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.
Dr. W. D. Brinkle, Pa.; F. R. Elliott, Ohio; E. Tatnell, Jr., Del.; Thomas Hancock, N. J.; Benjamin Hodge, N. Y., and H. P. By ram, of Kentucky.
Changes of opinion have also taken place in regard to the acquisition of new sorts of fruits. Formerly we looked to other countries; now we rely, more especially, on our own seedlings for the best results. When we reflect upon the great number of new varieties which have, in our time, been raised from seed, and the progress which has thereby been made, no apology need be offered for repeating what has been said in former addresses, in commendation of this branch of pomology. It was my first, so it shall be my continual and last advice: "Plant the most mature and perfect seed of the most hardy, vigorous, and valuable varieties, and, as a shorter process, ensuring more certain and happy results, cross and hybridize your best fruits".
What wonders this art has already accomplished in the production of new and improved varieties in the vegetable kingdom! How much it has done for the potato, the turnip, and other vegetables, producing, from a parent stock of inferior grade, numbers varieties of great excellence I How it has brought forth from the hard, acrid, and foxy grape of the woods, the delicious varieties that are now obtaining notoriety and extension; from the bitter almond, the luscious peach and nectarine; from the austere button pear of the forest, the splendid varieties that command our admiration; from the sour crab, the magnificent apples which now constitute the dessert of our tables; from the wild raspberry and blackberry of the hedge, from the native strawberries of the pasture, those superb varieties which crown the table at our exhibitions. We believe it is now admitted, that our native varieties are more hardy, vigorous, productive, and free from disease than most foreign sorts. Thus, we have seedling gooseberries free from mildew, and pears that never crack.
Why can we not breed out the black wart from the plum? It has been suggested, by a gentleman of great knowledge, that, by taking the common wild plum, the Prunus Americana, of which there are several varieties, varying in color, size, and flavor, we may produce kinds not subject to disease, if judiciously crossed with our best garden sorts; or, if bred between themselves, we might, perhaps, add new varieties to our species of cultivated plums, which would be healthy, productive, and delicious. This suggestion is certainly worthy of consideration and experiment.
Let not this recommendation, however, in regard to cross-fertilization, discourage the sowing of other seeds, because they have not been artificially impregnated by the hand of man, for they may have been fertilized by the wind, or insects conveying the pollen of one variety to the style of another. In this way have been produced most of the superior sorts of American fruits. How extensive and inviting is the field here opened even to the most common fruit-grower, who, practising upon this principle through a series of years, can hardly fail to produce some good fruits, although he may not be acquainted with the higher and more delicate process of artificial impregnation. But infinitely superior and more promising is the sphere of enterprise which opens before the scientific pomologist It is broad as the earth, free as the air, rich as the land of promise. In his hands are placed the means of continual progress without the numerous uncertainties which must ever attend accidental fertilization. He has the sure guide of science, which never misleads her votaries, but elevates them from one degree of excellence to another towards absolute perfection. By these processes, new varieties are multiplying with unparalleled rapidity throughout our country.
We rejoice in the intense zeal which has been awakened in this pursuit. It augurs well for the future, whether prompted by the desire either of fortune or of fame. But the spirit of adventure, thus awakened, needs occasionally a little wholesome discipline, lest it foster an undue reliance on immature experience, and tend to quackery, imposition, and fraud. While we refrain from all personal reflections, we can not forbear exhorting all, and espectally the officers and members of this association, to increased vigilance and caution in the recommendation of novelties, until they have been thoroughly tested by competent judges. As it is human to err, so it is natural to be partial to one's own offspring and friends, and this partiality often sways the judgment of honest and good men.
But a more common and serious difficulty under which we labor, is the promulgation of seedlings by individuals and associations that have not the information requisite to form an intelligent, and, therefore, reliable judgment Another evil which increases with the mania for what is new and rare, is the exposure for sale, by flaming advertisements and speculating agents, of old varieties under new and specious names, varieties which, like Jonah's gourd, were known in their day and place, but have long been consigned to oblivion.
As in the past, so in the present and in the future, let it be our purpose and practice to reject those that are worthless, to withhold our approbation from those that are doubtful, and to encourage the multiplication of those only, which are of decided and acknowledged worth. Thus shall we elevate the standard of judgment, and fulfil the mission providentially assigned us. We might enlarge on this and other topics, but the brief period which it is proper for me to occupy in this opening address, restricts me to one or two other considerations.