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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.
LATER HISTORY: BOTANIC GARDENS.
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 In some cases these have withdrawn from public competition in nursery work after a satisfactory local supply was established by private effort, and then simply exist on the Government grant or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
lead. 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
each case does best under local conditions, and best meets the requirement.
As a step towards ascertaining these points, the respective Governments have each arranged something in the nature of trial plots, in which greater variety is introduced than would usually be done by a private grower or even by a nurseryman. In the Transvaal some 400 varieties are on trial, in Natal about 1000 varieties, while in Cape Colony a smaller number of selected kinds is being distributed for trial at many centres.
It is generally conceded that only a few varieties are wanted at one place, but the point in this experiment work is to find which are the few kinds best worth attention in each locality. Experience in America, Australia and elsewhere has been that each locality eventually produces locally a few kinds best suited to itself, or selects and adopts as its own a few chance trees of unknown history but of special quality.
And in this selection not only has the effect of local conditions on all available varieties to be tried, but the special requirement of the market to be supplied has also to be considered, for it is surprising how some kinds are in demand in one market, and unsaleable in another.
Proving these problems is public work if the Colony desires to benefit, otherwise a few energetic men control the trade and make the profit, and the public is left out.
Experiment work in other directions, as to soils, fertilizers, pruning, cultivation, espacement, irrigation, intercropping, shelter, stocks, packing, cold storage, transport, etc., are also in hand as Government work, and each Government has an officer in charge of such work.
EXPORT OF FRUIT.
After a century of slow progress, fruit culture made a fresh start when, in 1889, a first attempt was made to ship fruit to England on a commercial scale. The Castle Steamship Co. responded to the growers' demand by fitting up in one of its steamers a cool chamber with a capacity for 30 tons. Whether the growers filled this or not does not appear, but the Cape Agricultural Journal (Vol. II., page 208) contains a report, dated March 11th, 1889, by Mr. J. Willard, Member of the Fruit Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society, to the Secretary of the Cape Agricultural Society, on a trial shipment of apparently three cases of fruit, which included Grapes, Pears, and Melons, the two latter being in one box. During the next two years export business was still in the initial experimental stage, but in 1892 some 500 cases of fruit in variety were shipped, and the results led both the Castle and the Union Steamship Companies to fit up cool chambers of 60-ton capacity in each of several steamers for the next year's trade, when a large business at once sprang up.