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.
It was at this period, beyond a doubt, that the Quince stocks suffered. Standing first in water, then in ice which bound them with its iron grasp to full six inches below the ground level, with not a flake of snow on the ground, the wind blowing a hurricane, and the thermometer eight or ten degrees, or more, below zero, - was not this a trial for a tree which is not a native of the frozen zone ? The cold, intense as it was, would not have inflicted the least injury, had it not been accompanied with a boisterous wind. Of this we are perfectly satisfied: because trees standing in low, sheltered places, escaped completely; while on all high ground, knolls, etc, the destruction was very great In our home grounds, which are sheltered by a high, abrupt eminence on the west side, not a tree of any age, among many thousand Pears on Quince, was injured in the slightest degree; while on a distant part of the nursery, fully exposed, all the Quince stocks on the high ground suffered, and all on the low ground escaped. A very slight inclination from the wind quarter acted as a safeguard.
Several cultivators, observing that the trees suffered on the highest ground, imagined that it was the dryness of the ground that led to the injury; but this was a misapprehension, for trees in the dryest grounds we have, but sheltered, escaped wholly. Others thought that some varieties were more generally injured than others; but our observations induce us to believe that the injury was in proportion to the exposure, and to the proportion of the Quince stock that stood in the water when the freezing commenced. The part above the water and ice line, was, we believe, safe in all cases. In heavy clay ground, so compact as to shed the water off its surface, instead of imbibing it, as light sandy ground did, the trees escaped with less injury.
The Quince fortunately possesses one property which greatly diminished the aggregate of the loss, and that is, its tenacity of life. In many cases where the roots were completely browned, as though they had been exposed to the air for six months, and the trees to all outward appearance worthless as so many pea-sticks, new roots were emitted through the dead outer bark of the old ones, and the trees grew well, - in many cases where the stocks were stout and vigorous, surprisingly well. It was some days after we commenced digging and packing in the spring, before we discovered that any roots were effected, and then our attention was drawn to it by a neighbor who had accidentally made the discovery. We had then sent away some of the most seriously damaged trees. One lot was sent to a gentleman some sixty miles west of Rochester, and he wrote us back that they were all dead. We sent him others, and desired him to send back the dead ones, which he did. They did look bad, certainly; but under the blackened outside bark we found the roots generally sound, and thought we would give them a chance for their lives.
So we planted them with many others in the same condition, and we do not believe that five trees out of the hundred died; and they have, notwithstanding the past very dry summer, made a good growth. This result has been experienced by other cultivators in various localities; and we think that if all damaged trees had been taken up, pruned, and replanted, they would have been saved: or even if they had been pruned - that is, if the tops had been reduced to lessen the demand of leaves upon the weakened roots - that they might have been all saved. This, however, was not thought of by many; and the tops being left entire while' the roots were in a great measure destroyed, the tree was unable to sustain itself until new roots were formed; and as soon as growth commenced, and warm weather set in, the trees perished.
This misfortune, like most others of a like nature, has taught us something which we trust will not be allowed to pass unheeded:
First, The importance of shelter, which we have heretofore urged strongly through the pages of this journal. Every day's experience strengthens our conviction that, in this country, it is one of those requisites which should receive the earliest attention of every cultivator, and which can not be overlooked with impunity. In the case of last winter's destruction to the Quince, we have seen that in most localities it proved a perfect safeguard.
Second, We have tested the advantage of mulching, or protecting the roots of trees against the effects of intense cold accompanied by a driving wind where snow seldom lies long. If in the worst places the roots of the Quince had been covered with three or four inches deep of mulching, decayed leaves, manure, sawdust, tan, or anything that would have excluded the wind, all would have been safe. We found that, where the young trees in the nursery rows were well banked up with earth from the plow, so that all the stock was covered two or three inches deeper than usual, they escaped. We therefore advise mulching all dwarf Pears, and especially all those in exposed situations, before winter sets fully in; and we should do this even if assured that we should never have so severe a winter as last. The roots of the Quince are spread out near the surface - not running down deeply, like those of the Pear. We found that all Quince roots below a certain depth were safe last winter.
Third, If trees do suffer from some cause that can not be averted, we must not fold our arms in despair and see them die; but, on the first symptom of injury, search out the seat of ailment, and apply a remedy. We have shown that some little precaution might have saved thousands of trees that were allowed to perish without a helping hand being extended. If a horse is taken sick, or meets with an accident, we do not let him die without making an effort to save him, and then cry out we shall have no more horses.
Much attention has been given of late years to the cultivation of the pear on the quince stock, and in relation to which I have been requested to give the results of my experience. As a general rule, no tree will succeed for any great length of time where it is grafted on any other than its own species. There are, however, exceptions to this rule, and among them, some varieties of the pear, which grow vigorously, bear abundantly, and which seem to be even better adapted to the quince, than to their own root.
An impression has extensively prevailed unfavorable to the cultivation of the pear on the quince. This has arisen principally from an improper selection of kinds, or from injudicious cultivation. There are, however, three considerations which are absolutely necessary to success, viz., a deep, rich soil, - the planting of the quince stock entirely below the surface of the ground, - and a systematic and scientific course of pruning, as the tree progresses in growth.
Objections to this species of cultivation have been made from the belief that the quince was a short-lived tree, and that the crop must necessarily be small from what are termed dwarf trees. Such, however, has not been my experience. On the contrary, I have pear trees on the quince root which are twenty-five years old, and which produce annually a barrel or more of fruit each, and for aught that I can see, they are destined to survive as long as any that I posscss on the pear root. These may, and probably have in some instances, thrown out roots from the pear stock, but whether this be so, or not, instances are not rare where such trees bare attained in France the age of more than a hundred years, and wo know of a quince tree in Massachusetts which is 40 years old, and which has produced 10 bushels of fruit in a season.
The pear, when grown on the quince, should always be trained in the pyramidal form. These may be planted in much closer order than when grown as standards. We have known them to succeed well where grown at the distance of 6 feet apart in the rows and 12 feet between the rows. In this way Mr. Rivers, the great English cultivator, planted 2500 Louise Bonne de Jerseys and 1500 Glout Morceaus for the London market. We consider 12 feet apart, each way. a liberal distance. This would give 302 trees to the acre, and we are clearly of the opinion, that soil and selection of varieties being right, no crop whatever would be more profitable. Such a plantation, with proper care would yield, in the fifth year, from 75 to 100 bushels of fine fruit. As to profit, this will not appear as an exaggeration, when It is known that Glout Morceau pears, a variety which succeeds admirably on the quince, have sold during the winter readily at one to two dollars per dozen, in our market.
We name as varieties which succeed well on the quince the following, and to which might be added many more:
Louise Bonne de Jersey. Vicar of Winkfield. Dachess d'Angouleme. Glout Morceau. Pease Colmar. Vrbsaiate.
Belle et Bonne. Beurre d'Anjou. Beurre Diel. Easier Beurre. Beurre d'Amaulia.
A year or two since we gave the readers of the Horticulturist some items of our experience in growing the Pear on the Quince. Since then some "deadly foe" to this system of Pear growing has given your readers his opinion of the fallacy of this method of cultivation, and has referred to Pittsfield, an adjoining town, as one place where dwarfs have failed. How many such failures there may have been in that town we do not know, nor arc we informed of any particular cause of these failures. Yet if the people of Pittsfield tell us the truth, they have not given up, though vanquished; for several reliable citizens have informed us, within the last six months, that they had Pears on Quince stock in cultivation, and were sanguine of success.
But let the failures or successes of Pittsfield and all the world beside be what they may, our own success, so far, is a fact that can not be controverted, for our trees have done well the past season, both in growth and productiveness, and they now stand as firmly rooted to the soil as any standards of the same age. This is provable by large numbers who saw and admired them when in fruit, and wondered how so small trees could bear so much, and wished I would send where I got those trees and get them some. Such is the condition of our dwarf pear-trees now: the future must develop itself.
Yet we can not recommend the cultivation of all kinds of Pears in this way. There arc, consequently, some exceptions. We name, however, a few of the varieties that, so far, do well and promise well with us.