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 all our exertions toward improving the Strawberry, we should aim to produce a plant combining as many good qualities as possible. In most, if not all, of the best now in cultivation, we find but few of the excellences that go toward making up a superior variety.
Quality should be a prominent feature; and we do not mean by quality, a berry that is simply sweet or sour, but one that contains that peculiar richness which is only to be found in a variety that possesses an abundance of acidulous and saccharine matter, along with that peculiar property which gives to this fruit that delightful aroma so much admired in the wild strawberry of this country. Some varieties that are called good, are almost entirely destitute of those rich qualities that we find in Burr's New Pine, Hooker, and some others.
When we have produced a variety that is satisfactory as to quality, the next question that arises is, Is it productive? for if not, then the small amount produced would exclude it from the list for general cultivation. On the other hand, a variety may be very productive, and yet so very inferior that quantity will not compensate for the loss of quality.
Size is one of those requisites that should not be overlooked in these progressive times, for a small berry, although very good, is not only troublesome to gather, but is unattractive, and consequently of not so ready sale, when that is an object in cultivation. Nor is the apparent size of the berry always to be taken as correct, for many of the celebrated large varieties are either hollow, or have a pithy, tasteless core, and contain really no more substance than a berry of smaller size.
The best color for a strawberry is the one most attractive-to the eye; and as different eyes are attracted by different colors, it becomes a very difficult task to determine which is the best. But whatever the color, it should be bright and permanent, for we have always observed that those varieties that have a dull color will look stale and decayed after being picked, long before they are so in reality.
When a variety is to be grown for a market where it has been customary to pick off the calyx or hulls, as they are generally called, it becomes indispensable that we have varieties the calyx of which parts from the berry easily. In some, the calyx adheres so firmly to the berry that they are entirely worthless for general cultivation, and would be so even if they possessed all the other requisite qualities of a first class berry.
A solid berry, one that will bear transportation without injury, is another important consideration, when selecting a variety for market purposes; in fact, we think a soft berry, like McAvoy's Superior, should not be tolerated on any account, as we sometimes wish to send a friend a basket of strawberries, and if they reach that friend in a damaged condition, it is not only mortifying to the donor, but a disappointment to the recipient. Besides, we have plenty of varieties that are firm and solid, and equally as good in other respects as those that are delicate.
Growth of the vines should also be noticed in making selections; for if the plant is a poor, feeble grower, it is as great a fault as a poor producer. Some varieties will grow luxuriantly upon very poor soil, while others grow poorly upon the best soil and under the best of cultivation. Over luxuriance in foliage, without a corresponding productiveness, such as we see in the Peabody, is certainly to be avoided; yet a variety that has a delicate foliage can not be expected to give a large quantity or fine quality of fruit. The Wilson may be considered a variety with both luxuriant growth and great productiveness combined in an eminent degree.
The Fruit-Stalks should be long, and sufficiently strong to elevate the fruit above the ground, so that it be clean and easily gathered.
This is the foundation upon which we must build our structure; for if a plant is not hardy, then all other merits fail. By hardiness we do not mean a plant that will withstand the cold alone, but one that will withstand the heat of summer, drought, changes from heat to cold, and, further, one that will adapt itself somewhat to the different soils in which it may be planted; for it is not always convenient or practicable to have a particular soil ready for each and every variety of fruit For instance, some of the European varieties suffer much from the cold of our winters, while others suffer most from the heat of summer. Most American varieties seem to be capable of enduring the heat of summer, but some of them are quite tender in winter.
The past winter has been quite severe upon many kinds, and early in the season we made some notes upon the condition of many varieties we have in cultivation, a few of which we append, as it will show the effects of the cold upon the different varieties unprotected and cultivated in the same garden.
Boyden's Mammoth: leaves entirely killed, but crowns good. This is now fruiting finely.
Jenny Lind: leaves brown, plants slightly damaged.
Queen Victoria, (new:) all dead but one or two plants. Planted one year, and were large and fine last fall.
Hooker: about one half dead, and those remaining so much injured that they will give no fruit. The bed has been two years planted, and the plants were healthy last fall.
Reine Hortense: leaves slightly injured, but crowns good.
Delices d'Automne and Vicomptesse de Hericart de Theury, stood the winter very well; occasionally a plant killed.
Triomphe de Gand, leaves partially killed, but the plants seem to be uninjured; may be considered quite hardy.
Wizard of the North, La Constante, May Queen, Wonderflil, Bont St. Julien, Duc de Malakoff, West Chester, and several other varieties, were slightly protected; we can not, therefore, decide upon their hardiness. They were all uninjured, while some other varieties in the same manner were considerably damaged.; We might extend these notes, were it necessary, but from the few we have given, a comparison can be made upon the hardiness of the varieties named.
[Mr. Fuller, we are glad to learn, proposes to follow up this subject, for which he has an abundance of material; and, moreover, he delights in it, and will no doubt do it up thoroughly. The past winter has been very trying, and the notes on the hardiness of varieties are interesting, and agree substantially with what we have observed in several localities in regard to many leading kinds. - Ed].