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.
Dr. Ward, in the sensible, practical articles he has written on this fruit, has kid every pear grower in the country under lasting obligation; and could they have been written six or eight years ago, when the dwarf-pear appetite of the country first began to crave the pabulum so temptingly offered to its taste, thousands on thousands of. dollars, and a world of vexation and dis-appointment, would have been saved to those who, unwittingly to themselves, have been victimized by their attempts to cultivate them. But, American like, we have all "pitched in" to dwarf pear culture together, without knowing anything about the philosophy of the thing, and taken the ipse dixit of enthusiasts and theorists, who, perhaps as unwittingly as to the results as ourselves, have propagated them to an enormous extent, and recommended them for cultivation.
That some varieties of the pear can, in some cases, be successfully cultivated on the quince, there can be no doubt. They have been so cultivated in Europe for centuries. . They have been occasionally cultivated in this country for some years prior to the late pear furor - perhaps twenty, thirty, fifty, or even more. To understand the subject, let us examine the pear; of itself, on its own stock, as a fruit. In its finer varieties it is a rare fruit, of exquisite excellence in flavor, and flourishes, permanently, only in favorable localities, and in peculiar soils. In America it is a capricious fruit, yielding well only in certain latitudes at all, and then only on favorable positions and soils. It. grows, to be sure, in many places; but in how many places does it flourish - that is, grow well, bear good fruit, and live lone, as a general thing, like the apple? There are the remains of old pear orchards in different parts of the United States - a hundred and fifty years old, perhaps; but they are only the remains - a few surviving veterans out of the many that were planted with them. The mass of the orchards died out a great many years ago.
These, with many others planted since - old trees they are, too - still live, and bear great, almost annual crops, and, in many cases, of excellent named fruit They are, however, the exception, not the* rule. In many instances, too, they have grown and flourished through neglect as well as with good culture, showing not only wonderful vigor and vitality in the individual tirees, but a peculiarly favorable quality in the soil in which they have stood. Many localities of the kind might be named; but as my intelligent readers will each recognize them for himself, they need not be here noted. It is sufficient to say, that after an experience of near two hundred years in America, with annual planting and constant pains-taking,, choice pears are scarce in market, and dear in price as well as rare in private gardens and orchards, even where extraordinary pains have been taken to cultivate them. These facts are patent to every man who has any experience in the subject, and we have had as good opportunities to give the thing a fair trial in this country as elsewhere.
Probably Normandy and Belgium are the best natural pear countries in the world. The most of our best foreign varieties originated there, and they have been introduced here with indifferent success, as a whale. Some varieties have proved as good with us, perhaps, as there, but they are few. As a general thing they have foiled, both on their own stock and the quince. England is no pear country. Scotland is less so. They have pears there, occasionally, but not choice ones. The best of English pears- - the Bartlett, perhaps, excepted - are among our rejected varieties as table or even cooking fruits. The upshot of our observation is, therefore, that even on its own stock, the pear is uncertain as an orchard fruit, and, with all its contingencies, will not pay as an investment.
How, then, is the pear on the quince stock? and what its probabilities for the future? Under the excitement of the last dozen years, in the United States, millions of trees have been propagated, and worked, and sold by the nurserymen. They went into it enthusiastically, and with high assurance that they were doing good service to the public, and that a new era was to be established in pear culture, by, which every one possessed of a spare rod of ground could luxuriate on the delicious fruit of his own trees. In pursuance of this idea, every choice variety was propagated, sold, and distributed, over the country. But, in a few years it was ascertained by the nurserymen themselves, that a great majority of these varieties were a dead failure, and, for some time past, the fruit conventions have cut down and particularized only a certain few varieties that would succeed on the quince. Rivers, of England, the greatest pear propagator, perhaps, in the world, names only the Louise Bonne of Jersey as sure with him, and Dr. Ward, who is, perhaps, equally good authority in America, adds but a very few others that he can trust.
Nor is this general failure in dwarf pears altogether the fault of the climate, the soil, or the cultivation. It goes deeper. The fault 'is in the incompatibility of the pear wood and the quince wood to join their individual stocks harmoniously together, to make a long-living, luxuriant tree, and produce good fruit, except in chance and casual cases. The quince - and no matter what quince - is a compact, small wood, with numerous small pores, of close texture and fibrous roots, working, in restricted compass, in a soil peculiar to itself. It flourishes only in limited districts of but a few of our States, and best on the sea-board and in the interior lake regions of New York. The pear, on the contrary, has an open wood, of great size, with large pores, spreading roots, a gross feeder, and grows, more or less, all over the country north of latitude 40°, and in almost any kindly soil. Now, here are two antagonistic, distinct kinds of wood, of different habits, the one hardy in almost all climates, the other not hardy in all the same climates which are, sought to be connected as chance or design may govern, with an expectation that they will grow, and flourish, and bear fruit successfully! There can be-no greater physiological mistake than in any such expectation as a rule.
A large wooded, open pored quince, like the Angers, worked with a close-pored, small-growing pear, of whatever kind, may so join their particular woods, as to be occasionally successful in growth and bearing. They have done so; they may continue to do so; but, as a rule, as pears and quinces run, never. It is a violence to the nature of both. As an evidence of their distaste for each other, the common apple or orange quince of our country is pronounced a dead failure for the pear, by reason of its smaller size and more compact growth, than the Angers.
The conclusions, then, which we are compelled to draw from all this theory, as well as the experience that we have had, is, that there is no certainty in a plantation of the dwarf pears. It may do for high garden culture, with particular manures, nice pruning, and at great cost, but, for orchard culture, or general cultivation, it is a failure. See what Dr. Ward says of "pinching," "cutting back," and all that sort of thing. If men, with brains and experience enough to understand the thing, could be hired, for fifty cents a day, to do the work as it ought to be done, and the public, with tastes refined enough to appreciate the fruits, and liberality enough to pay for them, could be found after all the failures and investments of the fruit grower, it might pay; but, under existing circumstances, it cannot. Any fruit, in this country, to pay for production, must not be difficult, either in soil or culture. If so, it must be abandoned - and the dwarf pear is one of them.
It may be said that no fruit promises better than the dwarf pear, as we see it in the nursery. There they stand in long, straight rows, three to six feet high, full, thrifty, luxuriant, and frequently with luscious samples of fruit upon them, enough to tempt the palate of an anchorite. That is true, and very well while they stand there, not exceeding three or four years from the bud. But transplant them, no matter where, and cultivate them to your best. A fire-blight strikes one, a cankered bark shows itself on another, a heavy wind thrashes off a score of them from the junction of the two stocks, and a sort of tree consumption takes a dozen more, while a few flourish and bear fruit, perhaps equal to our follest expectation's, till some accident or disease finishes them. That is the way they go; and so they can be seen in every orchard and garden throughout the country. Such is my own experience, and such is the experience of many others, who, like myself, have gone into dwarf pears on quite a large scale as well as in the more limited garden. I have grown the quince, as a fruit, for many years; the pear, also, on their own stocks. My soil is good for both.
They have succeeded well as such fruits go, yet I have tried the dwarf pears side by side with the others, under infinitely better cultivation, and, in the main, it has proved a failure. And so with my neighbors. I went into a garden, the other day, filled with nice fruits. Its owner is a man of care; attends to things himself, and understands them. He had, perhaps, fifty dwarf pears, of a dozen varieties, standing around, all well trained and cultivated. A few flourished and bore fruit; some had never grown a foot during the several years they stood there; while others were dead, and dying; and that is but a sample of all around me. I fully, believe, if the testimony of our dwarf pear experimenters at large could be taken, such would be the result of their experience.
It is with exceeding regrfct, and after much pecuniary sacrifice, that I come to these conclusions. I wish to injure no one's business, nor to diminish any one's hopes; but after years of painstaking and solicitude, I chronicle these remarks as the deliberate convictions of my own observation and trials. I would not discourage any one, who has a good boil for them, from cultivating a few choice dwarf pears, when the kinds are such as have been successfully tried; but they should be confined to the garden alone; and then, at a large price for his fruit, provided he pays proper attention to them, he may gratify his own taste, and that of his family and friends, to an occasional treat of a well-grown pear.