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.
Whatever the fruit cultivators of ancient times may have known in regard to the cross-impregnation of varieties for their improvement, we have no evidence, if we may judge by the quality of the fruits which have comedown to us, that they were acquainted with this process. The first experiment to ascertain the possibility of producing varieties by cross-fertilization appears to have been made* in Germany, by Koel-reuter, who published reports of his proceedings in the acts of the Petersburg Academy, about one hundred years ago. Knight, Herbert and the Lindleys commenced the work some fifty or sixty years since, but it had scarcely been"recognized by Duhamel, Noisette, or Poiteau, in their writings, and Van Mons absolutely discouraged it. Poiteau remarked that all of the ameliorated and superior fruits had their origin in woods and hedges, where superior fruits were rare and unknown. Nor was it more than alluded to by Coxe, Lowell, Manning, Thomas, Prince and such leaders in our own land. Coxe, who may be styled the first American pomolo-gist, alluded to it as"a curious discovery which had been made by Mr. Knight in the natural history of fruit trees, by which one variety might be impregnated with the farina of another, some of the products partaking of the properties of the male, others of the female parent".
But with the publication of Hovey's Magazine of Horticulture, Downing's Fruit and"Fruit Trees, and the Horticulturist, the experiments in hybridization became well known in our country. This process, applied to the grape, said Andrew Jackson Downing, thirty years ago, will give hundreds of hardy kinds, adapted to every orchard and garden in the Union. How fully this prediction has been fulfilled we have seen in the new varieties of hybrid grapes produced by Allen, Rogers, Moore, Campbell,"and especially by Mr. Rieketts, whose wonderful success in cross-fertilization has been achieved on the very soil where this prophecy was made. With this knowledge commenced a new era in the production of improved varieties of fruits, flowers and vegetables; an era which has so enlarged the sphere of experiments in fertilization that its originators will ever be gratefully remembered as benefactors to mankind, who have illustrated one of those wonderful and beautiful laws by which the whole universe is regulated, and by which improvement in fruits, vegetables, and animal life may be advanced until absolute perfection is attained.