Chapter III: Of Gardens And Orchards
After such time as Calais was won from the French, and that our countrymen had learned to trade into divers countries (whereby they grew rich), they began to wax idle also, and thereupon not only left off their former painfulness and frugality, but in like sort gave themselves to live in excess and vanity, whereby many goodly commodities failed, and in short time were not to be had amongst us. Such strangers also as dwelled here with us, perceiving our sluggishness, and espying that this idleness of ours might redound to their great profit, forthwith employed their endeavors to bring in the supply of such things as we lacked continually from foreign countries, which yet more augmented our idleness. For, having all things at reasonable prices (as we supposed) by such means from them, we thought it mere madness to spend either time or cost about the same here at home. And thus we became enemies to our own welfare, as men that in those days reposed our felicity in following the wars, wherewith we were often exercised both at home and other places. Besides this, the natural desire that mankind hath to esteem of things far sought, because they be rare and costly, and the irksome contempt of things near hand, for that they are common and plentiful, hath borne no small sway also in this behalf amongst us. For hereby we have neglected our own good gifts of God, growing here at home, as vile and of no value, and had every trifle and toy in admiration that is brought hither from far countries, ascribing I wot not what great forces and solemn estimation unto them, until they also have waxen old, after which they have been so little regarded, if not more despised, amongst us than our own. Examples hereof I could set down many and in many things; but, sith my purpose is to deal at this time with gardens and orchards, it shall suffice that I touch them only, and show our inconstancy in the same, so far as shall seem and be convenient for my turn. I comprehend therefore under the word "garden" all such grounds as are wrought with the spade by man's hand, for so the case requireth.
Of wine I have written already elsewhere sufficiently, which commodity (as I have learned further since the penning of that book) hath been very plentiful in this island, not only in the times of the Romans, but also since the Conquest, as I have seen by record; yet at this present have we none at all, (or else very little to speak of), growing in this island, which I impute not unto the soil, but the negligence of my countrymen. Such herbs, fruits, and roots also as grow yearly out of the ground, of seed, have been very plentiful in this land, in the time of the first Edward, and after his days; but in process of time they grew also to be neglected, so that from Henry the Fourth till the latter end of Henry the Seventh and beginning of Henry the Eighth, there was little or no use of them in England, but they remained either unknown or supposed as food more meet for hogs and savage beasts to feed upon than mankind. Whereas in my time their use is not only resumed among the poor commons, I men of melons, pompons, gourds, cucumbers, radishes, skirets,parsnips, carrots, cabbages, navews,turnips, and all kinds of salad herbs - but also fed upon as dainty dishes at the tables of delicate merchants,gentlemen, and the nobility, who make their provision yearly for new seeds out of strange countries, from whence they have them abundantly. Neither do they now stay with such of these fruits as are wholesome in their kinds, but adventure further upon such as are very dangerous and hurtful, as the verangenes, mushrooms, etc., as if nature had ordained all for the belly, or that all things were to be eaten for whose mischievous operation the Lord in some measure hath given and provided a remedy.
Hops in time past were plentiful in this land. Afterwards also their maintenance did cease. And now, being revived, where are any better to be found? Where any greater commodity to be raised by them? Only poles are accounted to be their greatest charge. But, sith men have learned of late to sow ashen kexes in ashyards by themselves, that inconvenience in short time will be redressed.
Madder hath grown abundantly in this island, but of long time neglected, and now a little revived, and offereth itself to prove no small benefit unto our country, as many other things else, which are now fetched from us: as we before time, when we gave ourselves to idleness, were glad to have them other.
If you look into our gardens annexed to our houses, how wonderfully is their beauty increased, not only with flowers, which Columella calleth Terrena sydera,saying,
"Pingit et in varios terrestria sydera flores," 4
and variety of curious and costly workmanship, but also with rare and medicinable herbs sought up in the land within these forty years: s brought from far, is most folly of all: for it savoureth of ignorance, or at the leastwise of negligence, and therefore worthy of reproach.