The Pear tree, in its wild state, is thorny, with upright branches, tending to the pyramidal form, in which it differs materially from the Apple tree. The twigs, or sprays, hang down; the leaves are eliptical, obtuse, serrate; the flowers in terminating, villose corymbs, produced from wood of the preceding year, or from buds gradually formed on the several years' growth, on the extremeties of very short protruding shoots, technically called spurs. It is found in a wild state in England, and abundantly in France and Germany, as well as in other parts of Europe, not excepting Russia, as far north as latitude 51. It grows in almost any soil. The cultivated tree differs from the Apple, not only in having a tendency to the pyramidal form, but also in being more apt to send out tap roots; it being, as a seedling plant, longer in coming into bearing; and when on its own root, or grafted on a wild Pear stock, much longer lived. In a dry soil, it will exist for centuries, and still keep its health, productiveness, and vigour. The Romans had thirty-six varieties in Pliny's time: there are now several hundreds in the French and British nurseries; the London Horticultural Catalogue contains the names of upward of six hundred varieties. Professor Van Mons, of Brussels, and M. Duquessie, of Mons, fruited about eight thousand seedling Pears, from which they obtained nearly eight hundred sorts worth cultivating, (Neil's Hort. Jour.) The varieties are divided by the French into different classes of fruits, which are designated as Beurrees. Crevers. Poiree. etc.
- Dessert Pears are characterized by a sugary, aromatic juice, with the pulp soft and sub-liquid, or melting, as in the Beurrees, or Butter Pears, or of a firm and crisp consistence, or breaking, as in the Winter Bergamots. Kitchen Pears should be of a large size, with the flesh firm, neither breaking nor melting, and rather austere than sweet. Perry Pears may be either large or small; but the more austere the taste, the better will be the liquor; excellent perry is made from the wild Pear.
Pear trees are propagated by grafting in the spring, or budding late in the summer, and also by seed taken from the best sorts for the purpose of obtaining new varieties. In raising Pear stocks, the wild Pear is preferred in Europe, as being calculated to produce plants more hardy and durable than the cultivated sorts; and for dwarfing and precocity, the Quince is preferred.
The Pear is a much handsomer upright growing tree than the Apple; more durable, and its wood hard and valuable for the turner and millwright; but its blossoms being white, are less showy than those of the Apple.
A Pear Orchard may be planted at any time after the trees are two years' old from the graft; and as some varieties of trees from young stocks will not come into full bearing until ten or twelve years old, they will bear removing with care at any time within that period. They may be planted at from twenty to thirty-five feet distance from each other, according to the nature of the tree. The dwarf varieties may be planted in the kitchen garden, and trained either as espaliers or dwarf standards.
Standard Pear trees will require but little pruning after the heads are once formed; in doing which, the branches should be permitted to extend on all sides freely. Several years may elapse before any cross-placed, very irregular, or crowded branches, require pruning; yet there are some kinds whose form of growth resembles the Apple; such will need frequent pruning. "The Pear tree" Mr. Phail says, "does not produce blossoms on the former year's wood, as several other sorts of trees do. Its blossom buds are formed upon spurs growing out of wood over one year old, and, consequently, projecting spurs all over the tree must be left for that purpose." In some Pears, Knight observes, "the fruit grows only on the inside of those branches which are exposed to the sun and air; in others it occupies every part of the tree." Withering says, that "the French make perry, or poire, from the fermented juice of the Pear, which is little inferior to wine; and that even the bad eating kinds, pared and dried in an oven, will keep several years with or without sugar.
Before I introduce the descriptive list of Pears, it may be necessary to inform my readers that a controversy has lately existed among justly celebrated pomologists and nurserymen, with regard to some of the old varieties of Pears and other fruits; the consequence of which has been, that several cultivators are for an indiscriminate rejection of all the oldest varieties, while others contend that in some districts the old fruits are as good as they were ever known to be, and consequently deserving of cultivation as heretofore. It is recorded in 'Loudon's Encyclopaedia,' that the Autumn Bergamot for instance, has been cultivated and highly esteemed in England since the time of Julius Caesar, nearly nineteen centuries. This fact is my apology for retaining such of the old varieties of the different fruits in my descriptive list, as have been most celebrated. The following extracts are from the catalogue of Messrs. Winter & Co., proprietors of the old Linnaean Botanic Garden and Nurseries, Flushing, Long Island:
"That some of the fine old varieties of the Pear have deteriorated in some parts of the country, is unquestionable; this is ascribed to various causes; first, that the varieties have run out, as it is termed; second, to the use of diseased stocks, or scions from diseased, or aged, or unthrifty trees, or both; third, to the deleterious influence of the salt air, near the seaboard; fourth, to the want of proper attention to soil and culture. We cannot subscribe to the soundness of the reason first assigned; there are too many instances of varieties of fruit whose origin is so remote that it cannot be traced, still continuing in full vigour; and the kinds which have deteriorated in some sections of the country, still maintain their celebrity in the interior, and more especially in the virgin soil of the west. Which of the other causes as signed, has tended to deteriorate the fine kinds alluded to, we will not undertake to determine; one or more of them may have had their influence, but we think that proper attention to propagation, soil, and culture, may in general, if not in every instance, restore the valuable old varieties to their pristine excellence; and in this vicinity there is decisive evidence of the improvement of that superior old variety the White Doyenne, Saint Michael, or Virgalieu."
The last line of the above extract leads me to remark, that so celebrated has been the Pear therein alluded to, that it has been cultivated throughout the civilized world for centuries, under numberless different names. In 'Lindley's Guide to the Orchard and Fruit Garden,' fifteen synonymes are added to the general head, White Doyenne; some of which names are still retained in the catalogues of those who profess to denounce the old fruits as "outcasts." In fact, the various catalogues are become so complicated from the above causes, that I have, to avoid discrepancy, occasionally adopted some of the names as synonymes, of what, to me, appeared to be distinct varieties; and with a view to lead the reader to judge for himself in such cases, I have appended the names of the different nurserymen to the articles, who being practical men of good judgment, and integrity, are entitled to such distinction. These remarks are intended to apply, not only to Pears, but to other species of fruit in the various descriptive lists.