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Horticultural exhibition - Expo Paris 1878

Missing picture

The horticultural exhibition showed us a series of real artistic jewels. All industries, moreover, - it is an undeniable fact today - tend to invade the field of art.

Also, horticultural locksmithing has been very brilliant: gates, greenhouses, garden furniture and kiosks, trellises, etc., etc.
We do not intend to describe the innumerable greenhouses, grills, gardening instruments, pumps, etc., that have appeared on the Champ de Mars or at the Trocadero.

However, it would be unfair not to give a small place here to one of the instruments of horticultural equipment, which have contributed most to the remarkable progress made in the maintenance of gardens and pleasure properties. It is the Archimedean mower which gives our Parisian lawns such an elegant cachet, such a flattering appearance for the eye.

It is, in fact, the only one that has been used by the city for the past eight years to mow the lawns of squares, gardens and promenades, thanks to its acknowledged superiority over all its competitors.

The same superiority was confirmed at the competition held on the 8th August last, on the large lawn of the Champ de Mars, where eight of the main exhibitors were present. The work obtained varied little in duration, but considerably in quality. The Williams mower, although a little less light to handle," says the official report, "seemed to the jury to do the best work, and to leave little to be desired. In the test made on the strip-plant and sloping borders, the same mower was also ranked first.

In short," the report continues, "the horticultural public has advanced instruments which enable them to maintain lawns in perfect condition and which can be used by the least experienced worker. This is one of the many advances recently made in the maintenance and embellishment of public and private gardens.

This progress is largely due to Mr. Sepher, the intelligent director of Williams and Company, 1, rue Caumartin, in Paris, who since the introduction of the lawnmower in France has not ceased to perfect it and to popularize its use. Our drawing sufficiently shows what this ingenious tool has become in his hands. We will only point out to the jury that the gears, which were uncovered in the primitive American machine, exposed to breakage and clogging, have been re-enclosed in a perfectly closed box. Hence, more solidity and lightness. The Williams company builds its machine in France and delivers more than two thousand of them annually to the trade and to consumers.

The Archimedean Lawnmower was awarded the silver medal, the highest award given to instruments in this category in class 85.

The simple construction of its spiral blade cuts the grass with precision and then spreads it on the ground, keeping it fresh from dew or rain and providing valuable natural fertilizer. No less remarkable and consistently recognised by experience, the repeated cutting of moss kills and radically removes moss, that enemy of lawns and meadows. These two circumstances are those that have mainly made this device appreciated in practice.

However, when it comes to large properties, the Williams Mower is modified: its proportions are enlarged: in this case it is pulled by a donkey or a horse; the grass is then thrown into a box of such dispositions that it can be emptied in a heap by a simple movement of the driver's hand, without stopping the animal's walk. This is the model which, in Paris, operates every day on the large lawns of the Bois de Boulogne avenue.

We will take this opportunity to tell our readers that the Williams house is the complete and authentic depository of all the domestic economy devices so widely used and so famous in England and America. Most of these devices are as useful as they are economical in the household. We limit ourselves to this indication to return promptly to our subject and tackle the interesting question of flowers.


It may be said that the Exhibition of 1878 was enclosed in a veritable circle of flowers and foliage, and this was certainly not one of its lesser charms.

We shall briefly review the principal horticultural marvels which were admired there, not without first paying tribute to the vigilance with which the exhibitors maintained their plants and replaced them with others as soon as they were gone.
Let us first greet the beautiful roses of Angers of Messrs. Lévêque and Leroy and particularly those of Mr. Margotten.

Here are now the splendid gladioli of Messrs Souillard and Brunet, the two or three hundred varieties of carnations of Messrs Gauthier-Dubois and Hachard; let us greet in the cultivations of Mr Vilmorin this ravishing flower, so young although so old, and especially so French, which climbs so cheerfully around the attic which it seems to embrace, the nasturtium!

The same house also exhibited phlox, otherwise known as flames, plants of the month of July.

Mr. Legendre Garriau had peonies of incomparable beauty and ravishing balsamines.

In Mr. Vallerand's greenhouse, we saw some splendid gesneriacs.

Let us mention the massangea lindeni, a Peruvian bromeliad, in Mr. Linden's greenhouse.

This plant is worth several thousand francs.

Among the curious and little-known plants, we can mention the fly-catching dionea. This plant, which grows in the Carolinas, in the middle of marshes, is a dangerous plant for insects! Each of its leaves has two half-oval lobes which close suddenly on the unfortunate insect which is pierced by the intertwined stings of the lobes; these only reopen when the insect has ceased to live.

Let us also mention the nepeutes, which come from Borneo; at the end of some of their leaves is an urn always full of water that is pleasant to drink and fresh as spring water.

We shall only mention for the record the mosaics of flowers that the public has seen in various places, notably on the Trocadero lawn.

This kind of amusement has no other merit than that of patience and seems to us, moreover, to be in rather bad taste; it resembled images from Epinal.



Fruit, vegetables, agricultural and horticultural products of all kinds were on display in all the galleries. In some of them, the public was shown very interesting cultivation methods.

Thus, in the gallery next to the trench, Mr. Boudront exhibited specimens of mushroom cultivation; in his circular, he explained his process as follows
1° Take about one cubic metre of fresh horse manure, preferably uncastrated, well moistened with urine; arrange it in the form of a wheel by packing it and leave it to ferment for eight days.

2° At the end of this time, break up the stone with a fork, scatter it, then rearrange it as before, watering it a little. Leave for another eight days.

3° Repeat the previous operation for the third time and leave for another eight days to complete the fermentation.

4° After breaking up the millstone, spread it out over a surface two metres long in the form of a conical bench rounded at the top. Then cover it with a thickness of four or five centimetres of good quality topsoil, known as virgin, by sifting it, and wet it to make it fit on the millstone.

Leave it in this state for eight days, and the layer is ready.

The leaflet continues as follows:
Disposal of virgin mushroom spawn.

For gardens, during the summer, the layer should be placed to the north.

Lift the bed from the bottom to the top with your hand to a depth of one decimetre, then place a small packet of spawn (mushroom seed) on top.

If you are working in the garden or shed, throw a mulch (horse manure) on top of the bed to keep out the light. In the cellar, this is of course unnecessary.

Here is the inventor's final recommendation:
As far as possible, and especially at a certain time of the month, the ladies should stay away from the bed.

Mr. Lhérault, from Argenteuil, exhibits instruments for growing asparagus.

Do you know the origin of asparagus?

At the time when the Roman Empire was collapsing, the Franks had crossed the Rhine and established themselves in this beautiful country to which they were to give their name and which was to be called France.

But their establishment did not take place without great resistance on the part of the owners of the land.

You would have seen then, after these gigantic battles, after these victories so dearly bought, the Frankish warriors spread out in the woods, and seek there, to refresh their gullets, which the fight had altered, a refreshing plant, well known to the Gauls, who appreciated it very much.

This plant, in spite of the predilection that the whole of Gaul accorded it, was not, however, the object of any cultivation on the part of the inhabitants.
It was left to grow in the woods where it reached a considerable height.

It was the one that naturalists call: Asparagus officinalis; it was the asparagus. Let us add a few details:
The sun plays an important role in the existence of the asparagus; no sun, no asparagus.

It seems that the asparagus is grateful for this beneficial action, for it grows inclined towards the rising sun, as if it wanted to greet the one who gives it existence.

There are three types of asparagus.

1° The asparagus in branch, an early species, which is picked when it rises to two centimetres of ground, which generally happens around March 23. It costs ten francs a bunch;

2° The intermediate, which holds the middle between the asparagus in branch and the other species of which I will speak just now.

3° Finally, the asparagus with peas, known as a late species.

There is also the asparagus of the south, long and green from the base to the end; they do not have a great success in Paris, I could never understand why.

They have, indeed, a lot of taste; they are firm, resistant; one turn of the fire is enough to cook them; eaten with good olive oil, they are a real treat.

The largest size that asparagus can reach is 20 centimetres.

But when you want to eat these asparagus, which are the masterpiece of the genre, you have to spend 40 to 60 francs.

A curious detail: asparagus, which remains in the ground for three years, does not freeze and is not afraid of the cold, which it seems they need after the sun.

So, far from covering them up when the cold sets in, they are uncovered instead.

The agricultural and horticultural exhibitions were the subject of twelve series of competitions.

The last of these competitions, which took place a few days before the closing of the Universal Exhibition, concerned fruit and liquors; in the park of the Champ de Mars, around the palace, wherever there was a small free space, there was nothing but fruit and vegetables arranged symmetrically and in such a way that the contrast of their colours created a seduction for the eye.

Ah, the beautiful phenomenal cabbages, the superb pumpkins that we saw there, - what shall I say saw, - I should say rather, that we contemplated with the profound respect due to their ventripotent person.

More than one housewife, admiring these magnificent vegetables, dreamed of stews beyond human imagination. Ahl if only a few samples of each species could have been taken away as souvenirs!

The pear was one of the most represented fruits; our gardeners strive to create new, better and stronger species.

However," says M. Alfred Dumesnil, who has drawn up a sort of history of this fruit, "some of our famous pears seem to have grown spontaneously. The Duchesse d'Angoulême, which alone brings to the centre of France more than a million a year, was found by chance in the garden of a farm near Angers, and the mother plant reached almost the size of a small oak some time before her death in 1832.

"The Beurré Diel, better known as Beurré magnifique, was growing spontaneously and anonymously in a village near Vilvoorde (Belgium) when Van Mons mentioned it in 1819.

"Other pears have been found in the gardens of suppressed abbeys. Thus the pomologist Prévost, of Rouen, discovered the grey Saint-Germain in the garden of the monks of Saint-Ouen; thus the Urbanists' pear, one of the best of autumn, seems to have grown spontaneously in an orchard occupied by these monks, and then remained for a long time without cultivation.

"The Winter Deanery or Pentecost Bergamot, whose fruit weighs up to 700 grams, and in March, April and May often sells for fifteen and twenty francs a dozen, was found at the beginning of this century by Yan Mons in a former Capuchin garden. The mother plant still existed in 1823.

"Some pears are probably ancient: the Bon Chrétien d'hiver, whose name is a popular alteration of Panchresta (all good), a name given to it by Guillaume Budé; the Beurré de Rance, which is thought to have been called Beurré d'hiver in the past, and the Bergamot d'automne, which is thought to be of Asian origin. This pear was not introduced into France until the 16th century, before 1333. In Rabelais, Panurge "was delighted with good bergamot pears". As for the Crassane, propagated by La Quintinie, Louis XIV's gardener, it dates back to 1675 at the most.
dates back to 1675 at the most, and owes its name, he says, to a locality in the Nièvre, Cresane.

Human power is secondary in seedlings," says André Leroy. And yet M. Boisbunel, from Rouen, who found the Passe-Crassane (1855), seems to be on the way to producing large late pears, the only ones that can be exported to Russia. We know that any pear, even the most exquisite, whose circumference does not exceed a certain regulatory ring, is rigorously refused for export.

After the pears, the apples... it is naturally Normandy that wins the apple.

Foreign horticulture sent interesting specimens.

We shall mention, among others, the fruit from Tyrol, apples and pears from Denmark, fruit from the Walloon region, the exhibitions of the Société d'arboriculture de Bruxelles and the cercle arboricole d'Ixelles, the apples of Mr. Capenick, from Ghent, the oranges and lemons from Turin of Mr. Cirio, etc., etc.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878