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 agree with Gen. W. H. Noble, in the Monthly for August, that it is possible to improve asparagus, even if the sexes are on differ-ent plants. In the animal kingdom sexes are separate, and improvements have been made and are still carried on.
Does it happen that a Giant or " Colossal" Asparagus plant is always of one sex? If it is so, the improvement must necessarily be slow. But, most surely, out of the millions of plants annually raised, extra strong plants of opposite sexes must appear, and if these are marked, and at the proper time transplanted to an isolated place where the pollen of the smaller kinds can have no effect upon the progeny, in a few years by careful selection a stalwart race of giant asparagus would be established. In the same way breeds of poultry, cattle, etc., are founded..
[Our correspondent, as well as some others, mistakes the question. Mr. Conover never made any pretense that he used the different sexes in crossing; in fact he candidly said that his plants were raised from a package of asparagus seeds received, as any one else might, and others doubtless did, from the Agricultural Department at Washington. By good culture he raised good asparagus; and hundreds of other people have had just as good asparagus by good culture as any one ever had from seeds of Mr. Conover's plants. Indeed, the knowledge that asparagus had separate sexes did not exist when Mr. Con-over or any of the supposed improvers introduced their new varieties. This was only made known within the few past years through the medium of the proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.
Whether a stalwart race of giant asparagus would be established or not, through the medium of separate sexes, is yet to be proved. The point in question is, that so far no such experiment has been made. The analogy between plants and animals misleads here, as it so often does in horticultural questions. If two distinct animals yield a " Grand Duke," or a "Royal Duchess," there is the end of the experiment. We cannot slice them up like potatoes, or cut eyes out of them and graft or bud, and continue and multiply them for years or for centuries. We might by selecting a large female asparagus and a large male asparagus get a large seedling asparagus, and if we were to increase the plant by division we should certainly keep that variety true; but would this slow way pay? It is just possible that the seedlings of an improved variety, raised by such a selection, might reproduce and not show any tendency to revert to the originals. But this is not usual experience. At any rate, it is just the point which has not been proved, and can only be answered when somebody tries it.
In the meantime we may safely repeat what we have often said, that there has been no distinct variety of asparagus, because no one knew of the separate sexes. "All sorts" of pollen has resulted in "all sorts" of plants. - Ed. G. M].