This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Any person conversant with fruit, who will take the trouble to walk through the markets of Philadelphia - where more Seckel Pears are to be seen than any where else in the world, cannot but be struck with the very small size of these pears. If he has besides, been in the habit, as we have been, of seeing the Philadelphia markets at this season, for some years past, he will make the comparison between the Seckel Pears of Philadelphia now, and those of ten or fifteen years ago. Then, the Seckel Pears might be seen by the waggon load, large, fair, ruddy and handsome, as well as delicious. If you mention this present degeneracy to a Philadel-phian, he will shrug his shoulders, and say, "yes, the Seckel Pear is no longer what it once was; I am afraid it is running out."
A SECKEL PEAR GROWN SOUTH.
And yet, if you go to Boston - which is far from being so favorable a climate for fruit culture, as that of Philadelphia, you will see Seckel Pears so large and fine that you almost doubt their being the same fruit. If you are curious to investigate the history of the Seckel Pear culture in the two places, you will not long be at a loss how to account for the difference. In Philadelphia they trust to nature, and a soil once highly fertile. But the Seckel pear trees have exhausted the soil - because it had only a certain amount of pear tree elements, and languished for more food. In Boston they know that nature is a hard mother, and they rely on art - trenching the soil twice as deep as nature makes it, and supplying an abundance of food for the growth of the tree and fruit. Hence the average size of the Seckel Pear in Philadelphia, has dwindled down in twenty years, from an inch and three-fourths in diameter, to a little more than an inch - while in Boston, it has been raised by high culture, to between two and three inches in diameter.
Some soils, however, contain in themselves an almost inexhaustible supply of natural food for fruit trees. Even long culture wears out such soils slowly - because the mineral elements of fertility gradually decompose, and form new soil.- We have before us a couple of Seckel Pears, of extraordinary size and beauty, sent us from Brandon, on the James River, Virginia, one of the largest and oldest estates in America - having been cultivated since the earliest settlement of the country. This estate still shows large fields, which, under the present good management - (i.e. the judicious application of lime,) yield 30 bushels of wheat to the acre. But the Seckel pear trees here, without any special attention, still bear larger and finer fruit than we have seen in Philadelphia. It is useless, with such proofs of the effects of soil and culture upon fruit, for our Philadelphia friends to talk about the "running out" of so modern a pear as the Seckel. It is the soil which has run out, not the variety. -------Guano. - Nothing is more pleasant than to give advice which, when applied to practice, affords satisfactory results. A year ago a friend complained of the high cost of stable manure.
We recommended guano - which, at 2 1/2 cts. per lb., cannot but be considered a cheap manure. "Ah, but," said he, "it does not suit cither our climate or our soil." When do you apply it, we asked him. "In the months of April or May, when planting my crops, or working my garden borders." It is precisely on that account, we answered, that in your dry soil and our dry climate, you have failed to get good results. Now make another trial in the months of October or November. Apply guano to garden or orchard soils that want enriching, at the rate of 500 lbs. per acre. The soil should be lightly stirred afterwards, to bury the guano, and fix it.
He followed our advice - not only in his garden and orchard; but in his meadows. In the latter he sowed it broad-cast, like plaster, while in the garden he spread it over the ground while ridging it up for winter. This season he had better growth of vegetables and grass, and larger fruit, than for many years past, and he attributes it very justly to the action of guano applied in the autumn - when it has time to impart its fertilising properties to the soil, in which they become completely incorporated before the next season's growth commences.
While all the other States of the Union are recording their triumphs in fruit culture, the Key Stone must not be forgotten. We have to record the growth of a Seckel Pear, which is probably unprecedented for its size. It was received by post, enveloped in cotton, and grew in the garden of Thaddeus Banks, Esq., in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania; its length was nine and a half inches, and circumference eight and three-quarter inches. Mr. John Penn Jones will accept our thanks for this remarkable specimen, " which was grown on a three years old graft, on an apple".
It is hardly worth while to talk about the Seckel - the highest flavored pear known. This is probably the most northern latitude in which it will grow; and in favorable seasons it is as highly flavored, and as well grown in western New-York, as in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, its native soil. I have nowhere seen it larger and better flavored than here.