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.
In order of discussion I have placed the grape first in our roll. No other fruit, unless it be the strawberry, now attracting so much attention, and perhaps no other, if we except the apple, is of more importance as a source of revenue, or an article of luxury for our tables as the grape. No other country possesses such a vast extent of territory, or possibilities for its successful culture, and in no other section of the globe is there, at the present time, such encouragement thereto. In fact, it seems as though Providence had designed many parts of our continent especially for its cultivation. The Scandinavians, as the Sagas have it, eight hundred years ago, here found the vine growing so abundantly that they gave to our coast the name of Vinland. Champlain, in his voyages on our coast about five hundred years afterwards, saw vines in abundance. The pilgrim fathers, at Plymouth, found grapes, "white and red, and very strong," and should the phylloxera continue its devastation in the vineyards of the old world, our country may become the most favored vineland of the world.
In the whole circle of our pomological progress there is no fruit which excites so much enterprise and interest, so rapidly being extended or which gives greater promise of success, aa the culture of the grape, and should this same enterprise continue for fifty years to come, we can hardly estimate its value as a revenue in our country. All localities are not equally suited to its growth, but where our wild species are found, other new and improved sorts, produced by hybridization, will be found equally well adapted. With every succeeding year new and valuable varieties are coming to notice, either adapted to special locations or purposes, as for general cultivation. Nor is it too much to hope that ere the close of this century, with our present zeal and skill, we shall produce varieties that will rival the choicest kinds of the most favored climes. Even now we have those which compare favorably with our foreign varieties, and we believe the time is not distant when the aroma of our native sorts, now so much despised by some, will become, when chastened down as it has been in the Brighton, Duchess, Rochester, and Monroe, one of the excellent characteristics of our American grapes.
How potent the influences of this art! Little did Mr. Bull think what a blessing he was conferring on the world when he sowed the seed which produced the Concord grape, - the mother of so many improved varieties. See the number of white varieties (not to speak of others) which have been produced mostly from this: the Martha, Lady Pocklington, Lady Washington, Hayes, Ann Arbor, Prentiss, Duchess, and still another soon to be within our reach, which is heralded like Niagara herself as one of the wonders of the world.
The illustrations of this improvement are manifested in the numerous seedlings obtained by crosses on the Concord, some of which are of a very remarkable character, possessing great size and beauty, and whose vigor and productiveness are declared to be even greater than that of their mother. We see this improvement also in the crosses of a wild grape with the foreign species by Rogers, as shown by the amelioration of the native aroma in the Barry, Wilder and Lindley, the last named, like the Jefferson of Ricketts, possessing a peculiar rich flavor which might with propriety, be denominated and may yet be distinguished as the Muscat of America. Nor do I doubt that we shall in time produce varieties which will compare favorably with, and perhaps be equal in size, beauty, and excellence to the Cannon Hall, or other Muscat, now so highly praised for their peculiar aroma. The Pocklington, in size and beauty, is an approach to this. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that we may have a grape, if we have it not now in the Duchess, that is as well adapted to exportation as the White Malaga, and of much better quality. What has been done can be done again.
Nature has in her laboratory infinite stores of the same elements which have produced our finest fruits, and we have only to knock at her portals, and pronounce the sesame, when she will open to us the secrets of her wonder-working power. These predictions may be considered as the fantasies or vagaries of imagination, or as indications of too ardent desire for progress. No, no, neither are they the results of chance. They are founded on those immutable laws which govern all sciences, in the control of mind over matter, and the power of man to assist nature in her onward march to higher and higher states of perfection. That we shall possess such improved varieties as we have predicted we have no reason to doubt. Our country is large and varied in climate and soil. Though we of the North cannot expect to grow tropical fruits, - nor may we grow a grape of the excellence of the Black Hamburg suited to out-door cultivation, - yet we can produce fruits of great importance to ourselves and of inestimable value to other portions of our country, as we have seen in the Baldwin, Rhode Island Greening, and Roxbury Russet apples, and the Diana, the Concord, and Rogers grapes, the Bartlett pear and other fruits which have been sent out from New England.
(To be concluded )