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.
There is probably no subject that has engaged the attention of the staid citizens of the middle and western part of our Union, during the past decade, more than orcharding and gardening,and that too with a business-like discriminating judgment, taking advantage of the present progress of the arts and sciences, and calling to her aid these accessory auxiliaries so far as they have a bearing upon this subject.
A peculiar feature in the character of the American, (and indeed the immigrant soon feels the inductive spirit,) is to possess a homestead, whether it may be a town or village lot, or larger plot, to " farm."It must be his; the fee simple is necessary to his comfort and happiness. Hence it is, that in no other country are there so many owners of the soil, and nowhere so few landlords. Herein lies largely the stability of our institutions and the patriotism of our people. The sacredness of these consecrated spots make men jealous of their prerogative, and ardent defenders of them in time of external strife; "Those shocks of eorn," said Xenophon, " inspire those who raise them with courage to defend them".
The spot possessed - the orchard and garden soon take form. The busy housewife, by hook or crook, has her roses and other posies scattered hither and thither in tasteful plats, while the manor lord may not so easily, but yet surely plant his fruit grounds. But at the onset lies a difficulty - with what varieties? In tillage, in composting, and in drain ing the wide spread experience of the past, through the press, has become bis; but, in the selection of his fruit, he finds confusion worse confounded - the immensity in the catalogues bewilder his conceptions, and he applies to a friend to aid him in his dilemma. His list reads: apples, Baldwin, Esopus Spitzenberg, Rhode Island Greening, etc. An Ohio cousin, at this juncture drops in, and expresses the greatest consternation at the mistaken selection. "Why," says he, "I and my neighbors have tried these fruits and condemned them long since. Tour Baldwins and Spitzenbergs go off with the dry and bitter rot, and my neighbor, Mr. Springer, has twenty trees of the Rhode Island Greening, twenty years old, which he says are not worth twenty cents! You had better take the Cooper, Belmot, and Yellow Belleflower."Hum!! how doctors disagree; our neighbor on the Island says the Cooper is "corn fed," and would not have it within fifty miles of his farm - and as to the Belmont and Yellow Belleflower, they will not ripen in western New- York;" Thus it is we find that all fruits are more or lets local in their qualities.
The next in Hit list come pears. Ah! Pears. What a vision conies over us in the category here presented. The Belgian, the French, and the German, and a host of other foreign Bonekretians, besides no small number of natives meet us at the onset, to pussleand perplex the novice in these latter days. Who does not revert with peculiar gusto to his luscious fill m boyhood days, of fox-grapes and sugar pears, aye, and will not soon forget it. Your correspondents have lately been sparring over the " Orange Bergamot." How strangely whimsical are opinions at different periods of men's lives. Sarly associations, boyhood tastes, and even contingent circumstances, all conspire to form and fix opinion - I will not say judgment, in more things than years.
Here I must tell a story, in point, too good to be lost; it occurred some ten or dozen years ago, when the dwarf and standard Beurres of the present day, had not got thus far in the west. A farmer desired to plant a collection of pears, having occasionally tasted this fruit in older towns, but without a knowledge of their names, and applied to his neighbor the nurseryman for his best trees and advice. "Why, yes sir," he replies, "you Want a dozen of my Orange Bergamot, there is no other pear worth cultivating." " Well, I will get my ground prepared and call for them." Half a dozen years slipped by before this was accomplished, when the farmer again calls upon the nurseryman for has dosen Orange Bergamot. But lo! the spirit of the age has been moving, the " Hor-fiadtwrist" had dawned, the orb of pomonal lore had risen higher in the scale of intelligence, and the Orange Bergamot was an out-cast from that nursery. To contend with the worthy Ool. and recapitulate his former opinions, his marked enthusiasm for its fame and luscious qualities, was to no purpose, - that pear could not be got there!!
Co-existent with the horticultural press, and the pomological works which have in rapid succession appeared, horticultural societies have sprung into active existence, in nearly every well organised community; and to these associations mainly, may the electric changes in the astonishing increase of fruit grounds, and the enthusiasm evidenced in flora sstlture, be attributed. These exhibitions are in fact schools, where all may see and learn tint mysteries and practices of the art. Here taste is formed, and instructive, free discussions and comparisons are made by every member; points of excellence or faults in fruits, flower*, or vegetables, are shown; and he who runs may read, and although, occasionally, some one may be disposed to apply to himself his neighbor's thunder, and detail it through the press as his own fulmination, yet the error is of that pacific nature that no moral harm is done, while the masses may be benefitted.
A novel feature, as adopted by our Buffalo Horticultural Society, I beg leave to mention for the benefit of other kindred societies. During the winter season - that is, between the autumnal and the following spring exhibition, and while the orchard and garden are enjoying that repose which nature demands as a restorer of exhausted fruitfulness, our society meets semi-monthly at the residence of a member, adjourning from one to another, as then agreed upon - assembling at 4 P. M., and partaking of a collation during the evening. Fruits in their season, are contributed by the members generally, which are cut and fully discussed, as also the experience and practice of the grower. The subjects of debate are, of course, these only pertaining to the objects of the society, and it is remarkable how quickly the novice becomes enlisted in the subject, and is forthwith posted up on the our* rent pomonal literature of the day. Among these gentlemen communers, may be found our friend of the apple dilemma, as also he of the Orange Bergamot experience, neither of whom any longer entertain a doubt as to fit selections for their grounds, or their co-relative merits.
These meetings are always full of interest, entertainment, and instruction; and although often not exceeding, perhaps, a score of members at each, rural art and rnr ral labor, receive an impulse that is quckening, and ever onward. And neither are its beneficial effects confined to narrow limits, for whatever tends to beautify home, or to create by growth a nutritious and healthful fruit or vegetable, is indeed a national blessing. Would that these pacific and domestic associations should more often take the place of political caucuses, and local municipal wranglings.
At the organization of our Society, in '45, there was but one other similar association, (the Aurora,) in this state. Horticulture proper, was confined to the banks of the Hudson, and the neighborhood of New York city. Fruits in Western New-York, there certainly were, but who could find them? The markets possessed them not, and neither were they aught but common varieties, at best. Yet these stocks have been, rendered available. The admirable climate for fruit growth throughout this section of country, has induced the most energetic efforts. Old trees have been headed-in and engrafted anew, and within the influences of this society alone, tens of thousands of trees have been planted, which are now more or less in bearing. An immediate neighbor has marketed his annual crop of seven hundred barrels of Baldwins - and another a like quantity of Roxbury Russets; these, with numberless orchards scattered around us, have their thousands of pears and peaches, under the best systems of culture.
While these astonishing facts are being annually augmented in our midst, there are those among the more recent planters, who indulge the lacrymose vein for future results. Nevertheless, it is a well settled axiom, founded upon the experience of the past, that choice and well grown fruits, however greatly they may be multiplied, have never yet produced a cessation in the demand for them.
Western New York is doubtless destined to be the great focus of fruit culture. The facilities for transportation in every direction, by railroad, lakes and canals, will enable the orchardist to dispose of his surplus at remunerating profits - while thousands of barrels of our fruit are annually sent to New-York, and then shipped to southern ports - the West Indies, and even to England and France. There are thousands, also, that thread our lakes for the great west. Even Ohio buys our apples, considering them superior to her own, and will gladly take our pears and plums also.
He who plants a tree, improves his estate, while he who plants a thousand, judiciously selected, and systematically taken care of, provides an inheritance having the four-fold benefits of riches, honors, patriotism, and happiness. Yours truly, W. R. COPPOCK
Long -Sight Place, Buffalo, April 15,1652.