"The pear most probably shares with the plum the position of second place to the apple as a native fruit, and certainly it plays a very large part in the make-up of a modern fruit farm, for home-grown pears will always command good prices, especially those of the large dessert varieties.
Where apples flourish, pears are practically certain to prosper, but some of the early and more tender varieties undoubtedly mature better in the kindly south than in the more rugged north. Certainly pears are a rather more risky crop than apples, and one will often encounter a succession of years when late frosts spoil the return. Even then, however, there are the high prices that inevitably follow a shortage, so the grower need not despair.
The finest pears are those grown on cordon, espalier, and wall-trained trees, and practically all the giant eating varieties are cultivated in one or other of these ways. The smaller and more plebeian pears are grown in orchards, and it is as well to bear in mind that the standard pear in an orchard is a vigorous tree, and specimens should be set twenty-four feet apart, or at the rate of seventy-five trees to the acre. Pears are also grown as bush trees, and as pyramids in large fruit gardens.
Planting may take place at any time from the beginning of November till the middle of February, except during the prevalence of frost, and if the soil is at all poor it should be enriched with top spit from an old pasture, the staple in which the pear most delights.
In the case of dwarf bush pears and wall and espalier specimens, the blossom should be protected from frost by means of archangel matting, an inexpensive material obtainable from the sundriesman, and as the fruit ripens it should be netted, to protect it from the birds.
Pears require very careful packing, and must not be sent away in receptacles in which the fruit can be packed deeply. Strong, shallow baskets or cases are the best, and no fruit requires more tender treatment.
The following are, in the opinion of the writer, the twelve best varieties of pears for market culture :
Beurre d' Anjou (large and of fine flavour). Beurre de Capiaumont (hardy and very prolific). Beurre Rance (large and a good keeper). Calabass (free bearer and large). Doyenne du Cornice (one of the finest). Glou morceau (a keeping pear, large). Jargonelle (early, rich, and juicy).
Louise Bonne of Jersey (large, handsome pear).
Marie Louise (good market variety, mid-season) .
Pitmaston Duchess (one of the largest medium pears).
Santa Claus (a new Christmas pear).
Williams's Bon Cretien (perhaps the best-known pear of all).
Standard pears cost 2s. each ; half-standards, 1s. 6d. ; pyramids and bushes are usually sold at 1s. 6d. ; cordons at 1s., and espaliers at 2s. 6d. There is a considerable reduction by taking a quantity, and during the autumn months there are frequent auction sales of nursery stock.
Next to the apple, the plum is, in a measure, the most important fruit grown in this country, and except in phenomenal years, when the yield completely gluts the market, it is most profitable.
In the large fruit-growing districts plums are usually found as standards, in which form they are set twenty feet apart, or at the rate of 108 to the acre. They are also grown largely as bush-trained trees for early maturity, and in this form are planted ten feet apart, at the rate of 435 trees to the acre. Then there are the wall-trained trees, and the best dessert plums are grown in this way. As cordons, plums will succeed fairly well, but not so well as is the case with apples trained on the single-stem principle.
Plums will thrive in practically every soil. The best soil is a sandy loam, but even in poor staples much can be done by surface dressing, for the fruit-feeding roots in the case of the plum do not forage very deeply. Lime is necessary to the welfare of the plum, as to all the stone fruits, and should be applied from time to time in small quantities to land that is deficient in this property.
The pruning of plum trees consists mainly in keeping the centre of the tree well open, preserving a goodly shape, and in shortening back a certain proportion of the young shoots. In the case of wall-trained plums, summer pruning is of great importance, the young wood being pinched well back to three or four leaves, except when it is required for the purpose of leaders.