It is unnecessary, I think, to devote a lengthy chapter to either of these fruits. If a gardening editor were to judge of the popularity of a fruit by the number of inquiries he had about it (and there might easily be worse tests), he would probably say that neither Medlars nor Mulberries stand very high in public favour.
So far as the Medlar is concerned, we have a fruit of the most trivial importance and economic value. A few people like Medlars, and a great many other people make a hollow pretence of doing so, who, if they expressed their real feelings, would declare that half-rotten Pear is a luxury to them. A Medlar is supposed to be just right for eating (other people would say for flinging into the nearest dustbin) when it is "bletted," which means when it is in a state of decay.
Those people who boast a partiality for Medlars should get I he variety called the Nottingham. One way of describing its flavour would be to say that it is the best of all the Medlars; another that it is the least like a putrid fruit of the worst Apple in cultivation.
Medlars are not difficult to grow, inasmuch as they will thrive in soil that suits most respectable fruit trees. As for propagation, it may be effected by grafting them on Pear stocks.
The Mulberry is a very interesting if not a particularly valuable tree. We come across antiquated specimens in old-fashioned gardens, and we look at them, and talk about them, and think how capital it would be to have them ourselves. And then we go and fill up all our space with Apples and Pears and Plums and Cherries, and forget all about the Mulberries. Old trees in pleasure-grounds look very cool, and not a little picturesque, in the summer time, with their dark, rich leafage. But they bear fruit sometimes, and we even see them grown for their fruit quite successfully, as they are by the Duke of Portland at Welbeck. It is important to add that there the trees are trained to walls. I am afraid that anyone residing in the Midlands or the North would come to grief if he attempted to grow and ripen Mulberries in the open.
The Mulberry of our gardens is the Black Mulberry, Morus nigra. It is propagated in various ways, but quite easily by layering or inarching. Pruning is the point least understood. Most people let the trees grow at their own sweet will, which is right enough if a big, shady tree is wanted, but wrong if ripe fruit is required. For fruiting purposes Mulberries should be spurred, that is, the shoots stopped in summer and shortened back in winter, very much like a Pear. If they are allowed to become smothered with shoots they will not ripen much fruit.