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.
The article, under the above title, in the May number of the Horticulturist, will be readily remembered by those who take an interest in Pear culture and gave it the favor of their perusal. I supposed that a question so plainly asked, and the statement so naturally made of my own experience, and the observations 'upon the labors of others which came under my own eye, might, perhaps, draw out some facts in relation to pear culture in different parts of the country for the last dozen years, accompanied with statistics of the bearing of the trees, their present condition, the prices obtained for the fruit, and other data tending to throw some light on the present condition of our American pear orchards, and proving, if possible, whether "Pears can be profitably grown for market?" or not. But my opponents adroitly shy that very pertinent question, and substitute one of their own, which I have not denied; to wit: whether pears, including dwarfs, can be successfully grown at all? They shall not, with my consent, make issue with me on the latter.
Although eight months have passed since that article appeared, I have not heard a single response touching the facts I wished to draw out, or proving that a pear orchard, either standard or dwarf, of any considerable number of trees, could be successfully, profitably and permanently grown in any part of the country "as a market fruit," to say nothing of the price the fruit had cost the producer, or the quantity marketed. No, not a single one giving a straight-forward answer to my questions. But I have seen any amount of criticism on my own short-comings in the cultivation and treatment of my own trees - not however, by any number of those who had ever seen them when living - and an almost universal judgment on the part of the writers that neither pears nor any other fruit can be grown on the bleak, exposed territory "at Black Rock," "Grand Island," or "the East end of Lake Erie," - coupled, in sundry instances, with abundance of personal remark and covert spite, much more satisfactory to the authors than edifying to the public. As this last, however, is more a matter of individual taste on the part of the writers than connected with the subject, it need not be discussed.
Coming from the sources that it did, and understanding well the motives which dictated it, it has been matter of little surprise, and of still less anxiety to myself. Others, too, seem to think it presumptuous to doubt the supposition so universally received for years past as gospel truth, - that pears, more particularly dwarfs, can be made profitable for market culture, when so repeatedly asserted by fruit conventions held, for some years past, throughout the country.
Such being so, I perhaps have been presumptuous, possibly very ignorant on the subject; may be my own eyes and ears have borne false witness to my convictions; yet having read attentively, for thirty years, most of the agricultural and pomological publications printed in the northern states, and attended more of the great State and national fruit convocations than I can now enumerate, and seen their exhibitions of fruits, I. still have an idea that my opportunities of drawing conclusions have been as fair, and quite as disinterested as some of those who either criticise me in candor, or assail me with personalities.
The positions taken in my May article were, mainly, these: 1st. The pear, as a standard fruit, on its own stock, is capricious in its selection of soil, climate, and position in the United States. As the consequence of this, its - success has been various - good, bad, and indifferent; and although it refuses to grow and bear at all in some localities; or barely exists, and yields fitfully in others, it succeeds well in many, and when so, is a profitable fruit for cultivation; and in soils and localities where it will succeed, I recommended its cultivation. 2nd. The dwarf pear worked on quince stock, is equally uncertain, but more capricious, less hardy and reliable in life and bearing, from the fact that its union with the quince is unnatural and imperfect, and requires quince cultivation, to which but restricted por-tions of our soil and climate are adapted; and when successful, which I freely admitted it to be in certain localities, evidence was wanted that its cultivation will pay, as a market fruit.
To elucidate the above propositions, I related my own experience fully, frankly, and truly. I also related the experience of my neighbors, and that of others not my neighbors in other good fruit localities at a distance from me, as I personally saw and had it from the lips of the cultivators themselves. In addition to this: 3rd. I questioned the correctness of the conclusion that many persons would arrive at from hearing statements of the enormous profits of fruit culture, based on extraordinary crops in particularly genial seasons, from individual trees; and asserted that such statements afforded no true test of the average profits of their bearing. I have had just such extraordinary crops myself, and have seen such on the trees of my neighbors; but they were seldom in occurrence, and many years might be reckoned in which they bore no crops at all.
These were my propositions, coupled with some collateral remarks running through my "four or five page" article, which some of my critics complained of, as being "little to the purpose." I might also have stated the fact, that after the warmest recommendations, years ago, by the conventions and periodicals, to cultivate all kinds of pear on the quince, it was soon ascertained that but a limited number of varieties would flourish, or grow at all, as a dwarf. These varieties were afterwards, from time to time, still further restricted at the fruit conventions in each succeeding meeting, until now the hardiest advocate of the dwarf will scarcely name a dozen well-known kinds which he would risk in any considerable number of trees, as being reliable on the quince, at all.