It is profoundly gratifying that the demand for so wholesome a fruit as the Apple is on the increase, but it is profoundly humiliating that our agents have to run all over the world for their supplies. Perhaps some stickler for accuracy will interpolate that the agents do not run very far, because the oversea growers make haste to save them the trouble. Maybe; but it comes to the same thing in the end - namely, another item of a cool million or two which sleepy old John hands over to Uncle Sam or Cousin Cornstalk.
When we meet Uncle Sam or Cousin Cornstalk in the flesh he generally proves to be a good, kindly soul; and if we must needs take money out of our breeches pocket and put it in somebody else's, he might as well have it; but when all is said and done, we are an Apple-growing country in the best sense of the phrase, and we ought to be able to supply our own tables and markets.
To some ears the statement that we do not pay sufficient attention to choosing, growing, and marketing our Apples is, perhaps, getting a little wearisome. We have heard it many, many times; and the worst of it is that we have heard it the oftenest from those gentlemen who never grew an Apple except in an inkpot. All the same, there is truth in it. There is an art in selecting sorts to suit the soil and district; there is an art in growing them; and there is an art in selling them.
In previous chapters I have touched on points of culture; and I am bold enough to think that if the hints about preparing soil, applying fertilisers, and pruning which have been given are carefully followed, healthy trees will be grown. Let me now chat about varieties. When a beginner, or even an old hand for the matter of that, looks through a fruit catalogue with a view to selecting a dozen or two of Apples, he tears his hair in desperation. He finds ten, or even twenty, for every one that he requires; and what to put in and what to leave out raise a problem that he has trouble in solving. The difficulty is increased by the fact that most of the sorts included in the trade lists have something to recommend them. We might perhaps throw them into grades as follows:-
1. Apples that succeed with most people and in most soils. These we might call flrst-class varieties.
2. Apples that do fairly well with most people, and particularly well with some. These we might call second-class Apples.
3. Apples that do badly with most people, but are very good under exceptionally favourable circumstances, such as Ribston Pippin. These we might call third-class Apples.
Does someone cry out upon my presumption in relegating so delicious an Apple as the Ribston to the third class? I reply, What is the good of all its marvellous quality if the tree dies of canker? We have made fetishes of old Apples, and glorified them in spite of serious defects. It is time to stop this sort of thing.
Now, taking one thing with another, it is obvious that the average planter is likely to get the best results if he makes his selections out of the first-class varieties. He may perhaps miss one or two suitable sorts by turning a blind eye to the others, but in the long run he will come out right. First, therefore, for the roll of honour.