Изображения страниц


The separating line between horticulture and agriculture is difficult to define. Certain crops, like grapes, cabbages, and pota

. toes, belong to the former when cultivated on a small scale, and to the latter when cultivated on a large scale. Other crops, like mealies and beetroot, belong to the former when certain varieties are grown for household use, and to the latter when other varieties are grown for stock-feed or milling. The two terms really overlap, and what is pure horticulture in one country or district, like plum or strawberry culture, may be as pure agriculture in another, through variation in extent, methods, and uses. In South Africa, as elsewhere, the local limitations of horticulture are somewhat arbitrary, landscape work and floriculture, as well as extensive farming operations in fruit and vegetables, being included thereunder, while agriculture covers rather the raising of crops intended for stock-feed or for milling. Garden culture as against field culture hardly applies, since the garden may be up to any size, while the field may be very small indeed, and in either case the nature of the work may be either intensive or extensive. For the purposes of the present paper, fruit, flowers, vegetables, decorative trees and shrubs, ornamental plants, and landscape art are considered under horticulture, whatever the scale on which operations are carried on.


In the early history of South Africa horticulture evidently played a proportionately larger part in the domestic economy than it does to-day, the first settlement at the Cape having been established in 1652 by the Netherlands East India Company for the express purpose of supplying fresh vegetables, etc., and water, to its passing ships. Within a year from that date vines were imported from Europe, and during the succeeding years propagation and further importation of the vine took place largely, the stand of vine plants 35 years afterwards (i.e., before the arrival of the Huguenots) being more than half a million, though the population was then still under 500. Winemaking began before the settlement was eight years old, and brandymaking before it was 30 years old. The interest taken in the gardens at that time is shown by some of the earliest Dutch placaats, No. 5, dated December 21st, 1053, fixing the penalty for robbing the gardens at two years in chains, while No. 52, dated February 21st, 1660, fixes the penalty for injuring fruit trees at 12 months' hard labour. Even at that early date the Company imported European fruit trees, as well as oaks, pines, poplars, etc., and planted them in its own gardens, while by Placaat No. 48, 1659, “ All the freemen on the other side of the river Liesbeek were ordered to enclose their lands with pega-pegas, and to plant them with wild almonds."

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

The early Dutch Governors appear to have missed no opportunity to import useful plants, alike from Europe and from the East Indies, and as soon as settlements were made in other parts of South Africa, Cape Town formed the centre of horticultural distribution, each pioneer family treking out into the unknown regions beyond, taking with it what was considered necessary to start a garden.

Perhaps the greatest advance ever made in South African horticulture began with the arrival of the Huguenots in 1688.

Coming from a part of Europe where horticulture formed even then a large portion of the industrial wealth, and at a time when considerable advancement had already been made in securing improved varieties, it was only to be expected, as has happened, that they brought with them stocks of the best kinds Europe had at that time, and were very careful to propagate these in the land of their adoption. This and subsequent importation during the next hundred and fifty years accounts for the good kinds of peaches, apples and pears to be found as very old trees in the oldest gardens, and variation from these occurred through using seed as well as scions to increase the number, clingstone peaches especially retaining the general characters of the old Pavie class, though varying somewhat in local seedlings from which local varieties sprang. One reason why the Huguenot families were selected or encouraged to come to South Africa was because of their knowledge of viticulture and wine-making, the fact that the vine grows well at the Cape having previously been demonstrated. The number of vines increased about six-fold during the first 20 years of their residence, and the export of Cape wines dates from that period (say 1707). The old oak trees in the Avenue, Cape Town, are probably among the oldest horticultural specimens now extant in South Africa, dating from Simon van der Stel's time (1679-1699), as also does the well-known estate of Constantia. From that time onward introductions continued to dribble in slowly, no notable boom in importation having occurred till quite recently, though few really good and suitable European novelties failed to be represented in some South African collection, and to be distributed in accordance with merit and adaptability.


From 1770 to 1820, however, the flow of plants took the opposite direction, the extraordinary wealth of South Africa in certain floral lines having attracted attention and brought numerous and ardent collectors both of living plants and of dried specimens, to these

Besides private collectors, the Royal Gardens, Kew, and the Royal Horticultural Society, several nursery firms were represented, and the material sent home, including as it did many species of Pelargonium, Proteaceæ, Mesembryanthemum, Oxalis, Helichrysum, Gladiolus, Ixia, Crinum, Agapanthus, Clivia, Kniphofia,

, , Bulbine, Gloriosa, Aloe, Asparagus, etc., created quite a tion, and brought into existence a very miscellaneous and meritorious


group known as Cape plants. Considering the limited range and the difficulty of transportation of some of these kinds, especially Heaths, it is a matter of surprise that they ever reached Europe alive, but once there the highest skill in horticultural propagation and culture was brought to bear on them, with the result that finer displays of Cape plants were common then in Europe than have ever yet been brought together in one place in South Africa, these exhibits being seldom surpassed even now. Hybridization, and the selection of sports in broken species, also came into play, with the result that many grand varieties which have never been seen in Africa have been secured from Cape parents.

Fashions change, and Cape plants are no longer thought of as one group; some of them have gone out altogether, but others still hold their own, especially Bulbs, Pelargoniums, and some Ericas, and form leading features in the horticultural trade of Europe and North America at the present time, propagated in these countries, and seldom grown here for export.

[blocks in formation]


It is part of Britain's system of colonization that a public garden, usually under the name of a “ Botanic Garden,” acts as a centre of importation, acclimitization and distribution of plants, wherever a considerable community has settled, which does not possess an energetic nurseryman in its midst. Such has happened at many centres in Cape Colony, and at two in Natal, while public parks have answered somewhat the same purpose in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. Aided by Government grants, these establishments have done very useful work, and in most cases contain specimens of numerous kinds—especially of trees and shrubs, not elsewhere represented in their respective neighbourhoods—and thus form object lessons of the first importance. In some cases these have withdrawn from public competition in nursery work after a satisfactory local supply was established by private effort, and then simply exist on the Government grant or local contributions; in other cases they use the Government grant in raising ordinary nursery stock for sale as a means of existence, and thus by State aid prevent the development of a local industry of this nature; while in a small number of cases they have themselves developed into important nurseries, managed nominally by Committees, but actually by the Curators, and in these cases the Government grant is rightly used in the maintenance and development of the botanic garden proper, while the nursery is self-supporting or even profitable, any profit derived going towards increased effort, or adding to the charm of the garden itself. Usually these Botanic Gardens and Public Parks have done much to foster a love of horticulture and render its practice possible ; unfortunately, inadequate provision of funds and overambitious committees have in not a few cases saddled these establishments with White Elephants which could not exist on the Government

grants, and had to earn their living as best they could. One of the best services rendered by these institutions has been the importation of trained men to act as Curators or Assistants, and who, either in these positions or afterwards, have been leaders of horticultural life throughout South Africa.


The nursery trade itself is a very recent innovation in South Africa, but one which has grown rapidly since it started, and has still an enormous field for expansion.

Twenty-five years ago the Botanic Gardens did practically all the Nursery business done, and they joined with private florists in complaining when the Cape Government Forest Department, about 1885, began the sale of forest tree transplants at cost, in order to render possible more extensive tree-planting than had previously been practiced. That trade has increased enormously in the hands of the Forest Departments of Cape Colony, Transvaal, Orange River Colony, and Natal, and the public find that they have now in that line sure and reliable supplies, while even the nurserymen are not disappointed in being relieved of what often proved the unprofitable part of their business, leaving them free to take up much more profitable lines with greater energy and advantage. And it is only those nurserymen who have broken away from the conventional, many-sided class of trade, and specialised in a few leading lines, who can be said to have done passably well. The expense connected with the maintenance of an all-round trade has been too great for the comparatively limited demand, and is likely to remain so till the population grows. But in regard to fruit trees (especially citrus trees), Roses, Palms, Table Plants, and a few florist lines, there is a standing demand which always justifies practical labour, and allows reasonable prices to come in.


Reasonable prices are, however, of comparatively recent adop. tion. Fifteen years ago 10/- was not an uncommon price for an orange tree, or 3/6 for a deciduous fruit tree, and over-grown trees were more in demand than maidens. But Cape Colony had the advantage soon after that date of having, among its new arrivals, several Californian fruit growers, who were not slow to introduce new life and energy wherever they settled. South Africa owes much to these men, who, realising the grand climate and the unequalled geographical and seasonal advantages for fruit culture, helped others as well as themselves in building up the first foundations of a wholesale deciduous fruit industry. The late Cecil Rhodes saw what was in it, and invested largely, and others gained confidence from his It so happened that Phylloxera at that time threatened the vine industry, Australian Bug and Mal-de-gomma had practically cleared out the citrus groves of the Western Province, and generally Agriculture was unremunerative, so the deciduous fruit industrythough not altogether new-received a further impetus as a probable salvation, and as a substitute for discarded vines and oranges. All this meant a large demand for trees, and allowed propagation on systematic American methods on a scale hitherto unattempted here, giving profitable business, though prices were reduced 50 to 75 per cent. Then may be said to have occurred the only recent boom in importation, fruit trees from America, Europe and Australia coming in considerable quantity and in considerable variety.

Fruit trees require time to develop, and it is only recently that the large plantations then put down have begun to yield in quantity and to show what can be done. It was freely predicted that what would happen would be the annual swamping of all South African markets at glut prices, and shipment of only the best to Europe or elsewhere. What has actually happened has been that instead of unduly pushing export, full prices have been obtained for first-rate fruit in every South African market, with fair demand and few gluts, and that the low-grade and badly-handled local material stands in marked contrast both in quality and price to that systematically handled, wherever they appear side by side. Growers everywhere now realise that fruit has to be good and clean, and to be properly handled and packed if it is to realise other than low prices, so, thanks to easy transport, the improvement begun in the South-West is now having its effect quite as much in the Transvaal and Natal as in the Cape Peninsula and neighbouring districts.

There is a demand everywhere for first-rate fruit, corresponding in extent with the population of the district; that demand is met from a distance if it cannot be met locally, and since the local supply is ousted unless it is good enough to keep out that on which freight and package has been paid, better kinds, better trees, and better treatment, are coming into use much more generally, and must continue to do so.

Fruit-culture, from being a farmer's or tradesman's hobby or pastime, is rapidly becoming an important industry, requiring attention to every detail at the proper time, and an up-to-date plant, to

cope with it.

And this holds good in respect to other lines as well as to deciduous fruit, for as citrus fruit and tropical fruit are easily moved within South Africa, and as the best naturally secures the best price, irrespective of where it has come from, improved culture is forced on growers all round if they wish to sell.

It may be said without doubt that the best varieties of all hardy and semi-hardy fruits are now obtainable as well in South Africa as elsewhere ; what remains to be proved is which of these varieties in

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »