This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
To encourage and extend this most beneficent branch of Pomology is part of the design of this Society, whose purpose and aim is to prescribe the fruits which may be adapted to the various sections of our ever increasing territory. These are the means which Providence has placed in our hands; and the only means for accomplishing this object is the production of new and valuable varieties of fruits. The scientific laws upon which this science is founded are as fixed and certain as those of moral or natural philosophy, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, and although we may not now be able to prescribe the exact limits to which improvement may be extended, we do know that upon the subtle forces of hybridization, either accidental or by the hand of man, we must ever depend for the improvement of our fruits. Natural hybridization or the cross impregnation of plants, as we have said before, is as old as creation, and must have given to man the first idea of the power placed in his hand for the improvement of the species. God works by means, in nature and in grace, and requires us to join our efforts with His. "Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you," were the original conditions.
Nor do we doubt that this art was confided to man by the Creator, that it might be developed to its utmost extent in the improvement of both animal and vegetable life.
Thus, we are to work, in accordance with His command and that divine wisdom which is ever tending towards a higher state of perfection - nature is the handmaid, man the agent to cooperate with her - and the highest triumph of his skill is to control and elevate her for the benefit of our race. " It is the part of man to create," says Ralph Waldo Emerson, "and his profession as a cultivator of the soil, too, stands nearest to God, the first cause." The first seeds sown by man were the germs from which sprang the civilization, elevation and refinement of the human race. So it is with the amelioration and improvement of our fruits. From the sour crab, the puckery pear, the bitter almond, and the austere plum, came the tender spicy apple, the melting juicy pear, the velvet luscious peach, the delicious or golden plum, and from our rank foxy grape, came the splendid varieties which now adorn our tables and "make glad the heart of man."
The laws of reproduction we do not now fully understand, but from the improvement which we have already witnessed we have reason to believe that we have only to become familiar with their operations, and our efforts will be crowned with success. There may be a limit beyond which a fruit may not be improved; but the marvel is, that, considering the inferior character of the fruits of former days, we have been able to produce so many of the fine varieties which now grace our exhibition. And when wa take into consideration the number of fine varieties of American origin which have been produced during the existence of our society, we have cause for the greatest encouragement and perseverance.
But great as our acquisitions have been, still greater results are to follow. When we look at the advance in strawberry and grape culture, and the numerous fine kinds which have been originated from seed within a few years, who is not desirous of renewing his efforts in the prosecution of this good work.
It is strange that Duhamel had so little confidence in obtaining good pears from the natural seeds, and we cannot account for his ill success in any other way except that of sowing the seed of poor varieties. But thanks to Van Mons for his enterprise, although the improvement which he claimed from the process of amelioration by sowing the seeds of successive generations of the pear, we believe came from the natural crossing of his best sorts in the same grounds. Thanks, however, everlasting thanks to him for his advice "to sow, re-sow, and sow again the seeds of your best fruits, as the only means of obtaining good fruits." And now, my friends, had we commenced sowing the seeds of our good fruits early in life in accordance with his advice, we should now have an abundance of excellent kinds adapted to our respective locations. On my own part I have to say, that could my life be prolonged for another fourscore and three years, I would devote them all to the promotion of this most benevolent and interesting employment.
And now in the fulfillment of my promise ever to speak to you of the importance of raising new varieties of fruits, which may be adapted to general cultivation or to particular localities, I have to urge on you, even at the risk of repeating what I may have said before, the duty of continuing your efforts in this most philanthropic enterprise. Every year affords us additional evidence, in the acquisitions of new and valuable kinds, and of the ease with which they may be possessed. These are the only methods by which we can expect to obtain new and improved fruits or to produce substitutes for those which may in time become deteriorated and unprofitable for cultivation. We, therefore, hail with pleasure the widespread interest which is now manifested in this most laudable pursuit. The process of hybridization is simple, whether by the air, insects, or the hand of man, and we have only to have due regard to the characteristics of the parents from which we breed.
Thus, as it were, "line upon line and precept upon precept," I have endeavored to impress on you the importance of this branch of our science, and as it was my first, so it shall be my continual and last advice, - "plant the most mature and perfect seeds of the most hardy, vigorous, and valuable varieties: and as a shorter process, insuring more certain and happy results, cross or hybridize your best fruits."