J. C. (John Claudius) Loudon.

The different modes of cultivating the pine-apple, from its first introduction into Europe to the late improvements of T. A. Knight, esq online

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Claudius) LoudonThe different modes of cultivating the pine-apple, from its first introduction into Europe to the late improvements of T. A. Knight, esq → online text (page 11 of 12)
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will be ultimately obtained by this mode of treat-
ing the Queen Pine ; but I believe it will be found
applicable with much advantage in the culture of
those varieties of the Pine, which do not usually
bear fruit till the plants are three or four years old.
" I shall now offer a few remarks upon the faci-
lity of managing Pines in the manner recommend-
ed, and upon the necessary amount of the ex-
pense. My gardener is an extremely simple la-
bourer, he does not know a letter or a figure ; and
he never saw a Pine plant growing, till he saw
those of which he has the care. If I were absent, he
would not know at what period of maturity to cut the
fruit ; but in every other respect he knows how to
manage the plants as well as I do ; and I could teach
any other moderately intelligent and attentive la-
bourer, in one month, to manage them just as well
as he can : in short, I do not think the skill neces-
sary to raise a Pine Apple, according to the mode


of culture I recommend, is as great as that requi-
site to raise a forced crop of potatoes. The ex-
pense of fuel for my hot-house, which is forty feet
long, by twelve wide, is rather less than sevenpence
a-dayhere, where I am twelve miles distant from coal-
pits : and if I possessed the advantages of a curved
iron-roof, such as those erected by Mr. Loudon,
at Bayswater, which would prevent the too rapid
escape of heated-air in cold weather, I entertain no
doubt, that the expense of heating a house forty-
five feet long, and ten wide, and capable of hold-
ing eighty fruiting Pine plants, exclusive of grapes
or other fruits upon the back wall, would not ex-
ceed fourpence a day. A roof of properly curved
iron bars, appears to me also to present many
other advantages : it may be erected at much less
cost, it is much more durable, it requires much
less expense to paint it, and it admits greatly more
light." Hort. Trans, iv. 72.

Mr. Knight adds, " I have .not yet been trou-
bled with insects upon my Pine plants (having
only had nine plants for about as many months),
and have not, of course, tried any of the published
receipts for destroying them. Mr. Baldwin recom-
mends the steam of hot fermenting horse-dung : I
conclude the destructive agent, in this case, is am-
moniacal gas ; which Sir Humphry Davy informed
me he had found to be instantly fatal to every
species of insect ; and if so, this might be obtain-
ed at a small expense, by pouring a solution of
crude muriate of ammonia upon quick-lime j the



stable, or cow-house, would afford an equally ef-
ficient, though less delicate, fluid. The ammoniacal
gas might, I conceive, be impelled, by means of a
pair of bellows, amongst the leaves of the infected
plants, in sufficient quantity to destroy animal,
without injuring vegetable life : and it is a very in-
teresting question to the gardener, whether his
hardy enemy, the red spider, will bear it with im-

In the year 1820, in June, Mr. Knight had such
a house as he has hinted at, erected. Its general
appearance (fig. 18.), is simple, and the roof ad-


mits as much light, as any roof that can be con-
structed in the present state of knowledge, in the
combination of wrought iron and common glass.
The plan of this house, or pit (fig. 19- )> is fifty

feet in length, and ten feet wide ; the furnace ( a )



is placed at one end ; the flue proceeds from it di-
rectly to the front parapet ( b ), and passing along
close under it to the opposite end, there terminates
in a chimney ( c ). Instead of a pit, a curious
stage is constructed, by forming cross walls ( d ),
or rather piers, connected by arches, and finished
by a gradation of flat surfaces, or steps, on which
the pots are placed, so as to stand as near the glass
as possible (fig. 20.)

Air is admitted by shutters, which open out-
wards, immediately under the stone plinth of the
parapet (fig. 20. a), in which the lower ends of the
iron bars are fixed ; and allowed to escape by simi-
lar shutters, opening outwards, immediately under
the stone coping of the back wall (b), in which the
upper ends of the same bars are leaded in. The
path behind is on a level with the exterior surface ;
the width of the cross walls the length of a brick,
or nine inches, and they are finished with foot
tyles; the width between them is about fifteen
inches, by which means, any ordinary sized person
may pass from the back path to the front flue, and
water or examine the plants on each side.



This house being finished, was immediately
stocked with Pines, some figs, and various other
plants, all of which, Mr. Knight stated verbally, in
May 1821, to various members of the Horticul-
tural Society, succeeded admirably ; but by neglect
of the gardener, or rather labourer, who attend-
ed them, they were killed by an over-heat in Mr.
Knight's absence from home. *

The house was again stocked with plants, which
Mr. Knight, in a paper read to the Horticultural
Society, in November last (1821), stated to be
in a most thriving condition ; and a friend of ours
who had made an extensive gardening tour in the
North and West of England, and who saw the Pine
plants at Downton Castle, also in November, de-
clares they appeared the most magnificent he had
seen on his journey ; " the plants," he says, " were
stocky, and the leaves long, broad ? and green ; the
largest were in pots fourteen inches in diameter,
and their leaves reached to the glass."

In the paper alluded to, Mr. Knight goes on to
say, " I possess more than sufficient evidence to
enable me to assert with confidence, . that, in the
culture of the Pine Apple, the bark bed, or other
hot-bed, if the plants be plunged intoit, is worse

* The poor man had probably overheated himself, and com-
paring by his feelings the temperature of the Pinery with his
own, found the latter much in its usual state ; not knowing
" a letter or a figure," of course, he could not take a hint from
the thermometer.


than useless, after the scions, or crowns, have
emitted roots; and that the Pine Apple, when
treated in the manner I have recommended, is a
fruit of most extremely easy culture.

" It is contended, in favour of the bark-bed, that
the soil in inter-tropical climates is warm, and that
the bark-bed does no more than nature does in the
native climate of the Pine Apple. And if the
bark-bed could be made to give a steady temper-
ature of about ten degrees below that of the day
temperature of the air in the stove, I readily admit
that Pine plants would thrive better in a compost
of that temperature, than in a colder. But the
temperature of the bark-bed is constantly subject
to excess, and defect, and I contend, and can prove,
that the above-mentioned temperature is very
nearly given in my stove. For the temperature of
the day being about 90 or 95, and that of the
night 70, the mould in the pots will necessarily
acquire nearly the intermediate temperature of 80.
It is true, that two disturbing causes are in action ;
the evaporation from the mould, and porous sur-
face of the pots, and the radiant heat of the sun.
But these causes operate in opposition to each other,
and probably nearly negative the operation of each
other, as far as respects the temperature of the
mould in the pots.

'* A very great number of gardeners have within
the last twelve months visited my garden. Some
of these were at once convinced of the advantages
of the mode of culture which they saw ; others


have paid a second, or third visit ; but every one
has ultimately declared himself a zealous convert.
I have never yet seen plants of the same age equally
strong, nor any producing fruit better, nor indeed
so well swelled; nor any equal in richness and
flavour. But I have never taken off, nor shortened
a root, nor taken any other measures to retard the
period of fructification, with the prospect of obtain-
ing larger fruit ; and my plants have almost always
showed fruit when fourteen or fifteen months old,
though propagated from small and young suckers,
or crowns. A great part of my Queen Pines (I
have hitherto scarcely ever cultivated any other
varieties) have, however, at that age, shown fruit
with eight, and some with nine rows of pips ; and
I often see fruit of less weight growing upon plants
of nearly double that age. Whether I shall be
able to retard the period of fructification, or not, I
have yet to learn ; but I believe, I shall succeed by
crowding my plants close together, so that each
may receive less light.

" Pine plants will, however, grow perfectly well
in composts of different kinds ; but I have found
that they have succeeded best when the materials
have been fresh, and retaining their organic form,
particularly if the pots be large, relatively to the
size of the plants, which, I think, they always ought
to be, for the mode of culture recommended. I
have used, with advantage, the haulm of beans cut
into lengths of about an inch.

" Very contrary to the conclusions which I should



have been led to draw from writings upon the
ture of the Pine Apple, I have constantly found
that my plants succeed best in the part of my house
where the flue first enters,- and where the temper-
ature is very high, varying from about 85 to 105,
and the air excessively dry. I have pointed out
this circumstance to every gardener, whom I have
seen in my house, and all have expressed their
astonishment at the circumstance. I expected that
this excess of heat would have occasioned the
plants to show fruit prematurely, but this has not
occurred in a single instance. What would be the
quality of the fruit, if it were to be ripened in so
high a temperature, I have not yet had an oppor-
tunity of knowing.

" In raising young plants, I have deviated from
the ordinary mode of practice by breaking off the
suckers when very young ; that is, when they are
not more than four or five inches long. The fruit
is much benefited by their absence ; and the cut-
tings, if placed very close together in a hot-bed, are
made to emit roots with little trouble, and afford
better plants than they do when they are suffered
to remain long upon the parent stem. When the
whole are removed at an early period, one or more
very strong suckers usually spring outbelowthe level
of the soil ; and from these, suffering only one to re-
main attached to the parent stem, and preserving the
roots as entire as possible, I have propagated with
much advantage, and have obtained plants which
showed fruit strongly at seven months, dating from


the period at which the sucker appeared, like a
strong head of asparagus, at the surface of the

" The success of my experiments, in the first house
which I erected, (and to which the foregoing ac-
count exclusively refers,) led me to erect another
house (figs. 18. 19. and 20.) in the summer of 1829-
In this I attempted to obtain the greatest possible
influence of light, and command of solar heat;
inferring, from having observed Pine Apples to
ripen tolerably well with very little light, that I
should be able to ripen them in perfection late in
the autumn, and early in the spring, particularly
at the latter period, in which, alone, I set a very
high value upon the species of fruit. The height
of the back wall (fig. 20.) of this house is eight
feet six inches, and that of the front wall is one
foot six inches, and its breadth ten feet, inside
measure, with an iron curviliar roof, (fig. 18.) of
the kind of bar invented by Mr. LOUDON, of Bays-
water. This house is fifty feet long, (fig. 19.) and
capable of containing two hundred fruiting Pine
plants. The curvature of the roof rises just one
foot in twelve. The glass is laid in a composition
of two parts white lead, with oil, and three of
flint sand, and the overlaps of the glass are
closely filled with the same material. It is, con-
sequently, very nearly air-tight ; and no means
are given for the air to enter, or escape, except
by apertures immediately under tUe copings of

M 2


the front and back wall, (a and b, fig. 20.) which
can be efficiently closed at any time. It is, conse-
quently, an instrument of very great power, and
requiring, of course, much attention to ventilation :
of which I had rather a lamentable proof in the last
spring, when my plants were all burned, and spoil-
ed in a few hours ; the person who had the care of
them having left them in a bright day closely shut
up. The fault was not, however, in any degree in
the house, for the plants were, previously, much the
strongest, and the best I ever saw ; and I believe,
they would have afforded most beautiful fruit. I
furnished the house again with plants as expedi-
tiously as I could, chiefly in July ; and I have since
kept the temperature of it nearly between 70 and
95, with a wish to make the plants show fruit and
blossom in the present month (October.) In this,
I have in part succeeded, though many of my
plants have flowered a fortnight or three weeks
sooner than I wished. The fruit is swelling well,
and, I believe, will receive sufficient light through
the winter to enable it to ripen in much per-
fection. The excellence of a few Pine Apples,
which ripened in this house in the last winter,
leads me almost to doubt, whether the fruit
in it will not ripen better, early in the spring,
than in the middle of the summer, for I have
observed that this species of plant, though ex-
tremely patient of high temperature, is not, by any
means, so patient of the action of very continued
bright light, as many other plants : and much less


so than the Fig and Orange tree : possibly, having
been formed by nature for inter-tropical climates,
its powers of life may become fatigued, and ex-
hausted by the length of a bright English summer's
day in high temperature. Being a plant of low
stature, nature has also probably given it the power
to ripen its fruit and seed, in the shade of other
plants, in its native climate j and I discovered in
the last summer, that it possesses the power to ripen
its fruit perfectly in a lower temperature than I
previously thought it capable of growing in.

" In the month of June, I gave a couple of Pine
plants, which had shown fruit at six months old,
and were of small size, and no value, to a child of
one of my friends, to be placed in a conservatory,
in which no fires were kept during the summer.
In July, a storm of hail destroyed nearly, or fully,
half the glass of the conservatory ; and its temper-
ature, through the summer and autumn, had been
so low, that the Chasselas grapes in it were not ripe
in the second week in September. In the second
week of the present month (October) one of the
Pine Apples became ripe, having previously swollen
to a most extraordinary size, comparatively with the
size of the plant ; and upon measuring accurately
the comparative width of the fruit, and of the stem,
I found the width of the fruit to exceed that of the
stem in the proportion of seven and three-quarters
to one. The fruit had, of course, been propped
during all, the latter part of the summer, the stem

M 3


being wholly incapable of supporting it. The taste
and flavour of this fruit were excellent, and the ap-
pearance of the other, which is not yet ripe, and is
of a larger size, is still more promising. I purpose
to profit by this result in the next summer ; and I
hope to be able to communicate some further infor-
mation to the Society in the autumn. I feel per -
fectly confident, that if the roots of these plants
had grown in a hot-bed of any kind, their sap
would have been impelled into other channels ; and
that their fruit would not have attained, in any
degree, the state of perfection which I have de-

This is the latest printed account of Mr. Knight's
experiments on the Pine Apple, It would be
premature to draw any general conclusions in so
early a stage of their progress, and might ex-
cite prejudice to anticipate the final result. That
the Pine plant will grow and thrive without what
is technically called bottom heat, is an obvious
truth, since no plant in a state of nature is found
growing in soil warmer than that of the superin-
cumbent atmosphere. But to imitate nature, is
not always the best mode of culture ; for the more
correct the imitation, the less valuable would be
the greater part of her products, at least as far as
horticulture is concerned. What would our celery,
cabbage, and apples be, if their culture were copied
from nature ? Though the Pine Apple will grow
weh 1 without bottom heat, it may grow with bottom


sheat still better: and though the heat of the earth,
in its native country, may never exceed that of
the surrounding atmosphere, it does not follow that
earth heated to a greater degree may not be of ser-
vice to it, in a state of artificial culture. But ad-
mitting, for the sake of argument, that the Pine plant
could be grown equally well with, as without bottom
heat ; still it appears to us that the mass of material
which furnishes this heat, will always be a most de-
sirable thing to have in a Pine stove, as being a per-
petual fund of heat for supplying the atmosphere of
the house, in case of accident to the flues or steam
apparatus. Besides it appears from nature, as well
as from observing what takes place in culture, that
the want of a steady temperature and degree of
moisture at the roots of plants is more immediately
and powerfully injurious to them than atmospheric
Changes. Earth, especially if rendered porous and
spungelike by culture, receives and gives out air and
heat slowly ; and while the temperature of the air
of a country, or a hot-house, may vary twenty or
thirty degrees in the course of twenty-four hours,
the soil at the depth of two inches would hardly
be found to have varied one degree. With respect
to moisture, every cultivator knows, that in a pro-
perly constituted and regularly pulverized soil, what-
ever quantity of rain may fall on the surface, the
soil is never saturated with water, nor, in times of
great drought, burnt up with heat. The porous
texture of the soil and sub-soil being at once favour-

M 4


able for the escape of superfluous water, and ad-
verse to its evaporation, by never becoming so much
heated on the surface, or conducting the heat so
far downwards as a close compact soil.

These properties of the soil relatively to plants
can never be completely attained by growing
plants in pots, and least of all by growing them in
pots surrounded by air. In this state, whatever
may be the care of the gardener, a continual suc-
cession of changes of temperature will take place
in the outside of the pot, and the compact material
of which it is composed being a much more rapid
conductor of heat than porous earth, it will soon
be communicated to the web of roots within.

With respect to water, a plant in a pot surround-
ed by air is equally liable to injury. If the soil be
properly constituted, and the pot properly drained,
the water passes through the mass as soon as poured
on it, and the soil at that moment may be said to
be left in a state favourable for vegetation. But as
the evaporation from the surface and sides of the
pot, and the transpiration of the plant goes on, it
becomes gradually less and less so, and if not soon
re-supplied, would become dry and shrivelled, and
either die from that cause, or be materially injured
by the sudden and copious application of water.

Thus, the roots of a plant in a pot surrounded
by air, are liable to be alternately chilled and
scorched by cold or heat, and deluged or dried up
by superabundance or deficiency of water, and no-


thing but the perpetual care and attention of the
gardener to lessen the tendencies to these extremes
could at all preserve the plant from destruction.

To lessen the attention of the gardener, therefore,
to render the plant less dependent on his services,
and, above all, to put a plant in a pot as far as pos-
sible on a footing with a plant in the unconfined
soil, plunging the pot in a mass of earth, sand,
dung, tan, or any such material, appears to us a most
judicious part of culture, and one that never can be
relinquished in fruit-bearing plants with impunity.
Even if no heat were to be afforded by the mass in
which the pots were plunged, still the preservation
of a steady temperature which would always equal
the average temperature of the air of the house,
and the retention, by the same means, of a steady
degree of moisture, would, in our opinion, be a
sufficient argument for plunging pots of vigorous
growing, many-leaved, or fruit-bearing plants.

Such are the observations that we think may be
made relatively to Mr. Knight's plan, without pre-
judice to whatever new lights he may throw out
on the subject. Had it been brought forward by
a less eminent horticulturist, it would not have
claimed so much attention, as the plan of growing
Pines without bottom-heat is generally considered
to have been tried first by M. Le Cour, and sub-
sequently by various others, and abandoned. In
Mr. Knight's hands, however, whether it fail or
succeed, it is certain of doing good, by the obser.


yations it will elicit from the fertile and ingenious
mind of so candid and philosophical a horticul-

Sir William Edward Rous Boughton has erected
a house or pit at Downton Hall, similar to that of
Mr. Knight, but rather wider. * Pines are grown
in it on Mr. Knight's plan, but the plants were
not in a thriving state in November last. Charles
Holford, Esq. of Hampstead, is also a disciple of
Mr. Knight as to the culture of this fruit, but he
has not yet been very successful.


Of other Improvements in the Culture of the Pine Apple, by
different persons.

WE shall first notice the improvements which
respect bottom-heat, and begin with noticing an
attempt made by Mr. Thomas Jenkins, of the Port-
man Nursery, London, to warm both the pots in
which the plants are grown, and the air of the
house, by the heat generated by fermenting stable-
dung placed in a vault beneath.

It is only within the last three years that Mr.
Jenkins has begun to grow the Pine Apple to any

* The roofs, both of this house and that of Mr. Knight, were
furnished by Messrs. W. & D. Bailey, of Holborn, London.



.extent ; he brings forward the plants in hot-beds
and deep frames, inclosing beds of tan, and heat-
ed by linings of dung. As an economical part of
the construction, we may mention that he substi-
tutes wattled hurdles for the lower part of the
frame, in contact with the tan, by which means a
saving in the first cost is effected, and the heat of
the dung penetrates much more readily to the tan.
Most of the plants are fruited in these pits, but
some are fruited in a house, (Jig* 21.) which

" though furnished with flues, yet these have been
very little used. The heat imparted to the plants
is produced by the fermentation of stable-dung in
a pit below the plants, the top of which is covered
by tiles supported by iron rafters, with the joints
closely cemented, to prevent the passage of steam
into the house. The pots are neither bedded in
tan, nor in mould, but stand on the tiles, and the
interstices between them warm the air of the house."


The dung is managed as in West's pit (Jig. 22.

but with the addition of being watered after it is
thrown in, which is found to promote fermentation,
and the intensity of the heat.

One of the earliest instances of steam being used
as a bottom-heat with which we are acquainted,
was that by Mr. Butler, gardener to the Earl of
Derby, at Knowlesly, near Liverpool, in or about
1792. It had been used twenty years before, but
chiefly for other purposes. Speechly, in 1796,
knew only two instances in which steam was applied
as bottom-heat; and, with M'Phail, does not think
it will finally answer as a substitute for tan.
Instances in which it is adopted, are now much
more numerous ; but time sufficient has not elapsed,


and the opinions of gardeners are yet too unsettled
on its merits to enable us to recommend it for
adoption in general practice. For heating the at-

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Claudius) LoudonThe different modes of cultivating the pine-apple, from its first introduction into Europe to the late improvements of T. A. Knight, esq → online text (page 11 of 12)