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.
In our article for July, we gave a list of those essential good qualities which are requisite to make up a first-rate strawberry. But it is to be regretted that we have no one variety in which all of those good qualities are combined; and in giving a descriptive list of a few popular kinds, we think it is important that their faults should be mentioned as well as their merits.
We are well aware of the fact that tastes differ, and what one person would call a defect another would call perfection. But there is one point upon which we all seem to agree, and that is, we are continually looking for something different from that which we possess; and it is to this continually longing for something better (with a willingness to pay for it) that we may look for the cause which has produced such wonderful results in the several departments of pomology.
Wilson's Albany, one of the most productive varieties known. It continues a long time in bearing, very hardy, dwarf habit; foliage dark, rich green; fruit large to very large, irregular, conical; color dark dull crimson; flesh firm, deep red to the centre, very acid, but if allowed to remain on the vines for two or three days after it colors it becomes mild and quite good. It is too acid to become a general favorite, and its dull dark color, after being picked a few hours, changes to a dark muddy maroon.
This, we believe, is the first, if not the only variety of foreign origin that has given any thing like general satisfaction. It is a magnificent variety in all its proportions, a strong grower, leaves large, bright pale green ; fruit stalks stout, and stand well up; hardy and productive; fruit very large, irregular; color deep bright crimson; seeds prominent; flesh firm, very sweet, colored to the centre; calyx adheres so firmly that the fruit is often damaged in parting it.
Its peculiar flavor is somewhat cloying; besides, it possesses scarcely a par-icle of that delightful aroma which evidently belongs especially to this class of.
A very hardy native variety, valuable for field culture, as it bears large crops even when it becomes very much crowded. Fruit stalks strong, leaves dark green, and of good substance; fruit large, conical, very regular in shape and even in size; color bright crimson; flesh firm and moderately sweet, with a rich strawberry aroma. The flesh is too light colored, and it is wanting in definiteness of flavor.
A very distinct and valuable variety. Lobes of the leaves very short and nearly round, their surface presenting a crimped appearance; dark green, of good substance, withstanding the summer sun exceedingly well. Fruit large, light crimson, firm, sweet, and rich flavor; moderately productive, and very hardy.
A well-known variety; much admired for its large size and beautiful appearance generally; but it is not very productive, and in heavy soils it is quite tender. It is valuable for forcing.
A beautiful large, light crimson variety, of excellent quality; rather soft for market purposes; said to be tender in some localities; with us it has been hardy and quite productive.
Very early; bright scarlet, cone, good quality, medium size; hardy and productive.
Large, dark crimson, quality best, hardy and moderately productive. If this variety proves to be sufficiently productive, it will certainly become very popular.
Wonderfully productive, fair size, and good color, but wanting in quality.
Very large, fair quality, too soft, acid, and usually hollow.
Beautiful large light colored berry; late and productive, but quite insipid.
Seedling of the Iowa; more prolific and larger, but no better in flavor.
A dark colored variety, of very rich quality, but neither large nor productive.
Medium size, dark crimson. For flavor we think this may be placed at the head of the list, but with us it is quite tender and very unproductive.
Very large, dark crimson, flesh firm, fine flavor, dwarf habit; a poor grower, and very unproductive. From the beautiful appearance of this plant, and the high recommendations which it had received, we expected much, but after a two years' trial under good care, we can not recommend it.
A large fine flavored berry, which promises to be very productive and fine. Not sufficiently tested.
Large, rich crimson; good grower. Promises well.
Very early, medium size, good flavor; a poor grower. The sun burns the foliage badly.
Although not as productive here as represented, still a fair bearer. Berry large, handsome, juicy, sweet, and high flavored. Will probably prove a popular variety.
A large irregular formed berry, dark colored, flesh firm, juicy, and high flavored; bears rather shyly.
Large, irregular formed berry, often coxcomb shape; firm flesh, high flavored, but a poor bearer.
A large berry, but much less in size than represented; flesh soft, acid, and deficient in flavor.
Bicton Pine, Deptford While, and Excelsior, have all proved to be the same with us, and none of them worth cultivating.
All the varieties that we have named are Hermaphrodite, or perfect flowering. As there has been but two pistillate varieties that we have ever cultivated (Hovey and McAvoy** Superior) worthy of a place in a choice collection, we think it is of doubtful propriety to encourage pistillates at the present time, when we have so many excellent kinds that do not necessitate the trouble of growing two varieties to get a crop of one.
[In Mr. Fuller's article on the "Sexes of Strawberries," the remarks that we had appended were omitted as a matter of convenience to the printer. It is a very interesting point in the discussion of the Strawberry, and another opportunity will soon be presented of bringing it forward. Mr. Fuller's descriptive list thus far, curiously enough, is composed entirely of Hermaphrodite varieties; he will, we suppose, put the Pistillates together in the same way. There is one point we wish to note here: Mr. Fuller seems to attach no little importance to the color of the flesh. If the other points are unexceptionable, we regard this as a matter of indifference: we consider it no objection at all to the Bartlett or any other Strawberry that its flesh is light colored. - Ed].
The Strawberry is one of those plants that will grow in almost any kind of soil, but it flourishes best in a deep, rich sandy loam, one that is always moist, but never wet. To supply it with an abundance of moisture, and have that equalized, never too wet nor too dry, we know of no better or cheaper plan than to trench the soil two feet deep. If the soil is very tenacious, it should be under-drained previous to trenching, and sand, gravel, or very fibrous muck, or leaf-mold, when applied. When the soil is of a light sandy nature, it should receive from one to five hundred cart loads, according to circumstances, of old decomposed muck, leaf-mold, or something of a similar nature, and let this be thoroughly incorporated with the soil. When a piece of land has been prepared in this way, there need be no fear of the plants ever suffering from drouth, or for want of proper food to produce a good supply of fruit. Old, well rotted manure of almost any kind is not objectionable on very poor soils, but we much prefer leaf-mold or old sods, with a little ashes or plaster, in preference to barn-yard manures, for these latter have a tendency to make the plants over-luxuriant, and produce more vines than fruit.
Having prepared the soil for the reception of the plants, the next consideration (if for garden culture) is the arrangement of beds; and these should be four feet wide, planting three rows in each, placing the plants eighteen inches apart each way; this will leave six inches margin between the outside row and the walk, which should be two feet; this gives three feet between the plants of parallel beds. This is none too much space between beds for standing room to gather the fruit; and if different varieties are grown in beds side by side, a less space than three feet would increase the danger of the plants running from one bed to the other, and becoming mixed, which should be guarded against, if any thing like good culture is attempted.
When pistillate varieties are grown, they should be planted in alternate beds with perfect sorts, but never plant both kinds together in the same bed, as do two varieties are of the same vigor, and consequently the stronger grower will overrun the weaker, and soon take possession; and generally the poorest variety is the most luxuriant grower.
I have about fifty varieties, which I have been examining from day to day the past two weeks. Although Ida is condemned by one writer, and Agriculturist by others - La Constante praised by some, and others give preference to Ju-cunda - I think all have some good qualities, but not sufficient to keep them long in general cultivation. Downer's Old Seedling furnishes me the earliest berries and the most quantity at a time; and although they are not very sweet, yet there is a rich sprightliness about them that I find my family all like, with the addition of a little sugar and cream.