This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
I see the dewberry is coming into line, among our small fruits in the garden. It has long since held that deserved place in the grounds of N. H. Lindsley, a venerable nurseryman and inventor of Bridgeport. He has two kinds transplanted from their wild homes near by. Neither are very large bushes, though one is quite the better fruiter and a dwarf. They are loaded with fruit every year; that on the dwarf is large and rather higher quality. They do not grow as I have usually seen them in their native homes, but more largely and with a wider spread. My venerable friend says if he could gather all that would grow on an acre, of such berries, the measure would astonish.
It is often called billberry here. But his trouble is the same, so noted and lamented by your contributors. The birds know they are good, and are bound to get their share. They will hardly let enough ripen to supply his table. He has never tried any bird scare that I know of; but the small bush, he one year covered with gauze, and thus shut off his feathered visitors, and saved his berries. This would be rather expensive on any more than a small family supply. But doubtless, if as largely planted as some other fruits, the birds would hardly eat enough to do much hurt. If so, the birds are good to eat, and we should go for them.
Now, how is my friend to propagate such a bush? I thought he ought to know, but he did not. Yet he is an experienced propagator. Can the Monthly or any body tell us the way? Of course there is the way by the seed open for all. But I fancy it would be a slow process to stock a field or nursery with its seedlings. They would most likely come true to kind, and lend us hope of a gain of some better berry. And this leads me to ask why more thorough and systematic effort has not been made after better varieties of our native small fruits, through selection of the best and planting their seeds, and so on till a high excellence and size was reached? I may write in ignorance, because I have not posted myself, but has there been for one native raspberry, blackberry, dewberry, whortleberry, and creeping blackberry, any thorough attempt to improve on the best of each by their seedlings? Have not all, or the most of our American fruits owed their advance to chance rather than well thought mating of varieties and planting of seeds? The strawberry and the grape, have won in this regard marked trials and grand success.
Is not like effort deserved in behalf of all small fruits?
Let no one forget, what Van Mons and Knight did for pears, what may yet be done for apples, and by close following well proved rules of breeding new varieties, what wonderous de-velopement may yet glorify the growing things that minister to men's comfort? But, even before we reach out for great improvement through mating and seeding, should not the field for chance varieties of excellence be well reached over? Full many of the small fruits developed into higher grades without the help of man, are to be found I doubt not, by the way-sides and foot-paths, in out of-the-way corners. I well remember, on the inarch from Gettysburg in that timid halting pursuit of Lee, that through the unmown fields of Virginia, across which we tramped for shorter routes, the boys could hardly be kept in the ranks, they so craved the big trailing blackberries then in their prime; those large luscious, melting berries crowded our trail on every side. They were greatly larger and better than any high bush berry I ever saw; or else hard tack and pork, had brought a joy and relish to anything appetizing. I should think many of them were an inch and a-half in length, and three-fourths of an inch in largest width.
Are these tender farther North? Have they ever been tried? How would a cross of this, and of a fine Lawton or Kittatiny do? Are these species too remote and unlike to make promising hybrids? Now this wayside, local, trailing blackberry, 1 cite but as one among fine fruits hidden that ought to be revealed. I doubt not that through their whole range, like neglected excellence can be found in each, awaiting some neighborhood horticultural society to bring out. Brethern attend! Let's take counsel about these things.