A CHAT WITH THE GARDENER.
THE LIFE OF A PIONEER.
[By Carle Doddie.] Twelve or thirteen years ago, when the writer first came from Nelson to settle in Ashburton, there was a sad scarcity of fruit. I cannot say that like the wayward Hebrews, I longed for the flesh-pots of Egypt, because for both good and cheap mutton Egypt or any other country under the sun had but a poor say with Ashburton. But I did long in the hot nor'west days for fruit, and I frequently longed in vain, . I had come from one of the most beautiful cities in the colony, where the_ climate was of the mildest, the scenery superb, and fruio abundant. Cherries were particularly so, and in many parts the Kentish cherry was looked upon more in the light of a weed than as a regular tree that was grown in earnest for fruit. Every home had a' fruit tree or so just handy, and fruit, was accordingly cheap. The Nelson people spoke proudly of their city and district as " The Garden of New Zealand," and truly it was then a land of fruit and flowers. Naturally, Ashburbon was not a pleasant experience after Nelson. But the County of Ashburton was but poorly settled then. The land craze was at its height, and excited men famishing with an almost insatiable earth hunger, were rushing hither and thither, trying to buy up every acre that was offered. Canny men sold at good prices, and made money ; impulsive un-^ thinking, and unskilled men bought at very high prices, and lost largely. But if the craze sent many men soon after into the Bankruptcy Court from over speculation in land, and others to the same sanctuary because of the ruinous prices they had paid for the acres they honestly intended to live on, it brought many men to this country who knew what they were doing, and gave us a class of farmers of whom any country might be proud. But although fche land was soon settled, the settlers did not take to fruit rearing very readily. Wheat was the great staple, and gardens and orchards were long neglected, so that for a good number of years our fruit had to be be imported, and even our early potatoes came from Christchurch. But by and by men cropped up who had the sense to "keep sticking in a tree." Those trees grew, in the natural course of things, and in time reached fruitage. Now, we have reached that point when we are in a position, if need be, to export to Nelson enough apples to keep her population supplied throughout the winter, and other cities' as well. Unlike Nelson, we have not as yet, thank God, had a visitation of the codlin moth,, £0 that the crops of fruit are both healthy and abundant.
THIS YEAR'S CHOP is perhaps the most abundant, and, for quality and size of fruit, the best we have ever yet gathered, and everybody's orchards, great and small—from the tree or two in the back garden to the orchards of many acres—have yielded their very best. All the orchardmen who cared to do so, and not a few amateurs, have displayed in shop windows and elsewhere some of the most magnificent samples of apples that could be shown anywhere in the world.
Not having been near the celebrated Smithfield gardens for nearly two years, , circumstances having always stood in the way, I determined to redeem the time, and to visit old George and have an interview with him about times past, times present, and things in general. I may here state that in the course of our talk Mr Smith gave me a rapid sketch of his whole life, and that I will reproduce it before I close, as the life histories of old pioners like him are interesting to both old hands and new chums. But meanwhile Jet; me make mention of a few things he brought under my notice. Sitting in the room with him where he does most of his. fruit business with the public, and which maom adjoins his well known vinery, my attention was drawn to one small apple standing apart from the rest. With the inquisitiviness which is natural to my craft, I .picked the little crab of thing up, and found that it was very b>dly blighted, indeed. Galling his attention to the apple, Mr Smith gave me his experience in treating the
SCALY BLIGHT. He told me that there was a gluey kind of matter securing the scale to-the bark that was almost invulnerable to any preparation not strong enough to injure the I wood of the tree. He had found this to be the case in his own experience, and his experience clinked in here with that of Mr Henry Redwood. He therefore gave up attempting to remove the scale by the mere strength of an application. Instead of doing thi3, he.devotes his attention to applying a strong preparation of caustic soda to' the bark. Mis object is to ,so poison the wood that when, in the course of nature, the insects hatch, they have no food to live upon, except the poisoned bark. He used other preparations as well, or rather other ingredients with the soda, but all with the, main idea in view —to he ready with the wood well poisoned when the inserts hatch out. He has been quite successful this way, and believes that it is the only way to secure clean trees.
A RARE TABLE. After some further talk, I had a look into his grape houSQ whepe. plenty of ripe grappa—beautiful Black Hamburg—still hung in tempting clusters ; and then I ■went to- the house to see his "sample room." Oh, how that room would have made our teeth water in 1877 on one of the hot nor'-west autumn days. On a large table in the middle of the room there were laid out, and carefully named, no less than 146 yarieties, of apples ! I shall not attempt the names, nor even a description of that tabled but shall contempt myself with the remark that there were apples there of every size, shape, and coloring—the latter of the very !'ricliest and most varied. He told me that, the samples there shown were, of course, only the autumn and winter keeping apples, the early sorts having long ago gone to fulfil that beautiful mission for which they were sent npon this earth. In looking at that table, one could hardly blame old Adam for being led astray, if his temptation took the form of such superb pippins, pearmains, codlins, etc., as were spread out there.
PRIZE APPLES. Mr Smith has been a regular exhibitor at the Christchurch and other shows, and has been fairly successful. He tells me that the Ribstone Pippin is unconquerable at Christchurch,' and that as a flavour apple it deserves its position*. But there are other apples in the world besides the delightful Ribstone, and these ought to be encouraged. Ho would like to see the Ribstones put in a class by themselves, and prizes offered for superiority to individual growers of Ribstones. This apple is difficult to manage. It is a shy bearer, and many growers find, year after year, that an abundance of blossom gives place to an equally abundant fruit formation ; but long before the fruifc has half-reached maturity, the immature apples drop off, and but a very small proportion of the crop ripens. ! One apple that took my eye was, a beautifully formed fruit, with a rich carnation and gold coat. Unfortunately, Mr Smith had allowed the name of this apple to drift away from him. It was one of his importations from Australia, and had not promised ..well for a long time, and so had been rather neglected. It was the only tree of the kind he had, and this was its first year of fruiting ; but now that it gave fruit like that, its name would be hunted up, and it would no more be a neglected tree. In color i|. resembles the "Maiden ( s Blush," but i!/ is widely different in shape. The Golden Spire,"
too, is a beautiful apple. This tree Mr Smith raised in a pot and planted out last year. It has fruited well this season. CIDER. Mr Smith has good hopes of the cider industry yet. Though not admitting that any failure had been made, he was quits willing to allow that the highest point of excellence had not been reached by some makers. The fault, however, scarcely lay with the., makers, and as the best kinds of cider apples were more extensively grown and became available to cider makers, a very marked improvement would be noticeable in the liquor they turned out. GARDEN WINE. My friend entertained me to a glass of gooseberry wine. He made it two years ago, but the supply was now on its last legs. If he had managed to make that wine effervesce, I should at once have said it was a bottle of the ordinary " fiz " of commerce—certainly a good deal more pleasant tipple than much of what is sold for champagne. It was clear as amber, of excellent flavor, and a delicious ",wa gang." Mr Smith has made about 100 gallons this year and last, and is not a little proud of its. quality. And now let me tell you a little of his PERSONA! HISTORY.
Mr George Tayler Smith was born at Rothiemay, in Banffshire, in 1831. His father waa a farmer, and was blessed with a family of nine—three girls and six boys. That family has been pretty well spread. Four of the sons came to Hew Zealand, and two went to America. Two of the sisters are in England, and one only, of all the family, remains in Scotland—at Aberdeen. One of the American brothers died at New London some time ago, and Charles died in the Geraldine district. One brother—Mr W. T. Smith—is still in the Alford, Forest; and few Ashburtonians of five or six years ago did not know^Hay T. Smith, one of the most knowing men in sheep matters in the colony. Hay was essentially a man of the farm, with a natural turn for sheep, and wh«n he came to New Zealand he took employment with the late Captain McLean. It was with him that he developed that well-known aptitude of his for sheep management. He is now in the North Island and doing well. Educated at the Fordyce Academy," a bursar of the late Lady Jane Tayler,, aunt of the present Duke of Fife, who recently secured to wife a daughter of the Prince of Wales, George's first work was as an apprentice in the garden of this lady's husband—Major Tayler. Space will allow me to do no more than rapidly run over a few-: of the places he held afterwards." He was for some time in the Troup garden of Gordon Campbell, Esq., c* Troup and Glenlyon. After a winter in the celebrated nurseries of Dickson and Sons, Edinburgh, that firm sent him to Wardlaw Eamsay, Esq., of Whitehall, near Hawthornden, the birthplace of the celebrated apple seedling of that name, and George has often seen the original tree in. the den itself. Two years afterwards a place was again found for him to pursue the practical ttudy of forest tree and shrub lore in the nursery;" thence to the Earl Lindsey, of Lindsey, at Uffington House, where he spent four years in charge of the forcing house; thence to London to the great nurseries of Henderson and Co., where the work was entirely among pot flowers, and fruit trees in pots for orchard house culture. There were acres under glass there, and a tremendous business was done in hiring out pot plants and trees in pots for the adornment of the fashionable assemblies in the great metropolis. Fashionable life is costly, j and money is not spared in this kind of adornment—the bill in some cases /running to thousands of pounds for one night s display of flowers, eto,., on tables, in rooms, on the staircases, the balconies, and so forth, of the city mansions. Lord | Denman was his nexb master^ son of the j ■Chief Justice of that name, who was associated, as counsel with Brougham and Lyndhurst in the defence of Queen Catherine. Smith was Lord Denman's head gardener for four years, and after occupying a similar position for four years at Anstey Hall, Trumpington, in Cambridge, h.e sailed in the.. " BritishEmpire" for Lyttelton, New Zealand, in 1864. • .
NEW ZEALAND MFK. His first work in -New Zealand was the laying out of a garden at Opawa for the late Mr J. L. Coster, the well-known banker. But after the work at Home, gardening in New Zealand, as a tradesman, did not offer great inducements. The Waimea or Six-Mile rush had just then i broken out, so he caught the gold fever, and the year after his arrival saw him -
A DIGGRR, He took th§ old and the first track through the Weka Pass, over the Saddle, past Lance's aiid Taylor's, -by the Teremakau, and travelled from Darkey's Terrace to Jackson's Bay, swagging and prospecting all- the way -with his mate. But it was on the. Three-Mile that he made his gold, and he also did well south of the Grey, and had one or two good claims along the.coast. He has even been up Mount Cook among the glaciers from the other side. It was from no love of mountain climbing he dared that region of ice, but went in quest of gold. He had many narrow escapes in this inhospitable region, but he. came out all right, and even got gold in the riverbed. After nearly five years' gold hunting with fair success, he went with his mate for a spell to Sydney to rid himself of the lumbago [by the heat of the New .South Wales climate. But while there the Gympie rush broke out, and he and his mate were off, of course. It was here he met Mr Stephen Potter, our local brickmaker, and George tells me that Mr Potter ought never to have left the Lady Mary claim, for it ■turned out well, and is doing well now. Prom Gympie the two mates made for Charters Towers, where poor Ted Reddin was drowned in the recent floods. It was but a poor place in George's time, with only one hotel, and a scrap of a paper that he saw two fellows printing in a shed. A year and a half afterwards saw him renounce digging altogether, and come back to Christchurch, He then went to be gardener to Mr Angus Macdonald, and after three years in his employ came to Ashburton and bought fourteen acres on the creek. It was a wilderness then, and many people thought he had purchased his ruin; but the thousands of visitors who annually throng to his gardens and purchase his fruit are hardly of the same opinion now, for that wilderness has blossomed as the rose, until it has become one of the show places of the Hub-
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SMITH'S GARDENS., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2403, 17 April 1890
SMITH'S GARDENS. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2403, 17 April 1890
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