Japanese persimmons.

The persimmons are ripening at the Manship House.  This variety is a Japanese Persimmon, a medium size fruit tree grown for ornamental use that originated in Asia.  It is similar to the common persimmon, a tree that grows wild in the south.  The common persimmon is one of the ornamental trees recommended for use in landscape gardening by A. J. Downing, in his book Landscape Gardening and Rural Architecture, published in 1856.  Downing, a landscape architect whose work inspired the building of the Manship House, was a proponent of the Picturesque Movement, in which the architecture fits comfortably into its landscape setting.  Over the years, the Manships may have selected and planted trees recommended by Downing in their own landscape.  Downing describes the Persimmon tree in Landscape Gardening and Rural Architecture:

“The Persimmon bears a small, round, dull red fruit, about an inch in diameter, containing six or seven stones; it is insufferably austere and bitter, until the autumnal frosts have mellowed it and lessened its harshness, when it becomes quite palatable…. A strong brandy has been distilled from them; and in the south they are said to enter into the composition of the country beer.  For the latter purpose they are pounded up with bran, dried, and kept for use till wanted.

   …The Persimmon has no importance as a tree to recommend it; but it may be admitted in all good collections for its pleasing shining foliage, and the variety which its singular fruit adds to the productions of a complete country residence….”