This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The varieties enumerated in a nurseryman's catalogue are bewildering in their diversity. When the "doubles" of varieties, which are to all intents and purposes synonymous in character, are eliminated the remainder is a formidable enough array to face.
Very many of then) are fancy sorts, only suitable for private culture, or for show purposes, and others are purely local varieties. As a matter of fact, the number of varieties that are worth planting for commerce is not very large, and would be smaller but that in order to obtain the same class of apple on different soils and in different climates, several varieties must be cultivated. A grower, however, must not lose sight of the fact that many keen and able men are year after year patiently applying the wonderful laws of hybridization in the effort to obtain new and improved combinations of characteristics. The same process that evolved a " Cox's Orange Pippin" or a " Lane's Prince Albert" may yet produce better varieties than either, and it is an occasion that calls for the exercise of the highest powers of sound judgment and discriminating foresight when the grower is called upon to decide whether or not to admit a new variety on to his list, and whether to admit it by increasing his range or by discarding an old one.
The difficulty facing one contemplating putting down a plantation in a district where fruit is not already being grown, is that it will take several years to prove what varieties are most suited to it. The general character of the soil and the climate will afford some guide, but the only sure one - experience - cannot be purchased with money. If someone else in the neighbourhood has not made proof of it, the grower must exercise the best judgment he can, and be prepared to remedy mistakes, when discovered, with promptness and with as much philosophy as he can command. When he visits the nurseries to buy his stock he must hold in check the natural propensity to try this, and that, and the other, strongly recommended perhaps by the would-be seller, and confine himself to sorts of proved commercial value. The market is strongly suspicious of new introductions, and it takes time for one of even striking merit to get itself adopted; to be a pioneer is not just the role to be recommended for adoption by the starter in the business. On a plantation of 50 ac. ten varieties of culinary Apples and six of dessert will afford an ample range of variety. Under conditions at present obtaining in the apple market it is advisable to confine one's selection to such varieties as can be sent to market straight off the trees, the returns for which can be snugly harvested in the grower's bank by the first week in October. It may be good matter for the padding of a political speech to talk of growing apples on English soil to oust those imported from Canada and elsewhere, which form such a feature in the winter in every fruiterer's shop; but the business man will recognize that thought he home-grown "keeper" is easily first in quality, for appearance and for cheapness there is nothing home-grown to touch the best marks of the importer; and since only one crop of apples can be grown on any given land at once, the grower is wise who selects only varieties that will not come into competition with the imported ones.
At the Kent County Commercial Fruit Show, held in December, 1911, there was got together a remarkable collection of several hundred boxes of apples all packed in standard non-returnable boxes; culinary variety in "bushel" and dessert variety in "1/2-bushel" boxes. The fruit came mostly from the county of Kent, though other parts of England and Ireland also were represented. The grading, packing, and general appearance were such as to rival the best specimens of transatlantic imports, while the quality was English. The varieties represented in greatest quantity were Bramley's Seedling, Newton Wonder, Lane's Prince Albert, Cox's Orange, King of the Pippins, Gascoygne's Scarlet, while the champion box was composed of Annie Elizabeth. The show, which was largely due to the enterprise of the authorities of Wye College, was an evidence of British pluck; but more than that it points to a new avenue for the home fruit grower, and it shows that the methods which have enabled the exporter to our shores to create a market for his wares here, if adopted by the home grower, will enable him to have his share of it; and may we not add, one more evidence is afforded of the healthy stimulus and public advantage of free competition, [W.G. L.]