Concrete and bark paths – and manure

December 7th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Path through perennials made from shredded black bark

With rain like stair rods, gardening has been, well, limited recently. So it’s time again to pull off the bookshelf the wisdom of gardeners of long ago, and open the doors of The Floricultural Cabinet and Florists’ Magazine for December 1852, conducted by our old friend from previous posts – Joseph Harrison.

There’s a lot of discussion of tropical variegated plants together with a slightly surprising note from J. Beaston on the subject of Concrete Surface Walks. “I observe a correspondent,” he says, “who has some walks thus constructed, states that they are objectionable in consequence of being hard; the surface does not yield in the least to the tread, and the rough pebbles make it painful to the feet.”

Now it may seem surprising that complaint is made that concrete is, well, hard. But this is 1852 and, in spite of being in use since before the ancient Egyptian civilisation, concrete was still relatively unknown. Strangely, the good Mr Beaston then goes on to describe in great detail how to make what appears to be a progenitor of the tarmac path – which must have been just as hard as concrete.

Me? I’m a fan of a black shredded bark path. Soft, soft, inexpensive, the ideal colour to go with green foliage and easily replenished every spring.

However, oddly, after the long discourse on how to make a different kind of hard path, a contribution follows immediately from J. J. Mechi of Tiptree Hall in Kelvedon in Essex, who dives right in with: “In fact, I see clearly that the liquefied manure will enable me to produce my root crops at 5 shillings per ton, and will very largely increase my other productions.”

So there you have it, the garden in December!

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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