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.
Dear Sib: In looking over the "Gossip" in the Editor's Table of the October number of the Horticulturist, I observed that the Newport News says he saw fifty potatoes weighed, and the result was a total weight, of fifty and a half pounds. A few days previous to seeing the above, I was digging up potatoes, and curiosity prompted me to select and weigh twelve potatoes, in the presence of my wife and a disinterested man; those twelve potatoes just weighed eighteen pounds regular merchantable weight, Avoirdupois, and if I had expected to have seen the above, I surely should have selected fifty, but I had finished digging up, and covered them promiscuously up among the other roots in the cellar before yours reached my eye. Those I weighed were Mishannocks, and as good as they were large. Can you equal these? if so, let us hear. We are pleased and interested here with your Horticulturist, and like to hear it speak free; and I am, dear sir, Yours, truly, Michakl Tait, Sen.
Keysbubg, logan City, Ky., Nov. 4,1856. Mr. Smith: A friend from near Elkton some time since sent you a short article upon the fruit of Kentucky. He noticed apples, principally, some of which are new and indigenous varieties, and are not surpassed by any apples of any climate. I am commencing a nursery at this place, and am trying to procure native seedlings of good quality. I will mention one apple in addition to those named by your Elkton correspondent. It is known here as the Robertson Red, and is a fine winter variety; of its origin I have learned nothing. I have found in this immediate neighborhood some very choice peaches, which, I suppose, originated here, and are not known elsewhere. One which I named the Monstrous Heath, from its great size and resemblance to the White Heath, is the largest peach I have ever known, some of them weighing one and one-fourth pound. Do yon know anything that beats it? It is equal, in flavor, to the White Heath, rounder, with a less prominent point. It must have been produced from that peach. Another very remarkable and fine peach, in this vicinity, is about the size and form of George IV. It is beautifully streaked with red on a yellow ground, the flesh being streaked with red and yellow to the seed, from which it parts freely.
It is a delicious peach, perhaps not surpassed by any soft peach in cultivation, unless it is by another seedling of this county, in flavor, but not in size. There are several others that have originated here, viz; a soft White Heath, etc.
I will mention one more article - i e. a native strawberry, which was found growing wild by A. M. McLain, and has been cultivated by him for twenty-two years, and has not, in that time, failed to produce a crop. It is a light colored berry, inclined to neck. It has perfect flowers, is of good size, and surpasses all others that I have seen in taste, an odor.
I am confident there is nothing wanting but attention to the fruits of this country, to develop some of the finest varieties adapted to the South and West. I believe, that to succeed well, we must have native seedlings. Swan.
Oakwood College, EVANSHTON, III., Nov. IO, 1856.
Mr. Jay Smith: Tour article in the November Horticulturist, entitled " Rationale of Draining Lands Explained," has furnished me what I have for some time sought - an explanation of a phenomenon I have observed in an orchard I happened to own, near Chicago. The trees were situate in rather sandy, low, flat, undrained land, and had made a fine growth. In September, the fruit would become shrivelled to such a degree, that, some kinds were almost as pliable in the hand as an India-rubber ball. Of course I attributed this to the situation of the trees, but the exact reason why that should produce the effect, was far more difficult for me (novice as I was) to discover. Nor could I see why the fruit should . begin to shrivel as the ground seemed to become more dry. I reasoned that the tree being accustomed to a larger amount of moisture during the early part of the season, and its diminishing as the season advanced, left it to carry out its undertaking under different circumstances from which it commenced, and, had the moisture continued as at first, the fruit would not have wilted.
But I am now satisfied, that although the ground became comparatively dry by the last of July, yet the water did not disappear to a sufficient depth, or early enough to enable the ground to become sufficiently warm, to ripen fruit, requiring, as it does, much more heat as it approaches maturity than while young. The water did not dry out to a greater depth than about two feet. This, of course, continually imparted its coldness to the ground above it, insomuch that the warm rains and the heat of the sun could not overcome it sufficiently to meet the demand of the fruit.
The proper illustration of your experiments will have a powerful tendency to set our prairie farmers' right upon the subject of drainage. Conviction only produces action, and this alone follows a perception of the reasons.
If you should desire to know the locality of the place whose name is at the head of this letter, and turn to your map to gratify that desire, you will be disappointed. But perhaps you have learned that maps are fax behind the age, so far as they have reference to the West, where towns spring up even while the binder is putting the gilt trimmings upon his splendid large atlas.
Evanston is the site of the Northwestern University and Garrett Biblical Institute, lately so liberally endowed, and is one of a number of villages that have sprung up along the lake-shore north of Chicago within the last two years, and which are becoming the residences of those wealthy citizens of Chicago whose desire for retirement, fine seats, and the delights of rural life, induce them to leave its dusty, noisy streets.
The lake-shore between Chicago and Waukegan is high, broken ground, mostly covered with a fine growth of timber. The soil is well adapted to the raising of fruit and gardening. Much taste is displayed both in the laying out of the towns and the improvement of residences, and horticulture is the staple of our delights. As I read your " Visits io Country Places," I cannot help imagining the day when the western shore of Lake Michigan shall vie with the shores of the Hudson. H. B. Hurd.
It is gratifying to find, by several similar notices, that the article on the " Rationale of Draining Lands," page 500 of the last volume of the Horticulturist, has proved a most satisfactory elucidation, in a very simple form, of the most important theory, perhaps, of modern culture. If there are any who have skipped it, we beg they will turn to the page.
We can readily imagine the future editor describing the "Country Places" of Illinois with rapture; for intelligence is a characteristic of even its pioneer horticulturists. Our correspondent, we are convinced, is well able to give us some insight now, and why should he not?
Maps are too often behind the age, but efforts are constantly made to remedy this; when they will catch up with the current events of the day, is a problem rapidly solving at the very office of the Horticulturist, where more maps are coined every day than at any other manufactory in the world. - Ed.
Elgin, Kane County , Illinois, Sept. 27,1856.
Respected Sib: I wish that I could write interestingly to you, and give you a correct description of this section of the far West. I have taken up my residence here fot the present. I have been into different places about here, and have had a look-out for the fruit of the country, both tame and wild.
The apple grows very smooth; the bark has a smooth, bright surface generally, but they do not grow as tall as in the Eastern States, but the limbs are very free from moss; very little attention is paid to the cultivation of good kinds of apples, so far as I can learn.
The cold of last winter was very hard for fruit growing. I cannot believe that this part of Illinois will be a good fruit growing country. Peaches were all killed last winter. I am informed, that once in five or six years they have a good crop of peaches. I have conversed with many persons in this vicinity, and also of persons at Rockford, Rook River, who say that many farmers have mostly given up fruit growing, I have been into the woods some. I found any quantity of the common crab-apple. I have frequently counted from fifteen to twenty in a clump, and fully loaded with fruit. No particular use is made of the fruit: wild plums, the thorn-apple, and the nannyberry. I believe that the crab apple-tree would made a good hedge; it grows very thrifty, and is perfectly hardy.
Inclosed I send you a rose-bud, which I found about a mile north of Rockford, Rock River; it grew upon the open prairie. I wish you to see what you can do with it. I also send you the nannyberry, which grew on the banks of Fox River, near this place. The timber which I have seen growing in the woods is principally oak (three kinds), walnut, slippery elm, baswood, white ash; but a very few of the last mentioned could I find. If anything which I have written is worthy of your notice, please accept it from a friend, and one who is fond of the beautiful in all places, and an admirer of the Horticulturist. H. Davis.