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.
Here the peach does best budded or grafted on its own roots. Plana stocks they would soon overgrow and break off, while probably they would be no more safe from the borer. We can begin our budding in June, on seedlings planted the previous fall, and as soon as the bud starts, the top being headed down, if on good healthy stocks, they are frequently quite large enough to transplant the ensuing winter, or in a twelve-month from the time the seed was planted. Budding may be continued through the season, until about the middle of October, but early budding*is most practiced.
We find it better in budding to leave attached to the bud not only the leaf stalk, but a small portion, say about half an inch, of the lower part of the leaf itself, as it is found that this attracts the sap, and the budding is more likely to be successful. But if we wish to keep the scion a day or two before use, we remove all but the foot stalk.* Peaches are not often grafted with you. Here fine trees are raised by cleft grafting in the root during the winter. They may be planted out where they are to stand, and if well cultivated will make a fine growth the ensuing summer.
Communications appeared some time since in the Horticulturist, from Mr. Whitfield and Mr. Harwell, the tendency of which was to create doubt whether the peach tree from the north is not, from its period of blooming, unsuited to a southern climate. In fact there exists here a prejudice against all imported fruit trees, arising from the general want of success with the northern winter apples, which, if it was confined to the latter, it would not be worth while to combat, as a large amount of money has been expended upon them with no other benefit to the country than to establish the fact of their general want of adaptation to this climate. But to tell us that the pear or peach from the same source is unsuited to this section, is sheer nonsense, for trees planted here in 1836, and almost every season since, are living witnesses that it is not true.
Since Mr. Harwell's communication was published, two blossoming seasons have passed. There seems to be here a slight but observable difference in the time of inflorescence between the native and foreign varieties, still the latest blooming native peaches continue in flower until the earliest imported ones come into blossom. But upon the whole the native varieties are about a week earlier than the others, in blossoming. The first peach blossoms that appear are usually natives in their first season of flowering, which are generally in full bloom before full grown trees in the same aspect show a single opened blossom. Probably these young trees, not throwing their roots so deeply into the earth, the soil about them becomes sufficiently warm to quicken circulation and bring on inflorescence, while full aged trees throw their roots more deeply in the underlying soil, still cold, are not so easily affected by atmospheric temperature. Or perhaps the constitution of the young tree may be more susceptible to excitement from the spring warmth.
In ordinary seasons here, this difference in the time of blossoming between native and foreign varieties is not of much practical importance. Both were cut off in 1849 by the same frost, unless where protected by buildings adjacent, or some accident of site or exposure. But it might happen if both were equally hardy, that the later period of flowering would give us a crop of the northern peaches, when the others being more folly in blossom were cut off. But practically this is of very little consequence, as both blossom early enough to produce a good crop, except in case of frost, when, as a general rule, we find the high flavored budded peaches, whether native or not, are more tender and easily affected than our common seedlings. The latter were almost the only ones hardy enough to withstand uninjured the frost of last spring.
In endeavoring to establish the opinion that the south must look to her native fruits to fill her peach orchards, would it not be well to limit the boundaries where this becomes a necessity to those sections of country lying upon the gulf of Mexico and its tributaries. It is from that quarter chiefly that we hear of the ill adaptation of northern peaches. Here no such difficulty is experienced, and it would be folly to give up George IV, Early York, etc., to fall back upon the hog peaches, or even the best natives we could get, until a list equal to those rejected could be obtained. It is true that there are some few peaches, native here, nearly or quite equal to the best imported. But the peaches required to make a collection equal to that offered by almost any nurseryman, are scattered from Virginia to Texas, and when gathered at great expense, it is doubtful whether they would be found hardier or better in any respect than those we have. One of our earliest peaches is a native. The best that ripen with us after the middle September are natives, and are just merely good peaces, but our best varieties ripen in June, July, and August, and are generally imported varieties.
About twenty five varieties will give an abundant succession from the 20th of June until the 1st of November, and the whole collection, freight and all, (except budding five or six natives) will hardly cost five dollars. Now, to gather a collection as valuable, how much money would be required, how much travel in the peach season, how many trees would have to be planted, budded, fruited and thrown away as worthless?
Who would reject the Grosse Mignonne from his list, because it did not happen to originate here. A native of France, it is in England the best peach grown, and here the only peach approaching it in flavor is George IV, a northern variety.
These notes will be concluded in another number, giving the names of the peaches here cultivated, their quality and time of ripening here, and with select lists for cultivation.
Very respectfully yours, Wm. N. Whitk.
Athens, Ga., October 29th. 1852.
"This fruit seems to be indigenous to the soil, as it is everywhere found in abundance, and of most vigorous growth. Except the borer, the tree is free from insects, or any disease whatever. The former can be easily guarded against, by hilling up the trees with earth early in the spring, leaving this cone undisturbed until November, then leveling off again, and repeating this operation yearly. The hard bark of the trunk of the tree prevents the insect from puncturing it and depositing its eggs. Orchards thus treated have been free from borers for years past. The curculio has, however, of late been very destructive to our fruit. Heretofore, it only attacked the nectarines and some peaches of very delicate skin; but the past year, no variety, however downy, was free from its depredations.
"The Yellows are unknown here, and it is a remarkable fact that a contaminated tree brought from the North regains its vigor as soon as transplanted here. Immense quantities of peaches are raised for distilling and drying, and the supply of New York market. This latter feature of peach-raising has again been revived, and from present appearances bids fair to become an important and lucrative business along the main railroad lines, and especially in the lower portion of the State. Peaches grown in this section can be laid down in New York seventy hours after being gathered, and will net a handsome profit to the cultivator. For this special purpose, early varieties alone are advisable to plant; so that the bulk of the crop is sent off before Delaware and Maryland fruit is ready for market. The best varieties for shipping are Early Tillotson, Large Early York, Early and Late Crawford, Stump the World, and Columbia. Hale's Early bids fair to be the most profitable kind, but has not been sufficiently fruited to enable me to give a decided opinion as to its shipping qualities. We have early Southern varieties vastly superior in quality to most of the above, but they are too tender in texture to stand carriage. Clingstones are unfit to carry to distant markets.
They can only be appreciated to their full extent when picked from the tree fully ripe. The country abounds with seedling peaches, the bulk of which is inferior; but as there are several types of peaches which reproduce almost identically by seed, there are large orchards of seedlings, every tree being nearly alike and of good quality. Such are the Indian, Lemon Cling, Heath types, etc.
"Of the Indian types there are many varieties ; some are yellow freestones, like the Columbia; others, blood-red clingstones or white clingstones; all, however, have the peculiar brown red stripes upon the fruit, which characterize the type. This type is much esteemed, as it seldom produces an inferior peach, and, strange to say, it seldom hybridizes with other varieties. The Lemon Cling type seldom varies by seeds; it never produces a freestone, but ranges from pure white to dark orange flesh; and this is always red at the stone. The Heath type, known here as White English, is very popular; its varieties are numerous, but all have a family resemblance, and are white to the stone. In general, all the clingstone species, whose flesh is white through, are sweet; and those being red near the stone, subacid, or even acid. For distilling, the clingstones are preferable, as they yield more juice than the freestones. Three bushels of good clingstones will yield, on an average, one gallon of proof brandy, whereas the bulk of freestones will not yield over one half that quantity.
"The peach will produce the second year from the seed, and when properly cared for, will live twenty-five to thirty years. The great fault with most cultivators is, that they allow the trees to overbear upon the extremities of the branches, the weight of the fruit causing these to split and break off. Annual shortening-in is of the utmost necessity, and unless this is attended to, the peach-tree will soon decay. Spring frosts are often very destructive. As a preventive, it is the custom to build fires in the orchards, so as to create a dense smoke. By this means many crops are saved. The season of maturity begins June 10th to June 15th, and some late varieties keep until the 10th of November, a period of nearly five months".