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Saturday, 28 December 2013


At time of writing in Scotland, summer seems an awfully long way off. Time to remember another plant developed by my horticultural ancestor John Salter. John was the grandson of my 4x great grandfather and his first wife, while my line is descended from his second – so John is a half cousin of mine.

Strawberry Jucunda – large, light crimson with firm red flesh of high flavour –widely grown in the United States, Yugoslavia, France and the Netherlands since its introduction by John Salter in 1854

He achieved a measure of fame in both Paris (1838-48) and London (1848-74) with the nurseries which he established in both cities to cater for the fashion for English garden flowers. At the same time that he was importing the English garden to France, he was bringing French fruit to England. A report in the Gardeners' Chronicle newspaper of 12th September 1845 announces:


John Salter of Versailles, France, can furnish the following new varieties (French and Belgian), which will be sent out for the first time this Autumn:-

“LA LEIGEOISE” (Haquin). —Hybrid from Roseberry, but in every respect far superior. The fruit is about 1¾ inches long by 1¼ in diameter; colour dark red; abundant bearer and very early, ripening in the open air from 10 to 1.5 days before “Alice Maud”, or Keens' Seedling. M. Morren, the celebrated professor of botany at Liege, speaks of it with unqualified approbation, and recommends it as the earliest known. Price £2 10s per hundred.

“PRINCESSE ROYALE” (Pelvilain).— Hybrid from Elton and Keens' Seedling. The fruit is long and very handsome; colour light rosy-red, most abundant bearer, early, and for forcing one of the best ever raised. The saleable stock is very limited, the two principal forcers for the Paris market having already retained the greater portion. Plants 2s 6d each, or 12 for 20s.

"COMTE DE PARIS" (Pelvilain).— Hybrid also from Elton and Keens' Seedling, but totally different from the preceding. The fruit is round, large, and handsome; colour reddish-saffron; abundant bearer, and a very desirable late variety. Stock very limited. Plants 2s 6d each, or 12 for 20s.

J. S. will remain in England until Saturday the 19th inst., and all letters addressed to him (post paid) at Mr. W. D. Salter's, Waterloo-street, Hammersmith, will meet with due attention. All orders above £2 10s will be delivered carriage free to London. Remittances, or Post-office orders payable at Hammersmith, will be expected from unknown correspondents.

Strawberry Princesse Royale, one of the French varieties sold in England by John Salter (from a hand-coloured lithograph by Alexandre Bivort, c1850)

William Davis Salter, with whom J.S. stayed while selling French strawberries to the English, was John’s younger brother. W.D.S. was the father of William Talfourd Salter, the lawyer whose cases I write up here sometimes.

The Comte de Paris was traditionally the heir to the French throne – in 1842 Prince Philippe d’Orleans, grandson of the reigning French monarch Louis-Philippe I, inherited the title on the death of his father in a coach accident; and it is probably him for whom the Comte de Paris strawberry was named. Unfortunately for Philippe and John a revolution in 1848, driven in part by high unemployment and an economic depression, overthrew the French monarchy and led to the establishment of the French Second Republic.

Philippe fled to America where he served as a captain in the Union Army during the Civil War. As a foreign owner and employer, and an ardent monarchist, John too had to leave France in a hurry. Back in Hammersmith he established a new nursery, from which in 1854 he launched his own very British strawberry, Jucunda. It was large, light crimson with firm red flesh of high flavour, and its success, while long-lasting, was not easily achieved.

The Jucunda strawberry, illustrated in American gardening magazine The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste soon after its introduction to the United States

Within four years it had been introduced to the US, where the initial reaction was poor. An article in The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste wrote it off thus: “If the experience of others with this variety is the same as my own, it will soon be laid upon the shelf.”

Young Jucunda plants looked frail and feeble, leading new growers to dismiss it as a failure. But for those who persisted, a later supplier declared, “it will amply repay good culture on all heavy soils. It continues bearing till very late, and the berries hold out large till the last.”

The flesh of Jucunda: firm, red, of high flavour

It became more popular on mainland Europe than in Britain, and was widely grown in Holland, Yugoslavia and – perhaps most pleasing to John Salter – France. Although none of the French varieties which John brought to sell in Hammersmith back in 1845 have survived, Jucunda is still used by Dutch strawberry breeders devising hybrid fruits today. The name means “delightful” in Latin.

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