Sunday, 18 November 2018

Pioneer of gardening movement

AUTHOR Richard Bisgrove, a retired academic from Reading University, was the speaker at this week’s meeting on Henley Rotary Club.

AUTHOR Richard Bisgrove, a retired academic from Reading University, was the speaker at this week’s meeting on Henley Rotary Club.

His subject was the important but forgotten pillars of the early horticultural movement, in particular William Robinson.

Robinson was born in Ireland in 1838 and came to England in 1863 when there was much poverty. At this time, the most skilful and expert gardeners were employed in the design and maintenance of the great estates of the aristocracy and the very wealthy.

Robinson travelled to Paris for the exhibition of 1863 and there he became aware of how fare food production in France was ahead of England. By careful management, the French grew vegetables so they achieved two to three crops per year.

Robinson was also impressed by the production rate of fruit trees from fairly small areas of ground. Mushrooms were grown in cities with minimal soil. Being of a benevolent nature, the Irishman realised that with good management, food production costs could be vastly reduced and the poor better fed.

Robinson returned to England and started The Gardener magazine, encouraging the good practice of food production. In towns and cities he had the radical but advanced idea of roof gardens.

He was very much ahead of his time and modern day farming methods owe a lot to him.

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