It is generally considered that the Peach is of Persian origin. In Media, it is deemed unwholesome; but when planted in Egypt, becomes pulpy, delicious, and salubrious. It has been cultivated, time immemorial, in most parts of Asia; when it was introduced into Greece, is uncertain. The best Peaches in Europe are supposed to be grown in Italy, on standards.
The list of Peaches in the London Catalogue, contains about two hundred and fifty-names, fifty of which are denominated American Peaches. Several attempts have been made to class the varieties of Peaches and Nectarines by the leaf and flower, as well as the fruit. Mr. Robertson, a nurseryman at Kilkenny, has founded his arrangement on the glands of the leaves; and Mr. George Lindley, of London, has, in a peculiarly distinct manner, arranged no fewer than one hundred and fifty-five sorts of Peaches and Nectarines in well-defined divisions and sections. There are various instances on record, (Hort. Trans, vol. i. p. 103,) of both fruits growing on the same tree, even on the same branch; and one case has occurred of a single fruit partaking of the nature of both. The French consider them as one fruit, arranging them in four divisions; the Peches, or freestone Peaches; the Peches lisses, or freestone Nectarines, or freestone Peaches; the Pavies, or clingstone Peaches; and the Brognons, or Nectarines, or clingstone smooth Peaches.
Although this fruit will thrive in any sweet, pulverized soil that is properly prepared, a rich sandy loam is the most suitable. Next to the selection and preparation of a suitable soil, a choice of good healthy trees is of the utmost import ance. The seed for stocks should be selected from the vigorous growing young, or middle-aged healthy trees; and the buds should be taken from some of the choicest fruitbearing trees that can be found. Let the stocks be fairly tested before they are budded, and if any infection exist in the stocks, or in the vicinity of where the choice of buds may fall, reject them if you wish to rear a healthy progeny; as more depends upon these particular points than many are aware of.
In this country, the Peach is generally budded on stocks of its own kind; but in England it is often budded on damask Plum stocks, and some of the more delicate sorts on Apricot stocks, or old Apricot trees cut down; or on seedling Peaches, Almonds, or Nectarines. (See article Nectarine.) Cobbett says, "There are thousands of Peach trees in England and France that are fifty years old, and that are still in vigorous fruitfulness." He attributes the swift decay of the Peach tree here to their being grafted on stocks of their kind.
Mr. Michael Floy, of the Harlaem Nursery, in a note, page 364 of the American edition of Lindley's Guide to the Orchard and Fruit Garden, edited by him, makes the following observations on this subject, which he says are the result of thirty years experience as a nurseryman in the vicinity of New-York:
"In this country Peaches are generally budded on Peach stocks. Their growth is very rapid, and they will form a tree large enough to transplant from the nursery, the first and second year after budding; but notwithstanding the rapid growth of our Peaches, and their coming to maturity so early, with but little care and trouble, it must at the. same time be admitted that they too often come to decay with almost the same celerity. A question here will naturally arise on this subject, what can be done to remedy this 1 I answer, first, I think the Peach stock is defective; it is not sufficiently strong and lasting to make a permanent tree; the roots are soft and delicate, very liable to rot in cold heavy ground, particularly if suffered to stand in a sod, or where the ground is not kept clean, dry, and manured every season. Secondly. Supposing that the trees are planted in a warm free soil, (which is the proper soil for the Peach,) they are liable to the attacks of the worm, which eats into their roots, and barks the trees all round, until they completely destroy them. No better method of destroying these worms has been discovered, than simply digging round the trees, and examining the infested plants, and where gum is seen oozing out, there the worm may be generally found and destroyed.
"I think an effectual remedy against this intruder may be found, by budding Peaches and Nectarines on the common bitter Almond Stock. The worm does not like this stock. Peaches will take on it, and grow nearly as free as on the common Peach stock. Thirdly. The Peach stock causes the Peaches and Nectarines to grow too rapidly, making very strong shoots, these producing secondary or lateral shoots; and the fruit of the following summer is produced on the top of these lateral shoots, instead of being produced on the principal or first shoots; this causes naked wood at the bottom, and a straggling, unsightly tree, whose branches being heavy at the top with the fruit, are broken down by high winds. Fourthly. In addition to all this, the trees are of late years subject to what has been deemed a disease called the yellows, from the circumstance of the trees having a yellow and sickly appearance. Much curious philosophy has been spent on this subject without arriving at any satis-factory conclusion."
Mr. Floy, after discovering that the Almond stock is susceptible of injury from our Northern winters in extreme cold weather, farther recommends the Plum stock in cold latitudes, and the Almond for our Southern States. Hear him:
"The Plum stock is undoubtedly the best for Peaches and Nectarines in the Northern and Eastern States, but especially for open dwarfs or espaliers, for which I give the following reasons: First. The Plum stock prevents the too rapid growth of the shoots, and causes the principals to bear the fruit the following season, instead of producing lateral shoots the same season, and causing the tree to be more dwarf; the branches strong and fruitful to the bottom of the shoot, thereby having more fruit in a smaller compass. Secondly. It makes harder and less pithy wood, and enables it the better to withstand the cold; and this may be easily proved by cutting the branches of each: the shoot on the Plum stock will be twice as hard and firm as the one on the Peach stock; but, Thirdly, and the most important reason is, that the Plum ceases to send up its sap early in autumn, causing the Peach to perfect its wood before the cold weather sets in.