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.
The following remarks on northern fruit trees, from a correspondent in South Carolina, deserve an insertion as a rejoinder to contrary statements from other experienced southern cultivators. The question is an interesting one, and can only be settled by more testimony, which we hope our southern readers will furnish. Ed.
Dear Sir - Tou have published one or two communications in the Horticulturist, from Mr. Harwell, of Mobile, stating that northern peach trees had entirely failed to bear in that vicinity for some years, and giving as the supposed reason, the strange fact that they bloomed a month or six weeks after the native trees, and that, consequently, the fruit was killed by late frosts in the spring. This writer seems to conclude that we ought to depend entirely on southern trees for fruit.
Now, my experience has brought me to a different conclusion, and as there is beginning to be considerable interest felt among us in relation to the culture of fruit, it may not be amiss to give that experience, and thus prevent others from being misled by those, and similar publications.
The wise remark of a wise man, that " a great deal may be said on both sides," seems particularly applicable in this case.
I shall confine myself strictly to what has occurred within my own knowledge - deeming abstract reasoning on this point as worse than useless - it being always easy enough to find reasons for any fact when once it has been established. Long and learned disquisitions have been published, to show that, according to scientific principles, northern trees are unfitted by nature for a southern climate. That they will succeed in Columbia (whatever they may do in Mobile) I have-proved beyond doubt, by repeated experiments within the last ten years.
The first that I planted were purchased in 1842. As soon as they came into bearing, I was so pleased with the fruit as to order more. Finding them to do well, I have planted more or less every year since, budding and grafting from them as my leisure would allow, and selling thousands just as received from New Jersey.
My trees have not failed to bear every year since they became old enough, although in some very unfavorable seasons the crop has not been large. But Columbia is so happily adapted to the production of peaches, that we rarely ever miss a crop - most generally having so many as to break down the trees, and diminish the size of the fruit. In this respect I see no difference between my northern and native trees.
Last year, notwithstanding repeated thinnings, my northern and other trees nearly all broke with fruit, after having borne an abundant crop the year before; and yet this spring they were overloaded again, till the very severe weather of the 19th and 20th ult. thinned some of them out rather too much. Still there is a pretty fair crop left.
Those persons to whom I have sold trees generally make the same complaint, viz: that they bear not too few, but too many.
Since the appearance of Mr. HAr well's piece in the Horticulturist Last spring and this, I have paid particular attention to the flowering of my northern and native trees, without discovering any difference as to time, although they stand side by side. He says that in Mobile the peach trees from the north bloom about the first of April - some six weeks after those raised there. If they could be thus retarded here it would be their highest recommendation, for then the crop would not fail more than one year in twenty throughout the state - the late frosts here doing all the damage, and very seldom coming later than the 10th or 15th of April, which would correspond with the 1st in Mobile. My peaches when killed this year on the 19th of March, were about the size of a garden pea, having the remains of the flower wrapped around the fruit. They would have escaped of course, if they had not bloomed till the first or 15th of April.
If we could have any assurance that trees from the north would always arrive in good condition, there would be no necessity for propagating them here, except certain choice kinds, of which we have several not known or cultivated by their nurserymen; for many of their peaches, especially the earlier varieties, are unsurpassed in quality, while the immense quantities produced in some of the northern and middle states for sale has reduced their prices very low.
But there is the risk of having unhealthy trees sent, of their drying out from bad packing, or a long voyage, and still more of their freezing on the way. From these several causes many are lost every winter, and they are the only real objections to buying or planting northern trees. The foregoing remarks apply to peaches only.
As to pear, plum, and cherry trees, we are dependent for the present almost altogether on the north, there being no choice varieties among us but what have been brought from abroad. Of course they can be propagated here, but it requires time. Out of Columbia I know of no one engaged in raising them for sale in -the state. EDWIN J. Scott.