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.
I had promised myself, ere this, to respond to the article in your May number under this caption, but time and circumstances have alike prevented. It requires very little confession on my part to admit that I am the unfortunate individual there charged with "constitutional obstinacy/' etc, and the hypothesis perhaps indirectly claimed is, that I am the cause of all this sad failure in pear culture.
It is said Teucer flung his shafts from behind a shield, but, alas! no shield has protected his victim. "Confess! confess!" echoes the clarion's blast, while some "Van Mons" sends me the Country Gentleman, with the article "scored " for my especial benefit; anon, I have the Genesee Farmer (would that all farmers were gentlemen), having the same reference. To say the least of it, it is certainly an ungracious act that lugs one's friend into the breach, to bolster up a weak position.
Now, by your permission, and to save the "Beurres," I will " confess " nor tell no tale of woe. I am a pear grower, not, perhaps, on so large a scale as Mr. Allen. I have a thousand, mayhap more. My trees are my delight, yet tilled with anxious care, and have thus far greeted me with grateful returns for the labor bestowed. But who, let me ask, that has written for and read a dozen volumes of the Horticulturist, would be so ungracious as to expect his dwarfs to do duty, when the lord of the manor neither clothes nor feeds his subjects. Let us see if we cannot understand these sad effects by looking at the cause. " We are all morter (mortal), here to-morrow and gone to-day!" was an oft-expletive of one good soul, who was prone to indulge in the dreamy fit of twilight musing, "doing good business in the future," when the mind, wandering from things sublunary, painted with prismatic colors, the splendid creations of the " Hes-perides," where reign supreme the noble Duchess and the good Bonchretien, with hosts of Flemish Beauties, Doyennes and Beurrds, with something Golden, like the Orange pear.
Supposing them realities of his own, instead of the more sober delving, pruning, manuring, grub-hunting, slug-killing processes of this terrestrial sphere, which the anathema from the garden has rendered imperative, to grow fruit successfully, and especially the dwarf pear for profit.
A most important point to start with is, a healthy, vigorous, sound constituted tree. Who does not know that a dwarf once stunted cannot be recovered? it may live, it may grow, and for a time exist, but never, in my experience, will it laugh and grow fat. Herein lies one cause of failure why pears cannot be grown profitably for market. When Mr. Allen and his "obstinate" friend commenced pear culture, an unlucky invoice of many hundred cheap dwarf pear trees, from a New York house, landed in our city. These were divided and sub-divided among the "enthusiastic coterie," infected with the pear mania, Mr. A. taking the lion's share. These, he tells us, were planted, cut down, and grafted, etc, etc. This lot of trash, then, constituted the ground-work of our plantations, and well may those gentlemen say, when asked how their pears are getting on, "Blurt out the fact, dwarf pears are a humbug".
Now, no one for a moment doubts Mr. Allen's skill as a theorist, nor as a racy and entertaining writer on rural matters; but did he pursue the same loose system of selection, feeding, breeding, and general culture of his Devons and short-horns that he has with the practical details of growing dwarf pears for a market, where would be his herd to-morrow? In my own case, having got rid of that stock, I purchased some thousand thrifty, well-grown trees from Messrs. Ellwanger & Barry, Rochester, and have taken care of them, as well as I know how. I read the Horticulturist regularly, and got many a good idea from "Jeffreys." Jeffreys' views were chiefly good, and I must say toy labors have been well rewarded. A few leading varieties make up my main collection, to which are added a score or two of novelties, to follow in the wake of my friends. We have a ready sale for the fruit, chiefly at five dollars per bushel, wholesale; seldom less than four dollars for the small varieties. My dwarfs yield me annually, with occasional exceptions, fair crops. Last season I took a barrel of Vicar of Wink-field from three trees; this year I can do the same from two trees, as also from the Glout Morceau, the Bartlett, Louise Bonne de Jersey, Stevens' Genesee, Onondago, and some others, are nearly as prolific.
In August, I took over 1,100 pears from four Dearborn Seedling trees; about the same rate last season. To-day I have trees propped up on all sides to sustain the crop, and they are the same props, that were used for like purpose, for the same trees last year. I have a row of Bartlett; the seed I took from the Louise Bonne, and sowed for the stocks, in the autumn of '54. In '55, I bedded them. To-day those trees have from 30 to 45 sound, good-sized pears, which will sell, at retail, for four to six cents each. I have Beurre Diels, dwarf, three years old, with equally as many on. I have Beurre Goub-ault, dwarf, four years old, with 84 fine pears on, worth two or three cents each, etc, etc, with plenty more to match; more, however, I will not enumerate, as these were seen by Mr. Allen, recently, while the fruit was on the trees, and, therefore, he will bear me out fully in the statement. I must also say, in all candor, I hear not the " lachrymose" tone of your correspondent among the cultivators of the pear, save the "coterie," I chance to meet with in our neighborhood; but, on the contrary, have frequent cheerful invitations to see their fine fruits, of which they feel exceedingly proud. Prom the pear on its own roots, I have, as yet received little profit.
From several hundreds, planted at the same time as the dwarfs, before spoken of, I have had but occasional specimens; nevertheless, from these I entertain great hopes for the future. The blight and borer have taken from me an occasional tree; their place I fill up with other, though smaller.
Now, let me ask, what further can I confess that my "constitutional obstinacy" withholds? Surely it cannot be on the score of courtesy. 'Tis said misery loves company 1 Can it be Mr. A. desires that I should do as he has done? Forbid it ye gods. I do fear, however, Mr. Allen may think I have confessed abundantly; nevertheless, this subject is not without a moral. It teaches a great practical lesson, and from it we learn the great loss of time and capital in attempting to do manual horticulture in a cozy chair. "Talking fruits" will not grow them. "The pesky trees" won't take care of themselves. That cold retentive clay won't be loam, and was never intended to grow dwarf pears in.
"Not laughing earth, whose bosom opes To clothe this world bright as some fairy bower I"
That rude Timothy, envious of the puny dwarf, enrobed it with a mantle of green so completely as to hide its diminished head, while the pestilent caterpillar, the abominable slug, a streak of bad luck, the "constitutional obstinacy" of his friend and the annihilation of his orchard, drives him to the post, and he asks, "Can pears be grown profitably for market?"