out, and many of the existing ones suffered during the wars, especially the Royal Gardens. Nonsuch and Wimbledon were sold, and a survey made of Hampton Court, with a view to selling it, in 1653, but the order was " stayed until Parliament" took "farther notice," and it was left untouched. The absence of large new gardens is more marked when compared with the numbers which appear to have been laid out after the Restoration.
The progress, during the middle part of this period, was in the culture of economic plants, and not in garden design, or in the flower garden. Many of the old superstitions about plants were exposed. Austen fills several pages in contradicting old-fashioned notions, " Errors discovered," he calls it, such things as writing an inscription on a peach-stone or almond, and planting it, expecting the same writing to appear in the ripe fruit of the tree :" To have all stone fruit taste as yee shall think good lay the stones to soak in such liquor as yee would have them taste of," or " to have red apples, put the grafts into Pikes' blood." He thus sums up these recipes :" These things cannot be." " Errors in practise," he seeks to correct also, and shows much good sense in his remarks, on planting or moving fruit trees:"Many remove their trees in Winter or neere the Spring whereas they ought to remove them in September or thereabouts." Another error was " planting trees too neere together; I account 10 or 12 yards a competant distance for Apple-trees or Pear-trees, for Cherry or Plum 7 or 8." Many plant " too old trees in orchards, and neglect to plant their trees in as good or better soyle, then that from which they are removed." He points out some of the writings in which such errors were to be found. " The Countryman's Recreation, 1640, is full of these fancies," also in the works of " Didymus " or Thomas Hill, and the Country Farm, by Gabriel Platt. The necessity of refuting such errors shows how primitive many gardeners still must have been in their ideas. A small work on fruit trees by Francis Drope in 1672 is free from absurdities ; but Adam Speed's book, a few years later than Austen's, is full of errors as apparently ludicrous as those "discovered" by Austen, so gradual is the passage "from darkness to dawn." I need only quote two of his solemn assertions as specimens:"To make white lilies become red, fill a hole in a lily root with any red colour," and " the roots of roses set among broom, will bring forth yellow Roses." He suggests that sow thistles should be planted, as " they will maintain " calves, lambs, pigs . . . and millions of rabbits, and Jerusalem Artichokes, because they would feed poultry and swine. Some of his remarks, however, are more sensible; for instance, he observes, of potatoes, " they will make very good bread, cakes, paste, and pyes . . . increase of themselves in a very plentiful manner, with very little labour; they will likewise grow and thrive very well, being cut in slices, and so put into the earth".
Vegetable pies and tarts seem not to have been unusual ; Markham, in The English Housewife, 1637, gives several recipes, one for "spinage tart " flavoured with cinnamon, rose water and sugar ; another of spinach, sorell, parsley, and eggs. He gives also long lists of varieties of salads, " Cookery sallats," such as " boyled carrets," radishes skirrets ;" simple sallats, onions, lettuce, samphire, Beanecods, sparagus or cucumbers," served with oil, vinegar, and sugar; and "compound sallats," which " are usuall at great feasts and upon Princes' tables;" these consist of, " first the young Buds and knots of herbs," such as " Red sage, mints, lettice, violets, marigolds, spinage " . . . also " cabbage done with cucumber, currants, orange, lemons, olives, figs, and almonds." Carrots were used for adorning dishes, cut into " scutchions, arms, birds or beasts." Lamb and mutton should be garnished, he says, with prunes or currants, and fish with barberries.*
Among the quantities of varieties of fruits of which we have given some examples in a former chapter, Austen gives a selection of the best. He commends among apples, the summer and winter Pearmain, the small pippin, the Harvey, the Queene and the Gilloflour. Out of the four to five hundred sorts of pears, he selects the " Winsor" and "Sommer Bergamot." "But for a constant bearing kind I know none better than the Catherine peare " ;" Greenefield excellent . . . will last indifferent well, a great bearer;""Choke peare, accounted a speciall kind, for Perry, although the peare to eat is stark naught." " Flanders cherries, most generally planted here in England. The Black Hart cherry is a very special fruit." " The best nectarine is the Roman red. But it is very hard to be propagated, as for grafting none take that way, and but few with inoculating, which I conceive is the reason it is dearest of all plants with us ; " "The nutmeg and the Newington the best peaches: very large and gallant fruit." " I know of but one kind of Figs that come to ripeness with us : the great Blew-fig, as large as a Catherine Pear. The trees grow in divers gardens in Oxford, set against a south wall, and be spread up with navies and Leathers." Austen was the greatest authority on fruit-trees in his day.*
* The price paid for one pound of Barberries in 1618, was 3s.Le Strange, Household Accounts.