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.
In looking over a late London Gardeners' Chronicle, I see that Dr. Lindley has again been showing the "black feather." The American native crape-vines have been tried in Southern Europe, and the London Times, in speaking of the discouraging prospects generally, states: "The American vines, which, up to a few days back, had been free from any bad signs, had suddenly manifested the blight to an extent which had destroyed the hopes entertained from the introduction of those descriptions." And the doctor adds: "We do not know what was expected from the introduction of American vines, if by that term is meant, as we believe to be the case, European vines cultivated in the United States, for the vine disease exists there as well as here, as we lately showed upon the authority of Mr. Chorlton. At all events, we know that the American vines were grafted on Portuguese stocks." Now, surely, he knows better than this, not only from the authority quoted, but from his own knowledge of the subject, and he must certainly be aware that no man of common sense would even think of sending the European varieties back again, if the intention was to repel the mildew, more particularly so, as the disease in question has been the only cause why we do not succeed, and never have succeeded satisfactorily, with them in out-door culture.
It is a fact, that our natives have been sent there, and it now appears that they have not had a fair chance, for they "were grafted on Portuguese stocks," instead of being grown on their own roots. It so happens, that the constitutions of the European and American grape- vines are very different, as is proved by the former being always improved under glass, excepting in those climates which have prolonged and steady heat, with the after part dry, and free from damp fogs or rain; while the latter are invariably enfeebled by the same method. The cellular formation and action are not the same, hence the disagreement; consequently, if uninterrupted vigor, which is most necessary in this case, is required, each class ought to be on its own roots, or grafted on to one of its own species. If the two are to be amalgamated, it must be by hybridizing the European with our natives, when the probability will be, a hardier habit in the future progeny. With the facts as they are before us, the experiment is only a retrograde movement that has been ignorantly attempted.
It is not long since that we were accused of "confusion" as to a knowledge of the European grape mildew, but in the means of prevention, and likewise the cause, which are more important parts of the subject, I rather suspect that we are better posted-up than either Dr. Lindley or many of the Eastern cultivators. We well know that, were it not for the extreme saturation of the atmosphere with which we are so frequently troubled during midsummer, mildew would do little harm, and also, that if we can get an approach towards maturity previous to the time of attack, we are comparatively safe. This explains why the earliest varieties of the exotics succeed best here, and why it was, during the past summer, in many places, Black Hamburg and other sorts were so good in the open air.
Dr. Lindley infers that this destructive pest is on the decrease, notwithstanding the many statements to the contrary. Very probably it may be so, or is likely to so, happen hereafter; for, from our experience in other epidemics of a similar character, and under the same circumstances, it will have its time, and finally die out, in those climates, at least, where it is only a casual visitor.
The doctor, in speaking of these European Americanized vines, speculates thus: "Even here the result was not quite so unsatisfactory, as would appear from the Times." And, further on, of the European kinds: "It has also been remarked, this year, that in the Douro wine districts, although the Oidium appeared in Jane, and apparently 'paralyzed the vines,' yet, after the fourth day, they recovered, and vegetation proceeded with renewed vigor, 'leaves and wood increasing in quantity and strength in proportion as the grapes withered and dropped off" In another place, mentioning a trial with cuttings, from English hothouses, that were grafted upon Portuguese roots, he says: "Until June" they " were green and beautiful. But what was very curious, wherever among them indications of fruit appeared, it was speedily stopped by the Oidium, which, however, did not extend to the vines".
"It is impossible not to regard these as favorable symptoms, indicating that the virulence of the vine disease is passing away even from the West of Europe".
May it prove so, but is it not very reasonable to suppose that the peculiar state of the weather during the last summer, has had something to do with all this? So far as I have been able to find out, there has been a great lack of meteorological observation, in this case, on the part of European physiologists, which is somewhat strange, at the present day, when it is so well known how much the different states of the atmosphere affect fungoid vegetation. There need be no more convincing proof of this than a knowledge of the fact that, during close and "muggy" weather, the disease is increased, while a dry and clear atmosphere arrests it. One would suppose, too, that more experience would have been gained with regard to specific or artificial remedies, if any such did exist, yet we find nearly the same paucity of information. Sulphur has been tried in a few cases, and, also, hydrosulphate of lime, but they seem to depend more upon the actual contact of the material than the fumes emanating from it, which, during increased heat from the sun, or otherwise, will impregnate the surrounding air to a considerable extent, and thus nullify the exact requirements of all such parasites as we are at present discoursing on.
Considering the cheapness of this article, there is do reason why it may not be more freely used, and a comparatively small portion is. sufficient to cause a very perceptible smell when the thermometer rises to, or above 15°. When sulphur is used for these purposes, it ought to be distributed with an upward jerk, so that a portion may adhere to the under-side of the leaves, which will prevent the rains washing it off, and if the ground be left undisturbed beneath, what falls to the surface will continue to act for some time.
In conclusion, I would say, that although our native grapes are scarcely acknowledged, in their present state, in Europe, we must recollect that there has been very little attempt at improvement hitherto. They are nearly in the same condition, comparatively, that the austere Crab of by-gone days is to the present luscious Newtown Pippin, and now our cultivators and experimenters are alive to the subject, it is no stretch of the imagination to say, that future generations of seedlings will lead to improvement, the finale of which will be, grapes of equal quality to the exotics, and suitable for all purposes.