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The Ancient Gardener's Instructor: Dispatches from Wesley Greene

September 16, 2014

From the Garden: Of Breaking, Scutching and Hackling

Breaking the flax

The flax that we put up in July has been very slow to dry due to a generally cool and wet summer but in the last week the bundles of flax have finally been found suitable for processing. A clear dry day was chosen and the tools assembled.

The first task is …

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August 27, 2014

From the Garden: Accommodating Cabbages


The Brassica seedlings are ready to be moved from the frame to the garden but first we must make room for them. In order to accommodate them we have harvested several varieties of root crops including celeriac, beetroot and carrots.

The celeriac, or celery root as some gardeners call it, is an obscure plant …

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August 20, 2014

From the Garden: A Surfeit of Simlins

It is at this time of year that the gardener is supplied with a surfeit of simlins.  This is the variety of summer squash most favored by Virginia planters.

Striped simlins

In 1597, John Gerard called it a “buckler” because it was shaped “in a manner flat like unto a shield or buckler.”  The buckler …

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August 12, 2014

From the Garden: Of Seedlings, Snails and Yarrow

The autumn crop of Brassicas are now well up within the frame. Because the cabbage family is more amenable to cooler weather we are obliged to construct lathes to shade the seed bed and temper the excessive heat that so typically afflicts the coastal plain of Virginia at this time of year.

Seedling frame

The …

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August 6, 2014

From the Garden: A Tomato Table

We spoke last week of Mr. Custis and the remarkable Turkish Cucumber that he received from the notable English collector Peter Collinson.

Constructing the tomato table

Several years later, in 1743, Mr. Collinson wrote to him about another rare fruit that was first making its appearance in English gardens: “Apples of Love are very much …

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July 30, 2014

From the Garden: The Remarkable Turkish Cucumber

In the year 1737 the late John Custis, member of the Governor’s Council and renowned amateur horticulturist, received from Peter Collinson of Mill Hill, London, seeds for a most remarkable plant.

Cucumis flexuosus

Mr. Custis responded to the present: “the seeds of the long cucumber you sent me; I planted but none came up; I …

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