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.
My Dear Sir, - I have just had prepared and packed for you some Roses - twenty-four standards, and twenty-four dwarf standards of Hybrid Perpetuate of choice kinds. The case will go per steamer from Southampton, to care of S. S. Shephard, New York. I hope they will reach you in safety, and I beg your acceptance of them.
I was much interested in the discussion in the Horticulturist about Pear trees on the quince stock: how strange it is that bad cultivators place the blame on the stock and not on their own mismanagement. I have now had more than twenty years' experience in the cultivation of pears on the quince, and am more than ever convinced that their culture as garden trees is the most agreeable and profitable of all fruit culture; due regard should, however, be paid to the sorts selected; for, to a certainty, there are some kinds that even in the most favorable soils will not do well. If I were a young man, I should desire no better speculation than forming a large pear tree garden on quince stocks in your country, to grow the finer kinds of pears for market; but it must be understood, it should be strictly a pear garden, not a grass orchard, or a field full of rude weeds; for pear trees on the quince require good culture. If the soil is rich, manuring may be dispensed with; but in ordinary or poor soils, a surface dressing of manure should be given annually in October, round each tree in a circle from three to four feet in diameter. The ground should not be dug, but kept clean with a horse hoe between the rows, and with the hand hoe round the trees.
When the ground is dug or ploughed, the surface roots are destroyed, but if only hoed they soon form a network near the surface and feed on the manure, and the trees are benefited by the roots being exposed to the influence of the sun and air.
I should form my pear garden thus: rows ten feet apart, from north-east to south-west, so that the sun during the heat of the day shines in the spaces between them; trees, five feet apart in the rows; they may stand this distance in the rows from ten to twelve years; and then, if at all crowded, every alternate tree may be removed, but I am not sure that I should not let them remain longer, so as to form large hedges. My trees, five feet apart in the rows, have been planted twelve years, and it will be five or six years before they touch each other; they are pruned once a year, generally in August, and sometimes not till after the fruit is gathered in October; they must be pruned once a year: my trees bear profusely, and I am not over nice as to the time of pruning. I have seen a pear hedge in France pruned once a year with common garden shears, and was surprised to find what a quantity of fruit the trees gave. I mention this to show that if pears on the quince have a good soil and climate, they are very productive, even under rough usage; but pruning in some shape seems absolutely necessary. The soil for a pear garden should be a friable sandy loam, resting on a wet bottom of clay or stiff loam; if rich, all the better; if poor, manure, I repeat, will be required.
In this country, with our moist climate, I have known pears on the quince succeed well in loam resting on a dry stony bottom; but with your hot summers, unless manured heavily on the surface, they would perhaps suffer from drought. The sorts I should select for my pear garden for profit, i.e. for market purposes, would be, 1, Louise Bonne; 2, Beurre d'Amanlis; 3, Vicar of Winkfield; 5, Beurre Diel; 5, Duchesse d'Angouleme; 6, Easter Beurre, which in your climate must be valuable; for in the warm parts of France it is unequalled. The Vicar, which in moist seasons in this country is flat and indifferent, only requires a bright sun to bring out its qualities; for last summer, 1857, which was remarkably bright and warm, my row of one hundred trees, now ten years old and pictures of health and vigor, gave me such pears as had never before been seen in Covent Garden market; they were large, clear and beautiful, and almost "best." I should also feel inclined to try Beurre Hardy as a market pear; in vigor, the tree on the quince equals the Vicar; and its fruit is large and excellent.
The cultivator of pears for market, should confine himself to as few kinds as possible; and if in the course of a few years he finds any one or two that suit the soil and climate better than others, he should extend their culture as much as possible. I have found this the case with Louise Bonne, (there is now no occasion to add, "of Jersey," for the old sort is scarcely known,) and so I at once planted two thousand trees: no act of my pomological career has given me more pleasure and profit.
I have not mentioned the preparation of the soil; for all your books on fruit tree culture go into that fully ; but there can be no harm in saying that I have my fresh ground forked to twenty-two inches in depth; and I never turn the surface soil to the bottom, but keep the surface on the surface.
I am, dear sir, yours very truly, Thos. Rivers.
70 Feet in Height.