Victorian ways with runner beans

September 28th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 2 Comments

Dwarf runner bean 'Hestia' - why not overwinter it in a pot?

A couple of months ago I was taking a look at one Victorian gardening magazine, I’ve now been leafing through another: The Gardener’s Magazine And Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement conducted by J. C. Loudon – Volume X, 1834. My copy is stamped as volume 229 of the Birmingham and Midland Counties Gardeners’ Mutual Improvement Association.

Two things are striking about these venerable editions. Subjects are discussed that are never mentioned in magazines today and, of course, there’s the precision and elegance of the prose. Even the contents pages are an intriguing and satisfying read. In this volume, contents include:
“On the Advantages which Gardeners may derive from inspecting the Gardens of others;”
followed by
“On the Importance, to Gardeners, of visiting Gardens; and on the Restrictions on some Cases, thrown in the Way of their doing so,” written under the pseudonym of Scientiae et Justitiae Amator.”

And then: “On the Propagating of Purple Broccoli from Slips (i.e. cuttings),” referencing an earlier contribution on the subject of growing cabbages from slips. A technique, I have to say, I’d never heard of.

“On the Culture of the Onion by Sowing and Transplanting”, on the other hand, turns out to be instruction on producing your own onion sets, something I remember Geoff Hamilton telling me about.

Fortunately, we no longer need the “Diagrams explanatory of modes of applying steam, conducted in narrow tubes, to the heating of water and beds of stones, relatively to the culture of plants of various kinds.” We just flick the switch on the heater.

But there’s also: “On taking up the Roots of the Scarlet Runner in the Autumn, preserving them through the Winter, and replanting them in Spring.” Dug up in November and replanted in February in the greenhouse, the author’s plants were 12 feet high in May! And how high by the end of summer?

But this is a technique that might just be worth trying with the dwarf and bushy runner bean, ‘Hestia’. Hmmm…

2 Responses to “Victorian ways with runner beans”

  1. Jonathan Gregson says:

    I love the idea of getting long-forgotten gardening tips from old Victorian gardening magazines. The Gardener’s Magazine And Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement can be read (and searched) online at – a wonderful resource for gardeners.

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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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