This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In tracing the progress of Apple-culture through the century, as exemplified by the exhibits, the most surprising suggestion is the increase in the number of varieties, which has made a selection of local lists, suited to the most diverse conditions of our great country, a possibility. At the nation's birth we had but about a hundred varieties, and now we have over two thousand. Even in the time of Coxe, one of our earliest writers on fruits, less than one hundred and fifty kinds were known to be under cultivation. It is interesting to note that the kinds that were popular in the beginning still hold their own. Only a few, like Pennock, Hays, Newtown Pippin, and Spitzenburg have given away somewhat before others. The most popular fruits in the early part of the era were Porter, Red Astrachan.Williams' Favorite, Fam-euse, Gravenstein, Baldwin, Bellefleur, Maiden's Blush, Jonathan, Lady, Rhode Island Greening, Swaar, Summer Queen, Roxbury Russet, Seek-no-Further, Gilly-flower, Lowell, and Tallman's Sweet, and these are popular to-day. In the new varieties since raised we have gained over these in special points, but it is doubtful whether a better list, on the whole, for general culture on this continent could be made up.
The most remarkable progress in the Apple class has been in the improvement of Russian varieties, and the Siberian Crabs. The last were only garden ornaments a hundred years ago, and confined to two or three small-fruited forms. There are now probably a hundred varieties, some of them as large as the old popular garden sorts, and in some cases with a flavor little inferior to the best of them. These improvements have been made chiefly in Minnesota, and other of our high Northern States, and in the Dominion of Canada. The hardiness of the Siberian Crab , gave encouragement to the experimenters in these severe winter climates; but even with these inducements the progress has been wonderful. Some few specimens of the highly-perfumed American native Crab [Pyrus coronaria) were exhibited, but there appeared to have been no attempts made to improve it, either by selected cultivated seedlings or by watching for variations among wild plants.
Vast progress has been made in Apple-culture by the endeavors to correct the nomenclature. In so vast a number of varieties it was found extremely difficult to establish any authoritative guide. The formation of the American Pomo-logical Society grew out of this want. In this respect the Centennial Exhibition has shown how well we were advancing in this department by the collection of models in wax of leading kinds made by Colonel G. B. Brackett for the Iowa State Horticultural Society, so perfect were these models as to be taken for the Apples of the genuine varieties even by experts.
Progress in Pear-culture has been much more rapid than in the Apple. A large number that were grown at the Revolution are not known by any one now, and the few that survive are mostly supplanted by better kinds. The most popular varieties then were Jargonelle, Windsor, Autumn Bergamot, Rousselett, Crassanne, Brown Beurre, St. Germain, Gansell's Bergamot, Green Chissell, Winter Nelis, White Doyenne, Catharine, and Easter Beurre. The Vicar of Winkfield was being introduced; but the Bartlett, Seckel, and Duchesse d'Anjouleme had not been born. Now, on our tables we had no less than three hundred varieties from the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, of Boston, besides numerous collections from other growers - and many scores of varieties exist superior in many respects to the best of those named as being popular in the days of the Revolution. Most of the improvements have been made by the selection from accidental seedlings coming up naturally from chance-sown seed; but a few have set to work to raise new kinds by artificial means. One of these, Mr. J. Clapp, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, exhibited a large number of deserving kinds. One of his seedlings, the Favorite, has taken a front rank among the popular varieties.
Among the possibilities of further improvement, must be mentioned the hybrid Chinese Sand Pears of Mr. Peter Kieffer, of Philadelphia. This kind has been valued solely as an ornament on tasteful grounds, and somewhat for the pleasant perfume of the fruit. Mr. Kieffer's seedlings retain this delightful fragrance, and have, besides, the beauty and delicious flavor of a Bartlett or Flemish beauty - two of the most popular varieties in American orchards.
The Pear, like the Apple, has shown by the Exhibition how wide is the extent of territory in which it may be successfully cultivated. There were numerous exhibitors from Canada, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania; the District of Columbia had one exhibitor in the person of Mr. John Saul, and the State of New York was represented by an admirable collection from Messrs. Ellwunger & Barry, of Rochester. Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin all had excellent Pears from various exhibitors; Oregon had numerous varieties of superb fruit, superior in color, size, and flavor; and on the California fruit table some large specimens were for sale. The results of the Exhibition show that the Pear may be grown successfully over most of the United States.
The number of excellent wild Grapes early attracted the attention of the settler from foreign lands, and so early as 1686 William Penn had a vineyard on the Schuylkill River, on a spot almost within the Centennial grounds. But the superiority of the foreign varieties tempted their introduction to the neglect of the improvement of the native kinds. At the opening of our Centennial era these foreign varieties had proved general failures, and attention was given to the kinds to be found everywhere in the woods at home. The gardener to one of the Penns, a Mr. Alexander, discovered a very good kind, with rather large berries and fair flavor, even for our time, which was named after him, and this was probably the only good native Grape in cultivation when the New Republic was born. Soon after, the Isabella was found in South Carolina, the Catawba in Maryland, and the Bland probably in Virginia, and the societies for the improvement of the Grape and Grape-culture came into existence, in one of which, even before the year 1800, we find the celebrated Henry Clay an active member.
In 1827 the Susquehanna made its appearance; but it is only within the last quarter of a century that the native Grape has been improved to any great extent. Then the Concord, the Delaware, and the Hartford Prolific showed how much was possible. All such efforts as those of Penn, Peter Legeaux, the Salem (North Carolina) colony, the Princes, father and son, and Nicholas Longworth with the foreign Grapes were abandoned, and attention concentrated on our native kinds. Among the number that were known forty years ago most have been so wholly superseded by improvements that their names are now nearly all unknown to the general Grape-grower, and only occasional bunches of the following were seen on our tables: Elsenburg, Norton's Virginia, Isabella, and Catawba. The Grapes most frequently found on the Centennial Exhibition tables, and indicating a widespread popularity, were Concord, Clinton, Delaware, Salem, and Diana. It would by no means be safe to say that these were the best Grapes for the regions in which they were grown, for often others would be exhibited from the same places indicating points of superiority, but which from some cause had not become so well known.
Of the exhibitors who have done much to improve the native Grape, and who showed their excellent products, the names of Ricketts, of Newberg, New York; Campbell, of Delaware, Ohio; Arnold, of Paris, Canada; Mills, of Hamilton, Canada; and Broadfield, of Ada, Michigan, are conspicuous. The value of Ricketts' labors can hardly be estimated. His improvements have been so great, and presented in so many forms, that those who longed for foreign Grapes to cultivate in America find nothing now to desire. His efforts have been made in two distinct lines, the improvement of the native Grapes for table use by hybridizing with the foreign, and their advancement, by seedlings or native crosses, for wine-making. In California the foreign Grapes grow well; none of the native improvements were exhibited from there, but fair Muscats and Tokays were offered for sale on the Centennial grounds.
Among the earliest Grapes on the tables were the Concords, from the German settlement at Egg Harbor City, New Jersey; and Delawares, from Henry M. Engle, of Marietta, Pennsylvania; and it is a remarkable fact that these early fruits were so fine as not to be excelled by any that came before us of the same varieties at any later time. The last Grapes that were exhibited came from Canada and the northern part of Michigan, and though not equal in flavor to the southern products, were remarkable for size, color, and other good properties. It was indeed one of the surprises of the Centennial Exhibition to learn that Grapes should do so well so far north. In Europe it has been conceded that the Grape will not ripen north of latitude 50°, yet notwithstanding the peculiar influences supposed to modify the temperature of that region, we find them to ripen quite as well in the same latitude on this continent. Another interesting fact brought out by our Exhibition is that the foreign Grape is a total failure only in the southern portion of the North American continent. As we get towards Canada some foreign varieties do tolerable well, and in, Canada they do nearly as well as the native kinds, merely requiring winter protection by laying down the canes and covering with earth.
So far as the results of the Exhibition are concerned they seem to show that the whole northern belt of our States, as also Canada, is very favorable to Grape-culture. Admirable exhibits came from Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. The Phylloxera, the great scourge of the European vineyards, has proved no serious obstacle to American Grape-culture, and there are, probabhy, few matters of which the Exhibition may be more proud than its demonstration of what America has done for Grape-improvement within the century.
(To be Continued).
The Montgomery (Ohio, ) Horticultural Society, seems as prosperous as ever, and is at least as useful if not more so. We always read its proceedings with interest. Here is a bit of insect talk that has some useful hints in it: "The chair announced the subject for discussion to be 'Birds and Insects, ' and requested Mrs. W. D. Bickham to favor the society with her method of ridding her Rose bushes of the slug, as it was understood she had been successful. Mrs. Bick-ham said all she did was simply to make strong-whale oil soap suds, and persevere in the application of it to her Rose bushes every evening for about a week. Mr. Broadwell said he succeeds with common soap suds. The main point is to commence in time and persevere in its use. A member remarked that White Hellebore, in the form of powder, was used by many with entire success, but that some care ought to be observed in its use, as the remedy was not entirely free from objection. Judge Frank said White Hellebore is not a poison, as many suppose, and its use is not attended with danger. He used it with success upon his Rose bushes, and also rids his Gooseberry bushes of a very troublesome pest with it. Mr. Barney said he has known it to be used successfuly dissolved in water.
Judge Frank said it would answer the purpose very well to apply it in that form. Mr. Ohmer said that hitherto members of his family had had much trouble in keeping the various plants in the house clear of insects. Last fall the tree frog was introduced among them, and much to his gratification he finds his plants entirely free from these pests. The member of the reptilian kingdom thus introduced deserves and receives the entire credit for the improved state of •affairs.