Saturday, November 15, 2014

1899 - "The Feeling of a Boy Toward Pumpkin-pie..."

I am straying from my general blog theme of seeds and seedsmen.  But, so what!  I have to follow my heart, which belongs to pumpkin pie.

What John said was that he didn't care much for pumpkin-pie; but that was after eating whole one. It seemed to him then that mince would be better.
The feeling of a boy toward pumpkin-pie has never been properly considered. There was an air of festivity about its approach and fall. The boy is willing to help pare and cut up the pumpkin, and he watches with the greatest interest the stirring-up process and the pouring into the scalloped crust. When the sweet savor of the baking reaches his nostrils, he is filled with the most delightful anticipations. Why should he not be? He knows that for months to come the buttery will contain golden treasures, and that it will require only slight ingenuity to get at them.
The fact is that the boy is as good in the buttery as in any part of farming. His elders say that the boy is always hungry; but that is very coarse way to put it. He has only recently come into world that is full of good things to eat, and there is on the whole very short time in which to eat them; at least he is told, among the first information that he receives, that life is short. Life being brief, and pie and the like fleeting, he very soon decides upon an active campaign. 
It may be an old story to people who have been eating for forty or fifty years but it is different for beginner. He takes the thick and the thin as it comes, as to pie for instance. Some people do make them very thin. I knew place where they were not thicker than the poor man's plaster; they were spread so thin upon the crust that they were better fitted to draw out hunger than to satisfy it They used to be made up by the great oven-full and kept in the dry cellar, where they hardened and dried to toughness you would hardly believe.  That was long time ago, and they make the pumpkin-pie in the country better now, or the race of boys would have been so discouraged that I think they would have stopped coming into the world.     —Charles Dudley Warner.

The Chautauquan, Volume 14 -1899

Friday, November 14, 2014

1896 - H. G. Faust and Co. Seed House - Philadelphia

H. G. Faust and Co. Seed House - Philadelphia

The building is still there and looks the same!!  Isn't Philly great!?
 The depth seems to have been reduced, however, unless the engraving exaggerated.


 I was looking in my pile of files for a few cool gourds when I found Faust.  I like their style. These pages are from 1896, while the fantastic cover at the end of the post is 1894.

Not all areas survived....this is where Mr. Vautier had his vegetable stand.   I think.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Salzer's "Oddly Odd Gourds" - 1899

How can you not like a catalog with that sort of quirky salesmanship?
"Oddly Odd" as compared to plain old "Odd"...a more special oddness than the everyday odd?...odder than the usual odd? odd that doesn't quite align with oddness?  What does "Oddly Odd" imply? Why not Superbly Odd, or Fantastically Odd?  The Ne Plus Ultra of Odd!
Whatever the reasoning it was a wonderful packet of seeds.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hail the Stately Cauliflower!

I was poking around in the 19th century looking for first hand accounts of husking bees when the Giant Autumn Cauliflower caught my eye.  No clue why, I don't eat it usually, preferring green things.  However, Veitch's Giant Autumn Cauliflower had some allure. It's a mystery...but I found a book that sang its praises in Arthur Alger Crozier's, The Cauliflower, 1891.

This book is the last word in 19th century cauliflower!  

The copy online at Google Books is from Michigan.

From The Cauliflower:
Veitch's Autumn Giant (Autumn Giant, Giant Naples, Frankfort Giant).—No other new
variety of cauliflower has attracted so much attention as this. It was introduced into England about 1869, since when it has become very popular there for a late crop and for summer. It is rather too late for the ordinary fall crop in this country, though a favorite with some growers on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
It was described by Vilmorin in 1883, as follows, under the name Giant Naples, but is now sold by him as Autumn Giant: ''Plant large and vigorous, stem rather tall, leaves abundaot, somewhat undulated, of a deep green. The interior leaves turn in well over the head, which is very large, solid, and white. It is a late variety of the same period as Walcheren, but less hardy. At the north it can be employed for the latest crop in open air culture by being sown in April or May."

In 1884 Vincent Berthault gave the following account of this variety in the Revue Horticole: "This variety is still rare and little known in France. I planted it last year for trial and obtained results which were the admiration of all who saw them. It was from my small crop that I took the four which I had the honor to present to the Central Horticultural Society of France at its meeting on August 25, 1883. Some of these cauliflowers were 35 to 38 centimeters [more than a foot] in diameter, and weighed, including stem and leaves, 12 to 13 kilograms [nearly 30 pounds] which is extraordinary for this time of the year, when it is difficult to obtain cauliflowers of even ordinary size. At one time I feared that their size was to the detriment of their quality, but it has proved otherwise, and in all respects they are excellent, and as good as beautiful. In fact they are perfect.
"The general characters of the Autumn Giant differ materially from those of other varieties.
"The young seedlings become at once very tall and upright, and even after being set out and planted as deep as the first leaves they quickly assume their usual stellate appearance, and for about six weeks they are simply furnished with eight or ten long narrow leaves borne on a long stem. So up to this time the plants are not very promising, and one is tempted to pull them up; but after this the plants rapidly change in appearance; a dozen new leaves are quickly developed, and the plants take on a half-upright form which recalls that of the Half Early Paris variety. 
As to the head, it is more conical than flat. The leaves sometimes attain a length of 90 centimeters [nearly three feet], by 40 centimeters broad. It is then that extra care should be given. The waterings ought to be copious and frequent, especially at the time of the formation of the heads, when I apply about 10 to 15 litres of water to each head every other day. 
This, which certainly contributed to the good result, is how I grew my plants. I chose good soil, which 1 prepared during the winter, placing in the bottom of the furrow a good thickness of manure, and a month before planting, or even at the time of doing so, I spread on the surface a covering of decomposed manure, which I incorporated with the soil by means of ordinary tillage. I visited the plantation every day, not only to destroy the caterpillars, but to cover the heads with leaves, which it was necessary to look after at least every other day in order to preserve the whiteness of the heads. These attentions are indispensable if one would secure a product of first quality, free from insects. 
As to sowing the seed, it may be begun about the 15th of September, and the plants wintered over under hand-glasses, or in frames, to be set out in March, when heads will be obtained in July. The plants of this sowing may also be set in hot-beds in January and February, but this only in default of other varieties, for they will be too tall and spreading.

"It is in February, on a bed with mild heat and under glass, that I make my sowing to obtain plants which are to head in August and September, and which give my best returns. A final sowing may be made at the end of March or beginning of April; it matures its crop in October and November.
"My opinion of the Autumn Giant is that it is destined to play an important part in the market gardening of the country when, probably in the near future, there shall have been produced dwarf varieties analogous to those which we already possess from other sorts."

...and then I saw Tillinghast's Early Padilla!!!!!
I am in love. 
Are there Late Padillas?

This following piece is included for the highlighted phrase.
"AS a general rule cauliflower growing in the open air in Pennsylvania is not a success, especially in the early summer. Occasionally nice crops of the late varieties may be seen. I have had very satisfactory returns by planting on the north side of tall growing crops like corn or Lima beans, which gave them protection from the mid-day sun. Make deep holes 2 feet apart from row to row and 18 inches in the row, put in each a shovelful of old cow manure. cover with 4 inches of soil; see that the earth around the stem for 6 inches is a couple of inches below the surrounding level so that the plants get the full benefit of the water, which it will be necessary to give them in dry weather. Give the plants a good start by having them well hardened off and giving plenty of water until they are established in their new quarters. Keep the soil constantly stirred and when the weather gets warm and dry put a coating of a few inches in depth, of fresh cow manure around the plants for a circumference of 10 inches.
Sometimes people lose heart if the cauliflower begins to head while the plants are but partly grown. On observing this if they are attended to with liquid waterings or top dressings of bone manure with plenty of water and constant cultivation it is surprising what beautiful heads these miserable little “ buttons" will develop into. If it is convenient to sprinkle the foliage in the morning and evening with a hose or watering pot it will greatly help the growth of the plants. When they begin to head some of the leaves should be loosely tied over the flower to have them white and compact.
For early summer Eclipse and Dwarf Erfurt are good varieties; Algiers and Veitch’s Autumn Giant for late crops. With the aid of cold frames and plenty of water on the north side of a building I have been able to keep up a good supply of cauliflower to the middle of July; of course the use of the sash was discontinued when danger of frost was past." (2)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Peter Henderson Seeds - Quality, and "Weird" Selections

This Abobra looks like it would be an adorable little red pickle! Any chefs looking for a bit of sparkle on the plate?  See Wikipedia entry at end of post.


1883.  One hundred and thirty-one years ago.  What caught my interest here is that it was a relatively new practice to have test plantings, enough so that Henderson mentions it as a forward thinking process that was good for business.  

What interesting plants he is selling!  I wonder if Logee's offers any of these plants.  I am lucky to live near Logee's greenhouse.  In winter it offers a wonderful respite from the weather.  Old specimen plants are planted in the ground in the old greenhouses.  You should see the huge passionflower vines!  And the heavenly smelling Ponderosa lemon flowers, and the gardenias...and, and...

"Probably from the fact that our long experience as Practical Gardeners made us realize the necessity more strongly than most seed dealers, we very early in our career as seedsmen inaugurated the practice of testing all seeds before selling; this we were enabled the more readily to do from our possessing not only extensive grounds, but the best equipped greenhouse establishment in this country,  which gave us opportunities at all seasons to carry on the practice. 

From the comparatively small tests begun in 1872, this practice has extended and become so systematized, that the past season it required the entire use of one of our largest greenhouses for our seed tests during the fall and winter; and afterwards in spring, in the open ground, we had set out many thousand plants representing the stocks in Vegetable Seeds alone of over 900 growers. 

Our illustration above is a reproduction of a section of our Seed-testing Greenhouse as it appeared last winter. All these tests are carried on under the personal supervision of Peter Henderson and the other members of the firm, and, as the author of "Gardening for Profit."' has had as long and as varied an experience as most men in operations connected with the soil, it will be seen that we are placed in a position to judge not only as to the germinating qualities, but, what is of far more importance, the purity of, and the kinds of seeds best suited for all gardening purposes. 

If, therefore, you can buy seeds as cheaply from us— and we think that if you will compare prices you will find that you can— it will certainly be to your interest to do so.  Besides this we have an Experimental Garden, wherein we grow samples of all Novelties in "Vegetables and Flowers as they appear ; the advantage of this will be quickly seen, as it enables us not only to judge of what is meritorious, but, what is far better, by this test to discard all varieties with which, in our opinion, it is worse than useless to encumber our lists."

By the way, here is a photo of Bryonopsis for sale on eBay.  Most web references are to investigating its anti-microbial effects!  It is called Lollipop plant maybe?  I did not see any major seed company sources for it.  

And this Abobra was another toughie to find offered anywhere today. 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scientific classification
Species:A. tenuifolia
Binomial name
Abobra tenuifolia
Abobra is a monotypic genus of the gourd family containing the one species Abobra tenuifolia (syn. Abobra viridiflora Naudin.Bryonia tenuifolia Hook. & Arn.). It is native to South America, and sometimes cultivated as ornamental plants and also for its edible fruits. Common names include cranberry gourd.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Good Read About Sutton's Seeds, Plus Side Trip Into Coppicing

"Do day-dreams come true? 
Are boyish fancies ever realised? 
There was once a quiet lad about the town of Reading whose ideal was to own a garden nursery."

I continue to be interested in how some seed companies thrive over decades, some now into counting centuries.  A search for "seed testing for quality" brought me to Successful Business-men: Short Accounts of the Rise of Famous Firms, with Sketches of the Founders, 1892.  It is a good read.

"When that son, Mr. Martin Hope Sutton—the virtual founder of the present gigantic establishment —was born in Waterloo year, his father was involved in great loss by reason of a bank failure. But, with characteristic British energy, he named his boy "Hope," in anticipation of a better day dawning."

I went to Suttons web site to see their history page.  It is a worthwhile read, if only for the Google satellite map of their company headquarters in Paignton, Devon!  

The landscape around them is so foreign to my American eyes, with wooded areas,  defined by fields,  named - Peter's Copse, Shopdown Copse, Oathill Copse.  I wonder why some are called a "Wood" and others a "Copse".  I suppose the species in the the copse were, in fact, coppiced.

"Lime Coppice at Westernbirt Arboretum which is a staggering 2000 years old!"

Tom Ward, in this The Basket Makers’ Landscape, explains:

"A copse is a thicket of shrubs or stump sprouts. 

Coupe in French means a blow or a cut. To coppice a 
woody shrub or tree one cuts the main stem(s) back to the 
ground to force new growth. Pollarding is to cut the plant back 
to the central stem, usually at head height or above, to stimulate 
the same kind of regeneration. This is usually done during winter 
when the plant is dormant; the spring sap flow brings nutrients up 
from storage in the roots and the bare branches or stump grows 
new buds under the bark that sprout and grow rapidly. 

The long skinny twigs that grow from this process provide good material 
for a wide range of human artifacts. They are called withies, and 
bundles of them are called faggots, fascines, or brindles. 

The stump is called a stool and many other simple words are also 
associated with this type of forest and land management, often 
called standards-and-coppice forestry. The standards are the 
overstory or timber trees left standing for their good form and 
genetics and for multiple other reasons." 

Following history in a nutshell by the BBC, from

Sutton Seeds was founded in Reading in 1806, by John Sutton.

This book is a current publication.

It was initially named the 'House of Sutton' and supplied corn.
John was joined in 1832 by his sons Martin Hope and Alfred.
It was then that the business moved to its famous premises in Market Place and they launched the flower and vegetable seed business.
In 1836 Martin Hope became a partner and the 'House of Sutton' became Sutton & Son.
The company continued to expand and in 1873 new offices and warehouses replaced the premises in Market Place.
These new premises were huge and even had their own fire station along with cottages for the firemen, and stables.
In 1962, Suttons moved to state-of-the-art premises on the A4 London Road.  But in 1976 the company relocated to Torquay, because Reading couldn't provide enough staff and in 1998 the firm moved to Paignton.
Now the firm is part of an international seed distribution business called Vilmorin.

Tin box, approx. 70 years old the eBay listing said...

This is fun :-)  Shiny seed bags are icky, but a little mod work would fix that.