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.
I PROMISED to send you some pear notes, from observations made during the last two years. In a paper, read before the Pennsylvania Fruit Growers' Society, two years ago, and published, I believe, in The Horticulturist, I gave my expe-rience with pears at considerable length. Since that time, I have not had occasion to modify, to any great extent, the views therein expressed, except in so far as the tendency to blight, which I have discovered in some varieties have materially lowered their value; and others, found comparatively exempt, have been correspondingly raised, in my estimation. Last year's experience, however, with pears, was so peculiar as to be worthy of particular notice. The extremes of weather, which prevailed during a great part of the year, having, in some way, had a remarkable effect on the pear crop, as well as on all other fruits. One thing most noticeable was, that many old sorts, long since condemned because of their liability to crack, were last year as fair and fine as could possibly be, not the least tendency to crack showing itself in any variety; even White Doyenne was perfect and fair as could be desired, and Glout Morceau, which has seldom before been good for anything here, from its disposition to crack, and other defects, was last year, about the finest and best crop of any in my grounds, among some five hundred varieties I had fruiting.
Easter Beurre, also, which for some years has been utterly worthless, from a-peculiar fungoid affection,, was all right last year. These, and many other similar cases that might be mentioned, are such remarkable exceptions to the general rule, as to awaken a most interesting inquiry as to what peculiarity in the season could have produced such wonderful effects. Why was it that varieties of pears that have been uniformly cracked, or otherwise so defective as to be good for nothing for many years, were last year entirely free from defects of any kind, and as fine as could be desired? I do not feel qualified to throw any light on this question, but it is one certainly well worthy of investiga*. tion, for its solution could not fail to throw light upon 'some of the most embarrassing questions connected with pear culture. The extraordinary healthiness and abundance of other tree fruits last year could be, in great measure, ascribed to the comparative scarcity of curculio, and other fruit-depredating insects, but no insect (at least none that is apparent) has anything to do with these pear diseases.
Whatever may have been the cause of this remarkable exemption from disease alluded to, it is not likely that it will be anything but temporary, and it would not be safe, as yet at least, to count on any permanent improvement in these varieties.
Though the season, last year, was such a remarkably healthy one for fruit products, it was not so for the trees. Owing to the extreme drouth, the growth of wood was poor, and blight prevailed to a much greater extent than I have ever known; in fact, with the exception of a few cases the previous year, I have never before noticed it in my grounds, without it may have been in a few instances which were ascribed to other causes. From many circumstances that have come under my notice, I am induced to believe that the generally accepted theory of Downing, that this disease is caused by the freezing of the sap in the unripened wood in the fall, can hardly be correct. If it were not for encountering the weight of such high authority, I should be inclined to ascribe it to the effect of the intense heat of the sun in extremely hot days. I noticed in particular, last summer, after every hot spell, some of my trees were blighted, which before showed no signs of disease, and this continued until the last of the very hot weather, in September. It has occurred to me that " fire blight" may be nothing more than the burning or drying up of the wood from the immense evaporation going on from the foliage and all parts of the tree, under the intense heat of an unusually hot summer's sun-one of those days, for instance, when fruit lying on the ground, exposed to the sun, becomes baked, and tomatoes cooked on the vines.
A number of such days we had last summer, and I always noticed, immediately after their occurrence, fresh victims of blight. The extreme drouth that prevailed in this neighborhood, nearly all the summer, would seem to favor this theory, for the drier the ground, the less chance a tree would have to obtain a sufficient quantity of moisture by its roots to supply the tremendous drain under the intense heat of such a sun.
Since I have been growing pears, we have never had a summer anything like as dry or as hot as last year was, and this is the first pear blight I have had of any consequence. Among many other incidents that led me to think that the disease could not have been in the trees from the previous autumn, I will just mention one: I planted a number of pear trees, received late in the spring from a northern nursery; all of these trees, of the kinds liable to blight, were more or less affected, in the localities on my grounds where blight prevailed, and in other localities were exempt. Now, how could that have happened, if the disease had been in the trees from the autumn previous, which, according to the Downing theory, it should have been? and, besides, I am certain, from having planted and pruned these trees with my own hands, they were entirely free from disease when planted. It may be asked why blight generally attacks certain portions and not others of the same grounds; this may be, that from some peculiarity in the soil, in those situations where blight prevails, the trees are not able to obtain as much moisture through their roots to supply the loss by evaporation, and consequently are unable to resist as great heat as those in more favored localities.
I noticed, also, that the trees that blighted worst were not generally those that had made the rankest or late fall growth, as should be the case, according to Downing; also, that the worst sufferers were some that had not been manured for several years, and had made but little growth. The above views are thrown out merely by way of suggestion, nothing more; I consider the question as yet unsettled. One thing, however, seems pretty certain, that whatever the cause may be, it is, in a great measure, if not entirely, beyond our control, and that the only remedy within our reach is to find out the varieties that are the most exempt from the malady, and to plant only these. Fortunately, I think it will not be difficult to obtain a list of such varieties, embracing as great a number of sorts as is desirable, and extending throughout the season. It must be remembered, however, that varieties good in one place are not always good in another, and here is where the trouble comes in, as every locality must find out for itself what sorts will do best for it.
I will, however, give, from the leading varieties, a list of those that I have found liable to blight, and also of those most exempt, which will probably be found to hold good generally:
Varieties, as blighting badly, I mention Madeleine, Dearborn's Seedling, Osband's Summer, Belle Lucrative, Louise Bonne de Jersey, Marie Louise, Beurre de Montgeron, Forelle, Urbaniste, Golden Beurre of Bilboa, Passe Colmar, Catillao, Glout Morceau, Vicar of Winkfield, Easter Beurre, and some others of lesser note. As not blighting at all, or very rarely, I would name Seekel, Lawrence, Duchesse d'An-gouleme, Beurre d'Anjou, Buffum, Manning's Elizabeth, Early Catherine, Kingsess-ing, Rutter, Doyenne Boussock, Kirtland, Beurre Clairgeau, Beurre Bose, Cashing, Dix, Ananas d'Ete, and many others not so generally known. There are also a number of valuable varieties that might be mentioned, liable somewhat to blight, but not enough to entirely condemn them, such as Howell, Bartlett, Doyenne d'Ete, Beurre Giffard, St. Michael Archange and Doyenne d'Alencon.