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.
Editor of the Horticulturist: - I was pleased to see in your late number an article relative to this extensive field of horticultural enterprise. The author evinces considerable interest and knowledge of California horticulture, and will, I hope, add something to the storehouse of practical wisdom, whose doors are ever open to invite the studious and careful observer. What valuable facts California may yet contribute to this branch of industry and science, and what new and choice varieties of golden and amber fruits, the future will disclose! Already, our orchards and gardens contain peach seedlings of great beauty and rare excellence, which are more popular in our markets than the most favored kinds of established varieties. Our complete exemption from the insect pests which are so fatally destructive to smooth-skinned stone fruits, and particularly that "little Turk," - as Downing calls him, - the cnrculio, is an advantage which we would like to share with our eastern friends, in return for the treasures with which our soil is already exulting.
But the anxious inquiry naturally arises, will not the curculio sooner or later appear? will not the egg or embryo be introduced in the bark or roots of the trees brought hither from your infested orchards and nurseries? This is a question of much moment, and one that cannot fail to give concern to the propagators and lovers of the plum and the other fruits which are so congenial to this pertinacious little adversary. The borer is the only enemy of moment which gives us much trouble, and he is not difficult to manage. The pear-blight is an enemy, so far as my knowledge extends, from which we are entirely exempt. Our Doyennes, which are not yet abundant, are as fair and free from speck or crack as a lady apple; and so extraordinary in size, that one familiar with the fruit in Boston or New York, would scarce recognize it as of the same family. It is true, the trees are yet young, and their permanent character not quite established, but there is much ground to hope for continued success. The same superiority of size and appearance applies to all the other varieties.
I have not, however, noticed any superiority in flavor over the fruits of the Atlantic shores, and question as a general thing, if they are quite equal.
I am much interested in the discussion progressing in your journal, relative to the merits of the quince stock. All the dwarfs of that kind which I have tried and have seen in the Sacramento Valley, are very promising, and are the delight of all. What age may develop in them, it is difficult to say. Ail large fruits undergo a singular metamorphosis in size, color, season of ripening, keeping qualities, etc, by transplantation from the Atlantic soil and climate to the Pacific, and in some of them they are not improved. Grapes, I think an exception, being improved in all respects: the deep alluvial and volcanic soils seem to be peculiarly adapted to them; and I have found no grape too tender for successful out-door culture; indeed, I find our own California or Los Angelos grape the tenderest of all. We want only a railroad connecting the Sacramento and Missouri rivers, to make your markets blush with our wines, grapes, figs, pears, and other treasures of the soil, while the winds of opening •spring and summer are yet blowing bleakly upon the blossoms and embryo fruits of your eastern hill-side trees.
California is destined to be the cornocopia of the confederated sisterhood, and her inhabitants are inspired with an almost blind enthusiasm in the cultivation of fruits and flowers. The easy working and richness of the soil, the deprivation heretofore suffered for want of these Eden luxuries, and the remunerative, almost fabulous prices which fruits have hitherto commanded, have all conspired to create this laudable enthusiasm.
Our agricultural fairs are as yet doing but little practically to encourage horticulture: money-making seems to be their primary object, and female equestrianism, and exhibitions foreign to the legitimate objects of the institution, seem to secure the principal encouragement. Rag dolls command the consideration and awards of grave committees, while horticultural enterprise, occupies a place of secondary moment. What is most wanted in our annual fairs, is what heretofore we have been least able to get - good rational instruction and practical ideas. Men of little or no experimental knowledge are placed upon our committees as judges, because of their standing in society, their scholastic attainments, or the extensive grants over which they are the speculative landlords. From such committees what encouragement and information is the seeker after substantial facts to gain? In a repent report of the State Agricultural Society, I noticed a premium awarded to a gentleman of this city for "the best cultivated garden;" J had the curiosity to visit the place, and found it to consist of a lot 80 by 160 feet in dimensions.
This ground contained the dwelling, stables, sheds and outhouses; a hothouse, and a large number of peach trees planted within four and five feet of each other, all over the ground, and looking like so many untrimmed willows, never having been shortened in an inch since they were planted: Their intense shade made them wiry, spindling, and almost destitute of fruit. Under these trees, where the sun's rays never penetrated, were the strawberry beds; but, alas, never a berry, and the vines, consisting of some six or seven kinds, were finally expelled because, never bearing, they were supposed to be barren kinds. Besides the foregoing, there were apple, pear, apricot, cherry, plum, almond, fig, nectarine, locust, ailanthus, grape vines, rose bushes, in great variety, and numerous ornamental shrubs and vines, crowded into the most absurd proximity, and like the others, fruitless and almost blossoraless. This confused mass of culture and wicked waste, which would make a skilful gardener grieve, received a premium as the best cultivated garden. It was not favoritism that dictated the award, but sheer ignorance on the part of the committee, which did as well as it knew how. Such proofs of incapacity on the part of our committees, cannot fail to be attended with discouraging results.
We are seekers after practical knowledge and the right road, and as an unerring guide-board pointing steadily to it, your journal seems to me to be the best indicator of the direction in which the adventurer should tread in his eager search for facts and hidden light. We are too much in earnest to be humbugged by quackery, and should be too prudent to prosecute our work in the dark. W. C. F., Sacramento.