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.
There the bleak winds from the lakes, sweeping with almost tempest fury over exposed situations, gives such an inclination eastward to the very trees themselves, that could they speak you would hear them say, 'we would run away if we could, but as we cannot, we must stop here, bearing no fruit, and die.'" As a sample of badinage, or the facetious, this is well enough, but as matter of argument it is beneath him. I will tell Doctor Ward, if he will come to Black Rock, or Buffalo, I will show him in several different gardens and grounds as fine, thrifty and fruitful dwarf pear-trees, and which have borne as good occasional crops as he ever saw elsewhere, even in the genial, windless climate of Boston, - that Paradise of the dwarfs. But of the "profits" of the fruits of these Buffalo trees, whether they cost two or twenty cents apiece to their happy owners, I say nothing. I will also show him as well-grown pears on staudards, and fruits of all other kinds common to the latitude, except the peach - and even the peach ten miles down the Niagara; yes, on the "bleak northern shores of Grand Island," as he ever saw in Jersey.
Indeed, I cannot let Doctor Ward off so lightly. He is so good a witness for me, that at the risk of prolixity I would further quote him.
"Of the pear, as a remunerating crop, I still prefer, as I have ever done, to say but little. Many have been misled by extravagant statements on this subject. The trumpeting of solitary instances of great success in cultivating; the enormous yield of some old tree occupying a favorable locality; the extravagant price that under fortuitous circumstances was realized from the crop, being made the basis of a calculation as to what would be the returns for an acre, misleads by producing impressions experience will rarely confirm.
"Hence the importance of just such testimony as we have from Mr. Allen.
"The question is still a mooted one, whether the growing of pears can be made profitable at the present price of labor, unless much of the work can be done with a horse. To avail one's self of this, the tree must have some other than a pyramidal form. Horticulturists are urged on every side to go into the growing of fruits on an extended scale, stimulated by the promise of large profits; but not a word of caution is uttered as to the form of the tree adapted to the orchard, with the view of abating the cost of its cultivation; and hence the pyramid, so beautiful, so appropriate to the garden, is transferred to the orchard. Mr. Hovey's beautiful rows of Dwarf pyramids, captivate the eye, but the annual expense of forking the ground - with the repeated hoeings to eradicate the weeds, is a shade in the picture that escapes observation. Nothing probably at the present crisis is more needed than some carefully conducted experiments as to the comparative cost of culture of the pyramidal and half standard form of tree".
Of the wholesale vituperation upon myself, and equally wholesale laudation of the Dwarf pear by the nursero-pomological editor of the Rural New Yorker, written under the prompting of the "largest Dwarf pear nursery firm in America," I need but remark that any amount of denunciation may be expected from that quarter. Nor do the enthusiastic statements of the neophytes in pear growing of that neighborhood - the most favorable fruit region, perhaps, for the general fruits of the climate covering a limited territory, in North America - help the matter. The latter are but beginners, verdant in experience as the lovers of their young orchards. I admit all they say of their thrifty trees; but of the fruits, and the "profits," as yet derived from them, they wisely say nothing. I hope to hear good accounts of them hereafter. If the dwarfs will yield a profit anywhere, it ought to be in and about the Genesee valley.
Under this head Mr. L. F. Allen has recently detailed his experience in the planting and growing of pears. As Mr, Allen says, "one swallow does not make a summer, neither should one man's experience condemn or substantiate the policy and profit of pear growing." It is now about sixteen years since I commenced planting pear trees to produce fruit, and without any of the enthusiasm with which Mr. Allen says he was imbued. I argued against planting the pear except when grown upon seedling pear stocks, To the use of Suckers, or Apple-mountain Ash, Quince, or Thorn stocks, as likely to produce a long-lived healthy tree with the ordinary American orchard is t's cultivation, 1 was opposed; and as a nurseryman at the time, I reduced my receipts very materially by such opposition. I argued that the orchardist should select such varieties as grow moderately vigorous upon the pear stock, and on that stock which came early into bearing. Of such I planted, not by hundreds or thousands, but by dozens. I obtained fruit in three years from planting: and those trees, less ten per cent, are now in existence and bearing annually moderate crops.
The soil was gravelly sand underlaid with more or less of bog iron ore.
In 1848-9, about the time of Mr. Allen's enthusiastic commencement, and when all the Horticultural and Agricultural Journals teemed with Dwarf Pears and the profits of growing them, I commenced an entirely new plan soil, mostly a stiff clay loam; subsoil, stiff yellow clay, by many considered a most unpromising soil for any purposes of fruit growing. At that time the sort of stock for dwarfing was a question open to as many different views as is the subject now under consideration; and being then in the nursery business, I budded Pears on White Thorn, Mountain Ash, Common Seedling, Quince, and Angers Quince. Of such propagating, I sold to suit the wants of my customers, and planted out pretty extensively of trees one year old from the bud upon each and all of these stocks. As a matter of experiment also, and to help decide the question as to what varieties would do well as dwarfs, I planted from three to five trees of a sort of something over two hundred sorts. My soil was simply subsoil ploughed, (it should have been under-drained,) and my trees mostly planted so that the stock, whatever it was, was all underground. The results have been as follows: All lived; many grew the first season. The second season, many sorts without regard to stock died. Some twenty or more kinds grew finely.
The third season, all on Mountain Ash. Thorn and Seedling Quince departed this life; and many of the sorts on Angers also; others stood still. The fourth season, and on to this year, most of them have fruited abundantly. Many of the kinds, however, became stationary in their growth, while others continued healthy and vigorous. At this time, therefore, I can say that out of my planting nine or ten years since, there are only about one hundred or one hundred and ten kinds. Of these, perhaps twenty sorts may be said to have grown healthily; and sufficiently vigorous, while of the remainder, many have not increased in size for the past four years; others have grown beautifully less.
About the same time, or perhaps one year later, I planted out something over two hundred Standard Pears; these, however, of only a few sorts. The result has been that my Standards have produced for three years a quantity full as great as I have considered desirable, and the trees continue healthy and vigorous.
Cultivation. My Dwarf Pears have been annually manured in the fall; and the manure lightly forked or spaded under. In the spring they have been hoed; and during summer some have been mulched with new-mown grass; others have been regularly hoed around, say once a month. Pruning has been done whenever I found it convenient. I prefer August or October, but practice to suit my convenience. Many of my sorts, when I had three or five of a kind, I have left one tree without any pruning. Such course I cannot advise, as the tree runs up too high, compared with its breadth; and while it does not break off, its leverage is such as often to loosen the ground and break many of the small roots of the quince stock.
Like Mr. Allen, I consider this story " a very useless one," but in order to help make up the "summer," I have concluded to give your readers my experience.