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.
After reading the glowing accounts which have been given in the many pomo-logical discussions of the fruit meetings and conventions which have been held in different sections of the United states for ten years past, of the profits of pear growing, one unacquainted with the subject would think the above a very strange question to ask of the orchardist, particularly the pear cultivator; yet it is asked in all sobriety and earnestness by one who has not only attempted to be a grower of the fruit himself, but is well acquainted with many men who have attempted it and failed, and others who have succeeded to a limited extent, and can answer for themselves in the affirmative, if they choose, and this over a very considerable extent of country for the number of years enumerated.
Ten years ago (drawing my conclusions from the numerous articles I had seen in the Horticulturist, then edited by the late A. J. Downing), I became almost enthusiastic in favor of pear culture, and having succeeded quite tolerably in a number of young trees which I had planted some years earlier on their own stock, I planted out about five hundred young pears budded on the quince, as dwarfs, and added two or three hundred standards on their own roots. The land on which I planted them was new - that is to say, it had been but a few years reclaimed from the forest. It was a dry, clay loam, with a gentle descent to the east, passing off its surface water, rich in phosphates and the food of orchard trees. Apple, pear, and quince-trees, had already been planted in adjoining grounds, and as like soils all about me bad for many years produced their fruits successfully (the pear but so-so), I had little doubt of full success in my new enterprise. I had raised the best crops of corn, potatoes, other roots, small grain of different kinds, and grass, on the land, and could have no doubt of its perfect adaptation to the growth of the pear, either on its own stock or the quince.
I obtained my trees from established nurseries, the varieties various in kind, and the trees themselves " warranted good." I had the ground thoroughly prepared by a previous potato crop, and deep ploughing; the holes were large; the whole work was properly done in planting. 1 know haw to plant a tree, and every one was set by my own hands, so far as preparing the tree, placing it in the ground, and finishing the work, was concerned, having assistance only from my men in filling in the earth over the roots. For two or three years afterwards, root crops were cultivated among the trees, with plenty of good stable manure, and many of them grew well. The trees produced fruit, more or less, the next year after they were planted, and so continued to do while they lasted; they were properly pruned, and, three years after planting, the orchard was laid into grass, but dug every year thoroughly, for four or five feet in diameter around the roots, and manure well forked in. I say many of the trees grew well; some of them did not grow well. They soon became diseased, and died, or looked so unpromising that they were taken out and replaced by others obtained from the nurseries.
Various ailments, however, were continually occurring among them, and within five years after first planting, I had replanted about the whole number in the orchard; not every tree, understand, but equal to twice the original number in the whole. Occasionally, a doubt would arise whether my pear enterprise was to be altogether successful; but I was continually reading the Horticulturist, the agricultural papers, and the proceedings of the pomological meetings, which I sometimes attended, as well, in which all the new and enthusiastic pear growers seemed to be moving in the full tide of successful experiment. I occasionally invited my pomological friends to see my orchard, who, as they looked over it with me, admired some of the trees, shook their beads at others, asked many questions, and "hoped I would succeed." Some of them now and then ventured to inquire whether I had taken care to give them good cultivation, and wondered why some of the trees should look so thrifty, while others looked so bad, and "had their doubts" about them; yet some of the trees continually kept dying. A few would be attacked with a blight in the bark, showing black blotches on their trunks, near the root; they were planted mostly with the quince wood very near, or altogether under the ground.
Others stopped growing altogether, stood stock still, but still lived. Others, again, would spot all over the leaves; and occasionally the fire-blight would take a hop-skip-and-jump, killing outright a dozen or so in different parts of the ground, and let; ting the rest alone. They were well cultivated. I know the fact; and never toot half the pains with any other fruit-trees that I did with that pear orchard. My apple and quince-trees, on their own stocks, which stood near them at the same time, grew well, flourished, and bore fruit in abundance. And so did many of my pear-trees, on their own stocks; yet these latter, even, in far too great numbers, which were immediately adjoining the dwarfs, died out. But the story was soon told. In the winter of 1855-6, myriads of field mice infested my grounds; the snow came in hurricanes of depth and drift, and when it went off in the spring, almost every one of my once promising and hopefully nursed trees was thoroughly' girdled by the mice, and the trees as dead as if a fire had run through them ! Though sadly cast down at this unlooked-for termination of my labors, I confess that I felt a relief from any further anxious and unrecompensed labor in that line; and thus ended my orchard pear cultivation.
But I will still farther explain: I had the "best varieties" for dwarf culture in my assortment - all taken from " the authorities" laid down in the books and the "conventions." I had about fifty of the finest " Dutchess" I ever saw, which I got when but a year from the bud, when I planted them in a nursery row in the garden, where they grew beautifully for three or four years. I carefully lifted them, with large balls of earth on the roots, laid them on a wheelbarrow, took them to the orchard, and planted them carefully; yet they never grew any afterwards, and bore but a few indifferent pears.