by Margaret Porter
|Tulips and primula|
'Planting and gardening addes much to the Health and Content of Man.' Moses Cook, 1676
'My Garden, like my Life, seems to me every Year to want Correction and require attention.' Alexander Pope, 1736
This is the fourth and last seasonal gardening guide, with information taken from 17th and 18th century sources in my personal library. I took the photographs either in historic gardens in England or in my own 21st century gardens, in which I grow heritage plants. The previous three entries are: Garden Guide for English Historical Authors: Summer and Garden Guide for English Historical Authors: Autumn, and Garden Guide for English Historical Authors: Winter.
With the advent of spring, garden tasks multiplied, in the past as they do nowadays. Seedlings and young plants established on hotbeds had to be planted out in prepared sites where they could thrive, grow and bear. The onset of warmer weather meant that pleasure gardens would serve areas for display of flowers and fruit, enjoyment, and relaxation, hence the need to continuing the tidying begun in winter's waning days. Printed garden guides provided explicit instructions to the professional as well as the common gardener.
|Bluebells in springtime|
'First sturdy March with brows full sternly bend,
And armed strongly, rode upon a Ram,
The same which over Hellespontus swam:
Yet in his hand a spade he also hent,
And in a bag all sorts of seeds ysame,
And fild her wombe with fruifull hope of nourishment'
Edward Spenser, The Faerie Queene
In the kitchen garden. Ensure that cucumber and melon hot beds are properly warm, with lively but moderate heat. Sow seeds of both throughout the month. Make new hot beds for moving transplants. Transplant cabbage and lettuce plants, and plant cauliflowers in rich ground. Sow broccoli, cabbage, savoy, spinach, onions, leeks, radish, carrots, beans, peas, turnips, celery, parsnips, tomato or love-apple, asparagus, chervil, coriander, parsley, basil, and other pot and medicinal herbs. Plant cuttings of rosemary and rue. Dress existing asparagus and artichoke beds, forking or lightly digging, then raking. Plant potato beds and Jerusalem artichokes. Shake the nut trees to loosen pollen from the catkins; this will fertilise the flowers.
In the fruit garden. Prune fig trees, cut out branches overtopping the wall. Plant fruit trees of all kinds on walls, as espaliers, or as standards. Train young apricots, peach and nectarines planted against a wall. Prune and train apples, pears, plums, and cherries. Prune raspberries of deadwood and thin live shoots. Prune vines.
Garden produce: Winter spinach, some cabbages and savoys, broccoli, red and chard beets, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, endive, all sorts of salad herbs.
From the hot beds: Cucumbers, peas, kidney beans, purslane. In warm borders: mint, tarragon, tansy, sage, parsley, marigolds, burnet, sorrel, hyssop, winter savory, rosemary, other pot herbs.
Tree and shrubs in flower: Apricot, almond, daphne mezereon, cherry plum, spurge laurel, laurustinus, cornelian cherry, honeysuckle.
Medicinal plants to gather: Elder buds, nettle tops, liverwort, primrose, violet, watercress.
Greenhouse plants in flower: Ilex-leaved lantana, Spanish Jasmine, Aleppo cyclamens, geraniums of several sorts, cotyledon, African marigold, Canary campanula, coffee tree, purple lotus, gladiolus.
'And the buds and blossomes breathing forth pretious and pleasant Oders, rejoyce and delight the inward and outward senses.' Ralph Austen, A Treatise of Fruit Trees, 1653
'In Aprill about St George his day, you shall set abroad your citron and orange trees, as also such other trees as you had kept within house from St Martin's Day.' Richard Surflet, 1600
In the kitchen garden. Many vegetables sown in prior month may still be sown for successive crops. Transplant lettuce where there stand close. Thin radishes. Sow spinach. Plant early kidney beans in dry weather. Sow gourds and pumpkins. Sow broccoli for a winter crop. Sow borage, bugloss, clary sage, thyme, sweet marjoram, savory, burnet, sorrel, and hyssop. Continue to sow pot herbs. Also nasturtium and marigolds. Cuttings and slips of new growth from herbs can be planted, especially lavender and rosemary.
In the fruit garden. Continue planting fruit trees as required. With fumigating bellows, destroy insects that breed in this season and damage trees, pick off curled leaves. Protect blossoms and young fruit of trees from frost by covering with evergreen branches or mats, until fruits are as large as the end of a man's finger, or larger.
|18thC Sweet-scented pea|
Garden produce: Turnip shoots, spinach, radishes, asparagus, pot-marjoram, late celery and endive, chervil, young onions, leeks, scallions, borage, sage, rosemary, young carrots sown in autumn. From the hot-beds: cucumbers, peas, kidney beans, purslane, early cabbages.
|Fritillary & daffodils|
Trees and shrubs in flower: White and purple and blue lilac, Persian lilac, laburnum, peach, pear, cherries of all sorts, plum, almond, hawthorn, Italian honeysuckles, Yellow jasmine, coronilla, dogwood, horse chestnut, spirea, azaleas.
'There is no flower can be more glorious than the Poppy.' John Worlidge, 1677
In the kitchen garden. Melon beds and cucumber frames require especial care--early plants in frames will now show fruit. Maintain sufficient warms in the beds while fruit is setting. Admit fresh air to the plants each day by propping the glass. Shade the plants from the sun on the brightest days. Plant out the gourds and pumpkins sown in April. Plant out the tomato or love-apple plants sown earlier. Cut asparagus for the table. Transplant lettuce. Plant more beans and peas for later crops. Continue to sow pot herbs and propagate medicinal plants from slips and cuttings.
In the fruit garden. Train new shoots of wall trees. Thin apricots, peaches, and nectarines where the tree is too heavily laden with fruit. Water new-planted trees. Clear vines of all useless shoots. Train all shoots that have fruit upon them. Uncover fig branches in warm weather to prevent mold. continue to repair espalier frames. Transplant fruit trees. Look carefully after bullfinches, at this season they do great mischief to fruit trees by packing off blossom buds and can destroy all garden fruit in two or three days.
Garden produce: Cabbages, savoys, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, turnips, red beets, salsify, cardoons, spinach, potatoes, artichokes, onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, sage, parsley, sorrel, mint, tansy, tarragon, sallet herbs, mushrooms, endive, celery, chervil. Pot herbs and aromatic plants: winter savory, hyssop, thyme, lavender, rosemary, pot-marjoram, burnet.
Garden produce: Radishes, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, sorrel, mint, winter savory, borage, bugloss, young onions, chives, asparagus, peas, beans, early artichokes, cauliflower, young carrots in protected locations, cucumbers, melons, purslane, kidney beans on hot beds, mushrooms, parsley, coriander, chervil, cresses, mustard, burnet, tarragon, spring herbs for soups.
|Lily of the valley|
Fruit for gathering: Cherries, strawberries in warm soil, late in the month gooseberries and green currants in warm situations.
In the forcing frame: Apricots, peaches, cherries, strawberries, other early fruits.
Trees, shrubs, and vines in flower: Yellow jasmine, lilacs, honeysuckles, whitethorn, Guelder rose, cinnamon rose, monthly rose, damask rose, burnet-leaved rose, Scotch rose, horse chestnut, laburnum, flowering almond, perfumed cherry, Portugal laurel, dwarf medlar, myrtle, double-flowering cherry, viburnum, dogwood, privet, flowering ash, common broom, clematis.
|Blush damask rose|
|Blush burnet rose|
|Double flowering cherry|
Having closed out the seasonal guides to the gardening year, I hope they will prove informative and perhaps useful to my fellow authors, as well as interested historical fiction readers.
English Garden History: Autumn Guide
English Garden History: Winter Guide
Margaret Porter is the award-winning and bestselling author of twelve period novels, whose other publication credits include nonfiction and poetry. A Pledge of Better Times, her highly acclaimed novel of 17th century courtiers Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans, is her latest release, available in trade paperback and ebook. Margaret studied British history in the UK and the US. As historian, her areas of speciality are social, theatrical, and garden history of the 17th and 18th centuries, royal courts, and portraiture. A former actress, she gave up the stage and screen to devote herself to fiction writing, travel, and her rose gardens.