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.
Were we to search through the whole catalogue of fruits, we could not find one possessed of so many sterling good qualities as this; and yet how much neglected. I was much pleased with the plate in the January number, accompanied with the editor's excellent remarks. Well has he described the little regard paid either to its planting, after culture, or the improvement of the race. In the latter particular I know of no fruit more susceptible of improvement. We have Reds of various shades of color and length of bunch; some very acid, others again agreeably sweet. There are Whites with fine long bunches, yet wanting the flavor of the old small variety. While we have now Blacks with fair sized bunches; I say fair sized, for Blacks are not yet what they might be. What an extensive field for the hybridist - one that promises a rich reward; for we have size, flavor, and color. With such materials to blend together, the skillful hybridist can not fail to improve this class of fruits.
Having cultivated for some years several varieties, I will give a list of them, noting what I may consider best.
In foliage, wood, and habit, this belongs to the Red class. Color delicate rosy-pink, and would appear like a cross between a Red and White, from the color of the fruit; but wood, foliage, and growth, set it down at once among the Reds. This variety is scarce in England. The bunche3 are small, yet it is much in demand, where known, for preserving.
"Bunches short. This is a sweet, rich, and good Currant." Thus has it been described by Mr. Rivers, in the last edition of his catalogue. When we consider the many good qualities of the Red Dutch, it is a free grower, a good bearer, a fair sized bunch, with large, high colored, rich berries; and above all, for jams and jellies it has no superior, if it has an equal. It is one of the best Red Currants.
This is a fine long-bunched, large-berried variety of the above. It is later, and rather more acid.
A very fine long-bunched variety with large berries, but very acid.
Bunches and berries about medium size, moderately sweet A very good early Currant.
Bunches long, berries large, medium season. A fine large Currant, but inclined to be acid.
A really good, sweet, Red Currant, with long bunches and large berries.
Currant; a vigorous grower and an abundant bearer. It is extensively cultivated in some localities in England.
Bunches short, with berries below medium size. This is the sweetest of all the Red Currants. Raised by Mr. Williams, of Pitmaston.
The bunches are longer than any other variety. A free grower and an abundant bearer. Perhaps on the whole the finest Red Currant known.
A poorly variegated variety of a bad Red Currant. Unworthy of culture, either for its foliage or fruit.
A good variety of Black. Bunch and berry nearly if not quite as large as Black Naples.
Considered the best of the Black Currants, and I think deservedly so. Bunches of fair length. Berries large.
This variety promises well It is of more dwarf habit than the other Blacks, and in bunch and berry equal to Black Naples.
Wood, foliage, and growth, is that of the Black; while the fruit when ripe is green. In flavor it will not approach the other Blacks. It is a most singular variety, but is worthless as a fruit-bearer.
Here again we have a badly variegated foliage, and a poor fruit Not worth cultivating.
This variety now is but seldom to be met with, the larger varieties having taken its place. The bunches are short; berries small, amber-colored or nearly so, and of higher flavor than any of the other Whites. This should be borne in mind by the raisers of new varieties.
Bunches of fair length; berries large, deep in color, and of high flavor. This is a very fine variety; every point considered, perhaps the finest of the White Currants.
Bunches long; berries large, pale, not quite as high flavored as. the White Butch. As a general rule, the closer a White Currant approaches in color to amber, the sweeter and richer in flavor it is, like a finely ripened Muscat Grape.
Some of the finest Currants I have ever seen grown were in the Isle of Wight In Guernsey and Jersey they grow equally fine, more particularly the Reds and Whites. The soil was a strong, adhesive loam, resting on clay, but a well drained bottom. The climate is very genial, and the fruit is not only large and well colored, but finely ripened. In the market gardens about London they are excellently grown and managed somewhat in this way. They are planted in lines at given distances apart - say twenty or thirty feet row from row, and three or four feet apart in the rows. The ground, which is naturally good, is highly manured, and cropped between with vegetables. The plants, after the first year or two - when they commence bearing - are pruned very hard. Perhaps it will be better understood what I mean by hard, when I say the greater part of the young wood is thinned out, and what is allowed to remain is shortened back to two or three inches. By this means the trees are always kept short, never attaining a greater height than two or three feet. The bushes being low, with well-thinned-out and shortened branches, they shade little or none of the ground, and are cropped up to the bush.
These strong manured and well pruned trees produce magnificent fruit, and in great abundance, well remunerating the market gardener for his trouble.*
What will the advocates of no pruning say to this? Yet the Currant, like the foreign Grape, must be pruned, and pruned severely, if fine fruit is wanted. The Black Currant will not submit to this treatment, bearing as it does on the young wood. The latter must be thinned out, and when over-long, moderately shortened. The pruning must be varied to suit the age and vigor of the tree.
There are many soils in which the White Currant will not grow - ground to all appearance of the best description, and in which the other Currants grow finely; yet in these soils White Currants will scarcely live - grow they will not - showing there is something wanting in the soil necessary for the well-being of the plant. Perhaps chemistry could step in to our aid, and tell us what this essential is. Again we meet with soils where the Whites vie in vigor with the Reds - ground which may be to appearance no better than the other. In a general way, it is more particular to soil than either Reds or Blacks, which will grow in almost any.