Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|The Pines of Northanger...With apologies to Rhespighi….
Written by JulieW
(4/19/2006 10:17 a.m.)
For your amusement: a 17th century woodcut showing Eve in the Garden of Eden with ..a pineapple!
The kitchen–garden was to be next admired, and he led the way to it across a small portion of the park.
The number of acres contained in this garden was such as Catherine could not listen to without dismay, being more than double the extent of all Mr. Allen’s, as well her father’s, including church–yard and orchard. The walls seemed countless in number, endless in length; a village of hot–houses seemed to arise among them, and a whole parish to be at work within the enclosure. The general was flattered by her looks of surprise, which told him almost as plainly, as he soon forced her to tell him in words, that she had never seen any gardens at all equal to them before; and he then modestly owned that, “without any ambition of that sort himself — without any solicitude about it — he did believe them to be unrivalled in the kingdom. If he had a hobby–horse, it was that. He loved a garden. Though careless enough in most matters of eating, he loved good fruit — or if he did not, his friends and children did. There were great vexations, however, attending such a garden as his. The utmost care could not always secure the most valuable fruits. The pinery had yielded only one hundred in the last year. Mr. Allen, he supposed, must feel these inconveniences as well as himself.”
Walled kitchen gardens ,some large in acreage, were a feature of many country estates. The kitchen garden at Windsor castle was fabulously large, being 22 acres in extent. More modest gardens such as the one at Pywell Park ,Hampshire were of lesser acreage, but large never the less: its covered 1 ½ acres, Holkham Hall, the home of the famous agricultural improver, Cook of Norfolk, had( and still has ) a walled garden which covers 4 acres.
The kitchen gardens provided vegetables , herbs and fruit for the household and were essential parts of an estate.
During JA’s era, as evidenced from the General’s boastfulness , above, they not only provided vegetables and fruit native to England an in season, but also managed to provide exotic fruits and vegetables for the family’s table. A rear luxury.
They did this by the use of hothouses and also by employing gardeners with the requisite expert knowledge to grow such exotics.
The General is most boastful about his gardens ability to produce pines- or pineapples in his pinery,only producing one hundred in one year, which might not seem too much of an achievement to us to day, but in the late 18h century, well…he was talking of riches beyond the dreams of avarice!
Let me explain…..
The pineapple was one of the most exotic and rare( and consequently expensive of fruits. It was not , of course native to England and could not survive in England’s cold winters without the assistance of care from man, and his ingenuity in creating special garden structures- pineries- to house them.( note at this time pineapples were not imported into England: that occurred only after JA’s death. To enjoy a pineapple in England at this time one had to have the wherewithal to grow it yourself)
Let me quote from Susan Campbell’s most excellent book,A History of Kitchen Gardening( re-issued in 2005).
The pineapple is now so easy to buy in the shops that it is difficult to imagine the excitement that even the sight of one once engendered. Three hundred years ago it was a rarity in Europe….When pineapples were at last grown in Europe, the production of a good, large fruit was regarded as a tremendous event worthy of a commemorative painting, or even the striking of a medal.
By the mid 18th century possession of one of these fruits was so prestigious that pineapples were hired out as decorations for dinner parties. If one of them happened to get eaten, the crown or tuft of leaves at the top of the plant was sent back to the gardener for replanting.
The diarist Parson Woodforde recorded his first sight and taste of the fruit, at the age of 26, on 29th September 1766.As late as the 1920s it was accounted a really grand dinner party only if there were present both a pineapple and Lady Curzon. .
Pineapples were ferociously expensive. The Duke of Chandos grew pineapples at Shaw Hall near Newbury and in the mid 18th century sold the excess fruit at half a guinea( 10 shillings and sixpence) each. This was equivalent to the cost of a new wig!(see p167, Susan Campbell History of Kitchen Gardening)
The first published account of growing pineapples was in Richard Bradley’s book .A general Treatise of Husbandry and Gardening,1721.
He had studied horticulture in Amsterdam and had observed pineapples growing there, for the necessary techniques for growing the pineapples were only know to the Dutch at this time. Later Bradley also became friends with Henry Telende the gardener to Sir Matthew Decker who was a wealthy Dutchman who had an estate in Richmond Surrey, and it its thought that Telende gave Bradley practical knowledge of the way to grow pineapples.
According to Bradley the crowns were planted individually in small six inch pots in July and Ausgust. Then the pots were plunged in a warm tan bed pit which was brick lined and filled first with a layer of rubbles and then hot dung to a depth of one foot. The rest of the pit was filled with fermenting tanners bark, and was covered by a sloping wooden frame , with four glass 2lights” .This was in effect an early pinery.
At the end of October the plants were moved to a stove( a heated garden house), or a conservatory. At the end of winter the plants were put back t the pit for the whole of the summer. By the end of the summer the plants were again put into heated storage, and it was not until the following July or August that any fruits would have ripened on the plants.
To ensure a succession of fruits the 18 month cycles had to be repeated every year.
As you can see raising pines in England was costly , and time consuming and not an occupation for the poor. Nor even those relatively well off…..Indeed by 1730 Pineapple Fever had hit England and the demand for pines was so great that
Stoves and Glasshouses for the culture of the Pine..are now to be found in almost every curious garden
(see: John Cowell, The Curious and Profitable Gardener 1730.)
During the 18th century improvements were made to the design of pineries. The introduction of specially designed pineries with heated flues which enabled pineapples to be grown in these buildings all the year round occurred circa 1740.
Low sloping roofs mostly of glass were used to maximise the light and heat in the pinery. The pinery was not normally a very tall building as the pines themselves did not grow very tall.
Note that the tax on glass introduced by the excise Act of 1745( increased in 1777 and again in the 1780s) made the use of glass in this way another expense in creating home-grown pines.
Phillip Miller , who kept the Apothecaries Garden in Chelsea( now known as the Chelsea Physic Garden: still there and I recommend a visit) had pineapple stoves( pineries) 50 feet long containing 120 + plants. The beds containing the plants were 8 feet wide and he had a self imposed target of growing 90 plants per year. So we can see from this example just how large the Generals pineries were.
Home-grown pineapples continued to be grossly expensive. Eventually, as I have briefly noted earlier, after Jas death in 1820 pineapples began to be imported into England, from Bermuda. It still took another century before mass production and importation made them affordable, however.
So, as you can see the General with his pineries and his casual remark about only growing 100 of them is really showing off here. To a terrible extent, frankly.
This estate is not some mouldering ruin but a very modern efficient and above all extravagant place.
Not the stuff of Catherine’s Gothic dreams at all…….
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.