In the choice of fruit trees, all possible care and attention are necessary; for, to have trees that do not answer the expectations of the proprietor, is a great disappointment. As the young gardener may need such directions as are calculated to govern him in his choice, I shall endeavour to furnish them. Whatever species or varieties of fruit trees are wanted, choose those that are vigorous and straight, and of a healthy appearance. Whether they have been grafted or budded, be careful to select such as have been worked on young stocks. Grafts and buds inserted into old, crooked, stunted stocks, seldom succeed well. Trees that are healthy, have always a smooth, clean, shining bark; such as are mossy, or have a rough, wrinkled bark, or are the least affected by canker, should be rejected. Canker is discoverable in the young wood, and generally two or three inches above the graft or bud. If the tree be an Apricot, Nectarine, Peach, or Plum, and any gum appears on the lower part of it, do not fix upon that. Let the tree you select (if a dwarf) be worked about six inches from the ground, and only one graft or bud should be upon each stock, for when there are more, the tree cannot be brought to so handsome a form.
In some of the following articles, it will be seen that several descriptions of trees may be transplanted with safety, even when far advanced in growth. When trees of four or five years' growth, after having been headed down, that are healthy, and well furnished with fruit-bearing wood close up to the centre of the tree, can be obtained, they will do very well; but great care is requisite in taking up, removing, and planting such. Let the tree be taken up with as great a portion of the roots as possible, taking care not to bruise, split, or damage them; for want of attention to these points, trees often become diseased. Whenever (notwithstanding all due caution) any roots have been accidentally broken, split, or otherwise damaged in taking up the tree, let them be cut off; or if they cannot be well spared, let the damaged or bruised part be pared clean with a sharp knife, and a portion of the following composition be spread over the wound, in order to keep the wet from it, which would otherwise injure the tree: To equal parts of soft soap and tar, add a little beeswax; let them be boiled together, and when cold they may be used. The necessity of pruning-in and dressing mangled roots is more particularly required in trees of the stone fruit, such as Apricots, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums, etc.; for without the application of some remedy, they gum at the roots, which defect, if not counteracted, very materially injures the upper part of the trees, which may become so affected as never to recover afterward; therefore; great care should be taken not to occasion such injury; and when accidents happen, all due caution and application are necessary to promote a healthy and vigorous growth.
A young tree, likely to do well, should have roots nearly corresponding to the branches; at least, it should have one strong root in a similar proportion to the bole of the tree, with a proper distribution of branching fibres. Healthy roots are always smooth and clear; their colour varies a little according to the kind of tree, but the older the roots are, the darker the colour is.
After the tree is taken up, be careful, in conveying it to the place where it is to be planted, that the roots are not chafed or rubbed. If trees are to be conveyed to a considerable distance, they should be well guarded by straw, or otherwise, in order to prevent injury. All damaged or bruised roots should be pruned as soon as the tree is taken up, but if it be necessary to prune away any sound, good roots, such pruning should be delayed until the time of planting. In pruning away roots, always let them be finished by a clear cut, and in a sloping direction; the slope should be toward the under stratum, so that the wet may not be allowed to lodge upon the part so cut. When trees are planted at an advanced season in the spring of the year, it will be necessary to prune the tops; and if trees are removed that have been trained three or four years, and are not properly supplied with young wood, they must be cut down either wholly or partially, in order to obtain a sufficiency. In practising this upon Apricot and Nectarine trees, etc, always prune so as to have a leading shoot close below the cut, as it is very rare they will push a shoot below, unless there be a lead. This attention is not so particularly required in the Pear, etc, as such will generally push forth shoots, although no leading ones are left; but in all kinds, the younger the wood is, the more certain are shoots to be produced. If a tree that has been under training for one or two years, should only have one good strong leading shoot, and two or three weaker ones which do not proceed from it, let the weak shoots be pruned clean away, and shorten the strong one, from which a handsome head may afterward be formed. For farther directions as respects pruning or planting fruit trees, etc, the reader is referred to the preceding articles on these subjects; and as respects any species of fruit in particular, directions will be found under its distinct head.
In order to assist the reader in making a judicious selection of fruit trees, I have furnished a short description of such species and varieties as are in great repute for every good quality. Previous to making this selection, I carefully perused 'Prince's Pomological Manual,' 'Kenrick's American Orchardist,' 'Lindley's Guide to the Orchard and Fruit Garden,' and 'Manning's Descriptive Catalogue of Fruits;' beside these important guides, I had the select catalogues of different nurserymen before me, and have chosen such only as have been most, generally recommended. In doing this, I have had difficulties to contend with, of the nature of which, none but those who have duly considered the subject can form any idea. The facility with which seedling plants are raised, and the paternal fondness with which people are apt to regard their own seedlings, have occasioned hundreds of names to appear in the various catalogues, which tend not a little to swell the large and increasing list of fruits.
In many instances, the English, French, Spanish, and other names, provisional, local, and barbarous, are given to the same variety; consequently, some fruits appear in the different catalogues under all the varied names; and the patience and labour necessarily requisite for ascertaining which are really distinct varieties, and which are most worthy of cultivation, are correspondingly great.
To exemplify: Suppose from a catalogue of Pears the following names should be selected by a person wishing to plant as many varieties in his orchard, namely, Brown Beurre, Beurre Oris, Beurre Rouge, Buerre Dore, Buerre d' Anjou, Buerre d' Or, Buerre d' Ambleuse, Buerre d' Amboise, Poire d' Amboise, Isambert, Red Beurre, Golden Beurre, Beurre du Roi. White Doyenne, Doyenne Blanc, Doyenne, Beurre Blanc, Bonne-ante, Saint Michael, Carlisle, Citron de Septem-bre, Kaiserbirne, Poire a court quene, Poire de Limon, Valencia, Poire de Neige, Poire de Seigneur, Poire Monsieur, White Beurre. Here is a list of twenty-nine kinds, as the purchaser supposes, but when the trees produce their fruit, he finds, to his great disappointment and mortification, that he has only two varieties, namely, the Brown Beurre and the White Doyenne.
In making out the descriptive lists, I have generally adopted the names given in the catalogues of the most celebrated nurserymen, as a heading; and have caused the synonymes, or names by which the same variety is known, or has been called, to be printed in italics; thus, my lists of about four hundred varieties of the various species of fruit, will embrace what has been deemed by some as different varieties, perhaps to the number of nearly two thousand.
In preparing the following articles, the object has been to furnish information which would entertain, as well as instruct the reader. Besides the authorities quoted, I have gleaned from those inexhaustible treasures to horticulturists, Loudon's Encyclopaedia of Plants, and that of Gardening; but on account of the brevity necessarily observed throughout this work, it has been found impracticable to give many entire extracts; suffice it to say, that the historical facts are generally collected from these sources.