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.
" Very well," may say my readers. "But one swallow does not make a summer, and others may have done better." Let us see. I can now number up twenty or thirty of my friends and neighbors who commenced pear cultivation about the same time with myself, and if not so extensively, quite as enthusiastically and hopefully. We then had a horticultural society in Buffalo. We held frequent meetings and discussions, compared notes, visited each other's grounds, showed our fruits, and did a great business - in the future. We had diverse soils, exposures, cultivations, and all, to pretty much the same extent, according to numbers, suffered in loss and calamity; and the upshot has been, although the mice injured their trees but slightly, compared with mine, as they were more " in town," their orchards (which were planted in fifties and hundreds) now show but a few scattered, dwarfish trees, promising little for the future, and not worth attention, only for the purpose of a few family fruits. Out of the whole number who started so enthusiastically in the pear line, I know but one who still shows any confidence in the dwarf pear, and he, I imagine, more out of a constitutional obstinacy in never confessing to an error than from any success he has achieved in their culture.
Every other one of our coterte either blurts out the fact that "dwarf pears are a humbug," or drops his head, and says nothing, when asked "how his pears are getting on?"
Nor is this all. The same result has occurred with scores of other pear growers between this and Albany, all along through the best fruit sections of New York, three hundred miles in extent. I attended the annual meeting of the Society Of fruit growers in Western New York, at Rochester, last January, and among all the fruits exhibited saw not a dozen good specimens of winter pears, a few very moderate Vicar of Winkfields only. So, at the late meeting of the New York State Agricultural Society at Albany, where a very creditable show of winter fruits was made, one solitary little plate of imperfect winter pears was seen. A winter pear, indeed, is of little account any way; they are cold and watery, and but little better as a winter fruit than a melon. And such is the result of the millions of dwarf pears which have been planted out within the last dozen years in this great fruit-growing State of New York, where the result ought to be - if there were anything at all in their cultivation - any quantity of the finest of winter pears, Nelis, Beurre' D'Amburghs, Glout Morceaus, Easter Beurre's, and others in market at their proper seasons! There are exceptions to all this disappointment and desolation, I admit, but only enough to make good the adage, that " all general rules have some exceptions." Summer and fall pears, in the proportions which have been cultivated (so far as I can ascertain), have fared no better, except in close garden culture, where, with but a few trees in each, they may have done better; but even with them a large majority of the cultivators have condemned them.
But they do it quietly, and don't care to make a fuss about it.
With standard pears, the success of one orchardist has been various. Disease has carried off the majority of them, in one shape or another; blight, in its various phases, has been .the chief scourge, particularly with the finer varieties. Wildings, which are hardly worth cultivation without working with the better varieties, have sustained themselves the best; but even they have been cut down to a considerable extent, wherever planted. Some districts I can name where they once flourished, but now scarce a pear-tree can be found, old or young; while the apple, peach, cherry, plum, and quince, thrive under equal cultivation. So far as my own observation extends, therefore, the pear, as an orchard fruit, does not succeed. At all events, numerous standard pear orchards have been planted out in Western New York within the last ten or twelve years, and I know of not a single one which is now full, or even half-full of trees as they were first planted; and if any orchardist has succeeded with the pear as he or others have done with the apple, peach, and other orchard fruits, I should be pleased to know it. Among all the numerous inquiries which I have made, the fact has not yet been ascertained.
There are many large, grand, old pear-trees scattered throughout the country, some of them over a hundred years in age, and bearing large crops of poor wilding fruit every year - the remnants of orchards, their fellows having died out a great many years ago, so long ago, indeed, that but few living people remember them; but they only prove that the pear, even as a standard, only occasionally succeeds, instead of being a reliable tree for orchard culture. Men may theorize as they please as to the causes of their decline; I simply state facts, such as they have come to my own knowledge. I believe that I have succeeded quite as well as the average of those who have tried them, having now upwards of twenty quite fair standard trees about my house, growing in a strong, clayey-loam soil, and bearing, more or less, very good fruit every year; they have thus far escaped the blight, while some of my neighbors, chiefly on lighter soils, have been terribly scourged by that disease, and lost many of their best trees.
I consider the pear much safer on its own stock than on the quince; yet, having no prejudices in this matter, and speaking only from my own observation, I freely admit that there may be localities in the eastern part of Massachusetts - about Boston, for example - where the pear, both on its own stock and on the quince, may thrive and be profitable for orchard cultivation. The statements of such pomologists as Col. Wilder, Mr. Hovey, Mr. Maning, and others there who say that they succeed in their cultivation, are not to be controverted with hypotheses or denial, at least by me. I only say that their locality is a fortunate one; for I do not believe that they have cultivated their trees any better than many others have done in other localities where they did not succeed at all.