This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
We have also another difficulty to encounter - namely, the deterioration of varieties. However we may theorise in regard to this matter, it must be admitted, from the practical point of view, that some fruits have so declined as to render it absolutely necessary to replace them with new varieties. And what has been true in the past will be so in the future. Witness certain kinds of Pears in our own day; the St Germain, Crassanne, Brown Beurre, White Doyenne, and others, once so excellent, where are they now? Some of these are occasionally to be seen on the virgin soils of the West and South, yet for the great majority of locations they will continue to be worthless. And even on these new soils, where they now flourish in their pristine excellence, we have reason, judging of the future from the past, to anticipate that no long time will elapse before this decline will reach these now favoured regions. Within less than a generation the Pears alluded to flourished throughout Western New York as well as, in their early history, on the propitious soils of France. And even among the more modern Pears we notice - as, for instance, in the Beurre Diel and Flemish Beauty - signs of the same decadence.
And so with the Grape. Where the Catawba and Isabella Grapes once succeeded perfectly, they seem now to be failing, and, in many sections of our country, are no more to be relied on. Even the Concord, now so popular, indicates that in time it may follow in the same degenerate strain. While we indulge in these forebodings, we cannot but express the deep regret we feel for the loss of such fine fruits. Other fine fruits are following in the same course. This should not discourage us, but rather increase our enterprise for the production of new sorts, to keep up with the deterioration which seems incident to cultivation.
The mission of our society is to learn not only what varieties succeed in certain States and districts, but throughout the country. Already we have ascertained that some kinds flourish throughout a wide range of territory. For instance, the Red Astracan Apple and Bartlett Pear seem to prosper everywhere. When we reflect on the wide expanse of territory daily becoming susceptible of cultivation, and that our fruits must ultimately be spread over these vast fields, it becomes a matter of great importance to increase our native fruits, some of which may be suited to these regions, and thus replace those which may decline. We therefore give a hearty welcome to the efforts of all who are labouring in this praiseworthy cause.
We rejoice that we enroll among our members so many who are engaged in the benevolent enterprise of producing new varieties of fruits. Especially would we recognise the eminent services of those associates who are devoting their lives to the study of vegetable physiology and of the insect tribes, and on whose patient investigation we so much depend for the discovery and cure of diseases, and the destruction of insects injurious to our fruits. Nor can we too highly appreciate the lives and services of those pioneers in pomology, by whose intelligence and zeal most of our fine fruits have been originated or disseminated - of Van Mons and Esperen of Belgium, of Duhamel and Poiteau of France, of Knight and Lind-ley of England, of Cox, Prince, Dearborn, Lowell, Manning, and Downing of the United States, and of others, now living, whose praise is in the mouths of all. What millions have rejoiced in the fruitage of the Summer Bon Chretien and Autumn Bergamot Pear, coeval in history with the Roman Empire; the Newton Pippin and Baldwin Apple, the Doyenne and Bartlett Pear, the Isabella, Catawba, Concord, and Scuppernong Grape in our own time!
Who can estimate the importance and value of a new variety of fruit, which shall be adapted to the wide range of our rapidly-extending cultivation? He who shall originate a new Apple, Pear, or Grape, which shall be worthy of being handed down to posterity, should be held in remembrance as a benefactor of mankind, as well as a Franklin, Fulton, Morse, or Field. He who shall discover a remedy for the Pear-blight and other diseases incident to vegetation which now affect our trees, or an easy method for the destruction of the horde of insects so alarmingly injurious to our fruit crops, shall have his name transmitted to future time as second only to those who discover methods for the alleviation and cure of diseases which affect the human system. What greater temporal comforts can we leave to our heirs than the fruits of the orchard and garden? What more valuable testimonials of a philanthropic life than the trees we plant for future generations? Trees are the best landmarks of a noble civilisation. Trees are a rich legacy to our heirs. Trees are living monuments to our memories. Fruits are perpetual mementoes to our praise.
The man who plants a fruit-tree is a benefactor of his race; and when we shall have gone to our rest, when the fragrance of vernal bloom shall no longer delight the senses, when the verdure of leafy summer shall no longer inspire the soil, when the golden harvest of mellow autumn shall no longer gladden the sight, the tree shall live to bless those who shall follow us. And when, in after ages, posterity shall recline under the shade of the trees planted by our hands, and gather from their bending branches the luscious fruit, will not some grateful heart remember the giver, and ask, "Who planted that old Apple-tree?" How beautifully is this sentiment portrayed by our own poet Byrant: -
What plant we in this Apple-tree?
Sweets for a hundred flowery springs,
To load the May wind's restless wings,
When from the orchard row he pours
Its fragrance through our open doors. What plant we in this Apple-tree?
Fruits that shall swell in sunny June,
And redden in the August noon,
And drop when gentle airs come by,
That fan the blue September sky;
While children come with cries of glee, And seek them where the fragrant grass Betrays their bed to those who pass,
At the foot of the Apple-tree.
And when the thousands who have enjoyed its fruits and shared its blessings are buried, like its own roots, deep in the bosom of mother earth,
The children of some distant day Thus to some aged man shall say, "Who planted this old Apple-tree?"