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.
This is the fourteenth year of our Association. Eight years have elapsed since the Society held its session in this city. Most sincerely do I congratulate yon upon the attendance at this meeting. But while I gratefully acknowledge this favor, I should be delinquent in duty did I not also allude to the absence of many others dear to us as co-laborers, and eminently useful as members of our institution. Some of the States, heretofore represented in this Association, are now engaged in a sanguinary struggle against the General Government; and as one among the many painful casualties of this most unnatural and fratricidal war, we are now deprived of the presence and co-operation of our Southern members. But we still hope for their return to us in allegiance and fraternal love, and for their reunion with us, leaving no sting in the heart of memory, no stain on the wing of time. Yes, even in this dreadful conflict, we will still cling to the hope that, like ourselves, they will stand firm by the principles of Constitutional Authority, and the American Union.
But we are not here to discuss the present state or future political prospects of our country, dear to us as life is dear, except as they are connected with the great objects of our Association, - objects powerfully contributing to individual happiness and national welfare. Our past success is a matter of sincere congratulation to all who live upon our soil. The errors and ignorance of former days are fast yielding to the progress of truth and the march of intelligence. We have the most gratifying evidence of the extension of pomological enterprise and knowledge.
* W. D. Brinckle, M. D., of New Jersey.
Our Society has already accomplished a great good in correcting the nomenclature and classification of fruits, in rejecting numerous worthless varieties from its Catalogue, and now, by a revision of the same, presenting a list of those adapted to the various local districts of our widely extended country. The advantages which will arise from this in the future, improved as it will be from year to year, can scarcely be too highly estimated. The Committee who have charge of this responsible and arduous duty, especially the Chairman, have labored with great diligence, and I have no doubt that their efforts will be highly appreciated by an enlightened and grateful community. In connection with this progress, I respectfully recommend that the Committee on Rejected Fruits be authorized to present, at the next biennial session, a list of such other varieties as, in their opinion, may be dispensed with. I would also suggest the propriety of establishing some permanent Rules of Pomology, especially in reference to the naming of seedling or other new varieties which may from time to time come to notice.
The consumption of fruits has become so common as to constitute one of the most important articles of daily food. The loss of a crop is now deemed as a great public calamity; its abundance as one of the greatest blessings, adding immeasurably to social health and comfort, and to the wealth and commerce of the country.
It becomes, therefore, my duty to record in the Volumes of our Transactions a remarkable fact, which has occurred since our last session, namely, the general failure of the fruit crop for the year 1861. In history, this, as a great national calamity, will be associated with the civil commotion that at the same time convulsed the whole land. What causes, if any, may have produced this remarkable coincidence between the vegetable and the civil kingdoms, we may not be able to discover. Manifestly, "time was out of joint;" both heaven and earth seemed to frown upon our happy land. In regard to our fruits, a kind Providence has brought about a renovation and restoration, which makes the present year as remarkable for excellence and abundance, as the former year was for the injury and loss of the crop. Oh ! that this golden harvest in the natural kingdom may prove the harbinger of a more glorious one of peace and prosperity to our bleeding country.
The causes of the singular phenomena, and the loss of the fruit crop of 1861, have been variously described. Disasters of similar character, though not generally so severe, have occurred in the vegetable world in past time, and in different locations and latitudes. Cycles, of favorable and unfavorable seasons, have checkered the history of Pomology, and made occasional mutation almost as certain as success. It is well, therefore, to note carefully the facts connected with these great revulsions, and to report them for future guidance and instruction. Especially, in a National Association like our own, should these he recorded for the benefit of generations which are to follow us. Thus shall we treasure up lessons of the past, and gain wisdom for the future.
Vicissitudes attend the cultivation of trees as well as other vegetable products. In regard to the one under consideration, we may mention the fact, that so general was the injury throughout a large part of our country, there was but little fruit in the year 1861. The previous autumn had been marked with an early and very severe frost. On the morning of October 1, 1860, the mercury fell in the vicinity of Boston to twenty four degrees Fahrenheit, causing the apples and other fruits to freeze on the trees, and, in some instances, to burst open. This was the most severe of any on record, so early in the autumn. Again, on the morning of February 8,1861, the mercury fell in several places around Boston to twenty-five degrees below zero, a degree never before recorded at this season. The previous day had been mild and pleasant. Again, early in the month of March, the fluctuations of the mercury were equally astonishing. The third day was warm and delightful; the thermometer at Dorchester, four miles from this city, stood at seventy-five degrees at two o'clock, p. m., and at eight o'clock at sixty-five degrees; and although no very severe cold succeeded immediately, yet on the morning of the 18th inst, the glass stood at zero.
These extremes of temperature were most unusual and unnatural, and not only destroyed the crop of fruit, but injured many trees past recovery, especially peaches, plums, and cherries. These vicissitudes serve to illustrate the comparative vigor, hardiness, and power of endurance in some varieties of the same species, and develop different degrees of susceptibility in others, and thus furnish most useful information to the cultivator.
From this experience we deduct the fact, that some varieties of the pear are even more hardy than the apple, a fact which a little reflection will contain. Thus among the few pear trees which here bore abundantly in 1861, were the Vicar of Winkfield, Louise Bonne de Jersey, Urbaniste, and Belle Lucrative, while the apple, and most other varieties of the pear, failed of a crop. With me, during the last thirty years, the apple has many times failed, while these varieties of the pear have produced fruit annually.
Whether the cause of the revulsion just noted was the frost of October, 1860, destroying as it did the germ of some of the flower buds of trees and shrubs, or whether the sudden alternations of heat and cold in the winter and spring of 1861 produced this result, or whether, as seems more probable, it is to be ascribed to these two causes combined, we cannot with certainty decide. If there were some localities in which this injury was less, it is not unlikely that circumstances which affected one region might not be so active in another. The effect of a bright sun, or of keen, dry piercing winds, immediately succeeding the frost, would intensify the damage; and, on the contrary, a cloudy sky and humid atmosphere would modify and ameliorate it But my object is not to discuss at length this subject, but only to record the facts in our National Annals, for the information of physiologists in our own and other lands, whose professional business is to observe these freaks of nature, and to give us their philosophy in the case.
Upon the observation and study of these and similar facts the progress of Pomology eminently depends. The different ability of varieties to resist heat and cold and other meteorological agents, reveals a most wonderful analogy between the vegetable and animal kingdoms; for while certain animals find their natural home in the frigid zones, others in the temperate, and still others in the torrid, there are some that are cosmopolites. So with our fruits; some are suited to one location, some to another, and a very few flourish in a great variety of latitudes.
But as to the means of protecting our fruits from these injuries, we need more knowledge. Experience teaches us, however, that shelter and aspect have a powerful influence, especially on certain varieties.
As to aspect, I am more and more convinced of its importance. The Belgians, in their descriptive Catalogues are accustomed to designate the aspect most favorable to each sort; and when we shall be able to do the same, we shall have attained a result most eminently desirable.
In regard to shelter, here in the North, so as to protect our trees from currents of fierce drying winds, which are as equally injurious to vegetation as a parching heat, no one can doubt its beneficial effect. The influence of shelter and aspect is more perceptible in some varieties than others. This is seen in the fact that certain kinds are healthy and beautiful on fences or in sheltered places, while they are worthless elsewhere.
These considerations all teach us the vast range of our science, the great number of secondary causes that modify results, and consequently the imperative demand for extensive research, for the accumulation of ripe experience, and for great patience and vigilance in the pomologist. How many sad mistakes are developed every year, by leaping from partial observations to general conclusions! Witness the frequent errors of cultivators. How often do they condemn the qualities of certain varieties before they have tested them at mature age. They cut off and graft their trees with other sorts, instead of waiting for nature to do her work in her own proper time.
Witness, again, the complaints against the hardiness of particular kinds, which have arisen from the fact that they had not passed the vascillations incident to youth, and attained a sufficient degree of age and solidification of tissue, in bark and wood. This may be seen in the numerous injuries sustained by young trees of luxuriant growth. They are subjected to the vicissitudes of climate, some years only recovering what they have lost in the preceding in health and vigor. But having overcome the trials of this early period, they rise above these enfeeb.