This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The display of grapes at the Massachusetts Horticultural Exhibition in September last was unusually fine. Some pronounced it the best that had ever been made. The season was remarkably favorable, on account of its exceptional heat, to early and thorough ripening, and as a consequence, almost every variety grown in Eastern Massachusetts was shown in its perfection.
Mr. Campbell's "Lady," of which we had such complimentary reports, did not make her appearance. There were many inquiries for her, and some had strong hopes of at least getting a glimpse of her face, if not of becoming personally acquainted with her. But probably no vines of this variety have yet fruited in our region, and we shall have to wait another year at least. My own plants have made a very feeble growth, though carefully nursed, and I hear the same complaint from one of my correspondents. But it is just so with Croton, and yet alter it becomes well established it acquires all necessary vigor.
The "Brighton" was visible only in a single bunch. As this grew upon a young and feeble plant, it was probably no fair representative of the real size and character of the grape when grown upon a vine that has attained age and vigor. The bunch shown looked much like a small Diana, being shorter than the average Delaware, with the berries about the same size as these when well grown. If I may judge from a single grape, the quality is not by any means equal to Delaware or Iona, though much superior to such varieties as Hartford or Concord. But perhaps it is unfair to make any criticism at all upon fruit taken from so young and feeble a vine. My brief experience with the Brighton leads me to think it a healthy and vigorous grower, much more so at least than Lady, and I look forward to its revelations, when firmly established, with a good deal of hope that it will prove very desirable.
But the very cream of the display (so far as new varieties are concerned) was Mr. Ricketts' exhibition of his new hybrids. He had a table entirely to himself, and it was covered with more than sixty varieties, which of course attracted a great deal of attention, making, as it doubtless did, one of the very finest displays of out-door grapes ever seen in New England. Some of the clusters were magnificent, two bunches of Secretary being each nearly twelve inches in length; and the quality of several of them was superb. One small white one I thought had the most exquisite flavor of any grape that ever passed my lips. There were many and earnest inquiries for the vines, and many disappointed countenances when the reply was given that no single plants are for sale.
If the vines from which such grapes as these can be grown shall prove to be healthy and hardy, so that they will give us a reliable crop, then it would seem as if we have already reached the goal in out-door grape culture, beyond which no reasonable man need wish to go. But these splendid varieties have been tested only in Mr. Ricketts' garden on the Hudson. He is afraid to part with them for the purpose of having them tested elsewhere, lest they should be dishonorably propagated, and so the ownership of them be lost to him. It surely does seem as if the government ought in some way to protect his rights to these new and valuable fruits, which he has originated with so much skill and care, as thoroughly at least as it protects the rights of the man who invents a new mouse-trap or manufactures a new patent medicine.
[It is dangerous to build much on weak vines. The Lady grape is not generally a weak grower, and the reference to the Brighton is so foreign to its usual character as to excite a doubt as to whether W. H. W. has the real thing. In regard to Mr. Ricketts' grapes, the great commercial difficulty is that he has so many good ones. They compete one with another, and then there are many good kinds held by other parties - all are in competition. For all this, we believe that any one who has a good run of grape trade, would do well to buy the whole stock of one of Mr. Ricketts' good grapes and push it, even though he had to pay several thousand dollars for the right.
Still, here is the point for W. H. W. and others to consider: - Suppose the government were to give Mr. Ricketts' a "patent" for one of his new grapes, who would guarantee that another kind just as good or better would not be out before the owner of a "patent grape" could get his stock well into market? We repeat what we have said before, that there is not a nurseryman in the country but would give just as much for the whole stock of a good thing without a patent right as with it; perhaps more, for with a fruit right he would surely buy law suits. If it be asked why this is not the case with ordinary patents to the extent to be anticipated in this, we answer because the elements of novelty can be more clearly defined in a machine than in a fruit. Suppose W. H. W. tries his hand at it in illustration. Give us, for instance, the points of novelty claimed for the "Secretary" grape in such language that a patent office clerk could tell at once whether any other grapist was infringing on the "rights" of the Secretary. Let us see how the thing works and save so much theoretic talk. - Ed. G. M.]