RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1864. Ancient gardening. Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette no. 41 (8 October): 965.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, text prepared and edited by John van Wyhe 2003-8. RN3

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[page] 965

Ancient Gardening.—I should be very much obliged if any one who possesses a treatise on gardening or even an Almanac one or two centuries old would have the kindness to look what date is given as the proper period for sowing Scarlet Runners or dwarf French Beans. I am anxious to ascertain, as far as is possible, whether these plants can now be sown at all earlier than was formerly the case. The title, date, and place of publication of any old treatise should be given. Charles Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent.1

1 Darwin received several replies. Gardeners' Chronicle (15 October), p. 989: "Ancient Gardening.—The following answer to Mr. Darwin (see p. 965) is taken from the 8th edition of Miller's Gardeners' Dictionary, published in 1768. In that work the author says: "All sorts of Kidney Beans are too tender to be sown in the open air before the middle of April. The first crop intended for the full ground should be put in about the middle of April; but this should have a warm situation and dry soil, otherwise the seeds will rot in the ground; or it the weather should prove so favourable as to bring up the plants, yet there will be danger of their being killed by morning frosts, which frequently happen the beginning of May." J. Bryan, Reydon House, Royston.— Mr. Darwin may find the information he requires, together with a good deal of curious matter relating to other plants in cultivation at that time, in the "Gardeners' Labyrinth," by Mountain (1594), the first English work published on gardening. It may sometimes be picked up from old book stalls in London at a mere nominal price. Though I cannot state positively (not having seen the book for some years), I believe it will be found, as regards French Beans, that with the exception of sowing a little earlier, there is no material difference in the time or method employed, from that now practised. J. M. Bothwell.— The "Herball," or "Generall Historie of Plantes, gathered by John Gerarde, of London. Imprinted at London by John Norton, 1597," says that French Beans should be "sowen in the spring, especially in the midst of Aprill." A. G., Glenam, Clonmel." See also Correspondence vol. 12, pp. 361-2. In Variation 2: 314, Darwin remarked 'I have not been able, by searching old horticultural works, to answer this question satisfactorily.'


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