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.
'Centennial Exhibition of 1876, (Concluded from page 256) - In small fruits our century of progress was not as well illustrated as it might have been if the plan of the Commission in relation to the system of judging, and of the awards, had been well understood. On the one hand there were many who supposed there would be competition as usual in country fairs, in which a few large growers crowd out the smaller ones; and, on the other hand were those who knew the old system would be abandoned, but had not come to understand that the new system did justice where the other did not, and that there was really more honor and profit - greater reward every way - than the old system was capable of. It was not until the good points of the new system were fully understood that fruits came in abundantly; and in the mean time the day of small fruits had passed away. Thanks, however, to the Fruit-Growers' Society of Ontario, this department was never wholly wanting in interest. In Gooseberries and Currants especially their exhibits excelled, and gave to the Centennial visitors new ideas as to the possibilities of excellence in these fruits and their culture.
Even granting much that might have been, had exhibitors from other sections acted with the same liberal spirit as was evinced by the Canadians, enough was seen at the Exhibition to prove that for the culture of these two fruits Canada has advantages superior to any other part of the American continent. The English varieties of Gooseberries, so difficult to raise in the United States through their susceptibility to mildew, were here in great perfection. The American Gooseberry has not advanced as much during the century as perhaps it might had systematic efforts been made in that direction. Still, there has been marked progress. At the beginning of our era we had no improvement in the native Ribes rotundifolia, or American Gooseberry. The first came from Massachusetts in the shape of Houghton's Seedling. Mr. Downing subsequently produced the variety bearing his name. Some half dozen in all have been introduced, of which a complete set was exhibited by Kuhn & Co., of Hoboken, New Jersey. The advance is meritorious, but none of the improved kinds approach in good flavor or size the average English sorts.
A marked feature of Gooseberry and Currant progress is the grafting of these fruits on the stronger varieties of American Currants (Ribes palmatum, Ribes aureum, etc., ) by Charles Pohl, of Austria, with indications of its complete success. Much advantage is expected in the culture of these fruits by the introduction of this very original idea. That much more might be done in the way of the improvement of these fruits is evidenced by the exhibit of a hybrid of another American Gooseberry (Ribes Cynobasti) with an English variety, by Mr. William Saunders, of London, Ontario.
Strawberries being among the first fruits of the season, were not, for the reason given, exhibited in great force. Two very large collections were made by two of the judges, but, in view of the delicate nature of their duties, no mention of them or their exhibitors is made in any way in our special reports or awards. But they served an admirable purpose, in the absence of other large collections, in showing the advance in Strawberry-culture during the past century. A large number of kinds came from Mr. John Saul, of the District of Columbia, and the remainder was made up of small lots, at different times, from various growers in the States of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, particularly from the vicinity of Philadelphia. In fewer departments of pomology has there been greater progress. We commenced with some improved English seedlings of the horticulturist Thomas Andrew Knight, notably the Downton and Knight's Scarlet, with a little later, Keen's Seedling and Wilmot's Superb. The first American effort of consequence was perhaps that which resulted in the Hudson, a variety introduced about 1820. Massachusetts followed, about 1823, with Hovey's Seedling and Brighton Pine; and then Ohio, with Long worth and others leading in the van of progress.
W. R. Prince, of Flushing, New York, also contributed largely to Strawberry-improvement. To Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati, much is due for the present popular status of Strawberry-culture.
The Strawberry in Europe has, mostly, hermaphrodite flowers. The American climate tends to divide the sexes, and it was especially the work of Mr. Longworth to make this fact known; and varieties comparatively unproductive before were made, by a more perfect system of fertilization, to yield profusely. The result was that the Strawberry became everybody's fruit. But the greatest advance in strawberry-culture came with the introduction of a hermaphrodite kind, equal in bearing qualities to the old unisexual varieties under the improved culture, and seemingly adapted to all climates and soils of the continent. - Wilson's Albany Seedling, from Albany, New York, about twenty years ago, - and from this, together with the excellent care in culture given by Jeremiah Knox, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, modern American Strawberry culture may fairly date its birth. None of the kinds that were popular at the advent of the Albany made their appearance on our Exhibition tables; and the magnificent exhibit of them made by Mr. J. H. Wellington, of South Amboy, N. J., shows how well it is holding its own. Boyden's No. 30, Charles Downing, Jucunda, and Triomphe de Grand, newer varieties, as exhibited before us, contest the ground hotly, and American improvers are diligently at work.
Smith, of New York, Du-rand, of New Jersey, and Miller, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, exhibited seedlings of much promise.
In the Blackberry we have gained immensely. Few who saw the magnificent berries of Mr. John S. Collins, of Moorestown, New Jersey, on our tables, and who read in every nurseryman's catalogue of Blackberry plants being sold by the thousands, know that thirty years ago the Blackberry was nowhere among the lists of cultivated fruits, and even to-day the Blackberry of Europe is in use only by the poorest classes. The first great advance was made by nature, and found in a wild place by Mr. Secor, of New Rochelle, New York. Its popularity is, however, due to the gentleman whose name it bears, - Mr. Lawton, of New York. Subsequently Massachusetts gave us the Dorchester, and New Jersey the Kittatinny and Wilson's Early, which still continue our standard kinds. No successful effort at artificial improvement appears. All kinds in cultivation are simply the result of discovery by sharp eyes among fields or fence-corners.
The Raspberry has made great progress. We began with the European Red and Yellow Ant-werps, and an American variety, the Purple Cane. Up to thirty years ago we had nothing worth speaking of except these kinds. Dr. Brinklé, of Philadelphia, commenced the improvement of the Antwerp class, raising numerous admirable varieties, and these were fortified by introductions from Europe; but, with the exception of the Hornet, and Mervaille des Quatre Saisons, and a recent American variety of the same class, the Herstine, none of these made their appearance among our exhibits, and have mostly disappeared from cultivation. The present popularity of the Raspberry dates from 1863, when the Philadelphia was brought prominently to notice by Parry, of New Jersey; and whatever kinds have become popular since then have been chiefly of the same race from which the Philadelphia sprung. Many seedlings came before us daring our examinations on the tables of the Exhibition, some of which may in some respects excel this; but all are of this native class. The Rubus occidentalis, or "Thimbleberry, " a native Raspberry, has been improved during this era by selections from wild places. One before us, the Gregg, from Indiana, was far superior to the ordinary wild forms.
Neither of these two classes of native Raspberries, even in their best improvements, equal in size or flavor the best varieties of the European race.
In Cranberries there has been a marked improvement in size, solidity, and flavor, and chiefly by the efforts of Connecticut growers, they have been made profitable crops in comparatively dry land. Upland Cranberries, of a quality superior to many grown in swamps, were exhibited by Mr. Trowbridge of Milford, Connecticut. The Cranberry has become a crop of immense importance, and the exhibitors, chiefly from New Jersey, represented many thousands of acres.
Of Cherries, a large number of the kinds popular at the Revolution have disappeared. The Carnation, Late Duke, Oxheart, Yellow Spanish, and May Duke are still planted; but, in the main, other and better kinds have taken their place. The Black Tartarian, a European variety, came in soon after the beginning of our era, and the Early Richmond an American variety, found in Virginia has been in general culture about three-quarters of a century, and these two are about the only ones of the older sorts that are now grown. Many of the improved varieties have been imported from Europe, but much of what we have gained is due to Professor J. P. Kirtland, of Cleveland, Ohio, who made their improvement a matter of special attention. With the exception of magnificent fruit from Oregon, and a few kinds from the vicinity of Philadelphia, there was little in Cherry-culture developed by the Exhibition. In the Plum, however, the Exhibition was a great surprise. No such fine collections as were made here were probably ever exhibited before in the world, and this too, in the face of a generally prevailing impression that Plum-culture on the American continent had nearly died out. The enemies of this fruit are numerous now.
The borer weakens the trunk; the black knot destroys the branches; and when these foes to the Plum-culturist are absent, the curculio deposits its eggs in the fruit, which then generally rots before maturity. It does not seem clear that any of these troubles existed at the commencement of our era; but we may believe that they were not serious impediments to general success. They at length became so powerful that Plum-culture was generally abandoned. A few per-served, of whom notably were Dr. Hull, in Southern Illinois, and Ellwanger & Barry, of Rochester, New York. A knowledge of the insects and of the disease has been obtained by gardeners sufficient in a measure to control these evils, and now Plum-culture is meeting with considerable success. The displays of Messrs. Ellwanger & Barry on several occasions during August and September afforded great pleasure to visitors. To these succeeded exhibits from various parts of the Dominion of Canada. These were continuous through the whole season. Numerous fine samples were received from Oregon, chiefly of the varieties of prune, foreshadowing a useful and extensive industry in that far-off region. It is chiefly in successful culture that progress has been made.
Many valuable varieties have, however, been added to the list of good Plums during the century.
In Peaches our progress has been wonderful. The list of those in cultivation at the time of the Revolution was very small. A few of these may be found in an orchard occasionally, but the Old Mixon is perhaps the only one that may be considered popular to this time. So many good ones abound that it is often difficult to get good growers to agree on a selection. Progress has been especially marked in the production of superior early varieties, and we rind our markets supplied with them from June till October, and even earlier in the South. Some fine Early Beatrice were exhibited from Alabama together with early Strawberries grown in the vicinity of Philadelphia.
In regard to vegetables, the most noteworthy advance has been in their extension to field-culture. In the olden time vegetable-raising was more especially the gardener's work, and the spade the great implement in the work. Now the plow is brought to rule over the market-garden, until agriculture almost considers the:art her own.
The potato - the great potentate of the vegetable world - has been seriously attacked by insects and diseases, both of which threatenened almost annihilation. But the art of the gardener has been equal to the contest, and to-day the potato is as cheap and as abundant in our markets as it was at the beginning of our Centennial era. The varieties, however, seem soon to give way to others. Of the many hundreds of varieties seen on the Exhibition tables not one was over ten years old. This fact seems to keep improvers on the alert. Bliss, Hexamer, and others exhibited seedlings in almost endless varieties, so as to be able to select fully-proved kinds as the older and more popular ones degenerate. From Bermuda, however, were exhibited remarkably fine potatoes, of the same character as have appeared in our markets from there for many years past, showing how favorable is that part of the world to steady potato-culture.
The collections of vegetables were not diversified locally to a sufficient extent to draw many inferences suitable to a general report. From Manitoba, Canada, there was a display of all the common Autumn vegetables that surprised everybody by their size and tenderness; the ■States of Iowa and Connecticut made good displays; a small collection came from Ohio; and the balance was made up by A. L. Felton, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Landreth & Sons, of Bloomsdale, Pennsylvania, and B. K. Bliss & Son, of New York. On account of their perishable character, it was hardly to be expected that the articles exhibited in this department should partake of a very extended international character; but on several occasions the British Commission exhibited the peculiar fruits of -Jamaica as they came in at their respective seasons. The fruits of other distant countries were exhibited in spirits, instructive as making the world acquainted with the indigenous products of these distant regions, but indicating no likelihood of becoming known as fresh fruits in the great markets of the world.
Transactions of the Mass. Horticultural Society, for 1878, Part I., from R. Manning, Secretary. This old Society shows increasing activity and usefulness with age. The transactions alone are worth the price of membership to say nothing of the social attractions and the nterest of its continuous exhibitions throughout the year. The present has the valedictory of President Parkman, on the introduction of the newly selected President William Gray, Junior. Mr. Parkman gave some excellent suggestions on " running in ruts, " and especially on the source of absurdities of the "premium " system.