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.
Mr. Allen's recent article on this subject, it is to be expected, will create an awakening among the advocates of the quince stock. I observe, indeed, that one of the Oincinnatians is already aroused in its defence. I am a neighbor of Mr. Allen's, (although some miles distant from his orchard,) and have for several years had charge of one of the orchards to which he alludes, as having been planted nearly at the same time as his own. As I do not quite agree to all his propositions, (or rather conclusions,) I will give my "experience/7 as he has done.
My late father was the pioneer in the culture of dwarf pears in this vicinity; he having purchased and planted in the autumn of 1844 upwards of one hundred and thirty pears, most of which were dwarfs. At that time there was but a single dwarf tree in the neighborhood, which had not, I think, then fruited.
The trees gave indications of succeeding well and fruiting abundantly; and their numbers were annually increased by successive plantings until they formed quite a respectable collection, embracing at one time over four hundred trees, and more than one hundred varieties, chiefly on the quince. The grounds containing a diversity of soils and exposures, a difference was soon perceptible in the growth of the trees; and on a gravelly elevation in particular, it was extremely difficult to force them to grow, and they would not be coaxed. In fine, we have had a varied experience, somewhat resembling Mr. Allen's in its principal features, but far less discouraging, and wanting the fatal termination of his. Very many of the trees have done well! done very well ! while many again have died. A large number perished with the blight during two or three years; but of late it has quite disappeared. Quite a number failed from some cause which I could not at first determine, but afterwards satisfied myself that it was from being worked upon an unsuitable stock, probably the common quince.
After thirteen years' experience, I am satisfied that dwarf pear culture can be made profitable; but that it requires the following conditions in order to make it so: The soil must be strong and rich, and kept in good condition by manuring. It must be well cultivated, and not laid down to grass. The trees should be planted as closely as possible - say six by twelve feet apart - and they must be pruned. If not carefully pruned once or twice each year, they will undoubtedly run to wood instead of fruit; and not only that, but their heads, instead of branching at one or two feet from the ground as they should, will be at standard height, and the trees being top heavy will be continually blowing out of the ground, requiring an infinite quantity of labor and trouble to keep them in an upright position.
As Mr. Rivers well expresses the idea in his last article, " it should be strictly a pear garden, not a grass orchard," and in this nutshell lies much of the truth of the whole matter.
Of the six pears which Mr. Rivers selects, I should not place much reliance upon either Beurre d'Amalis or Vicar of Winkfield (or Le Cure); having rarely eaten one of the former which was of good flavor, and never one of the latter which was more than passable.
I have much confidence in Louise Bonne, Beurre Diel, and Easter Beurre, but do not consider Duchesse d'Angouleme as always reliable, although from its magnificent size and fine flavor, one can afford sometimes to have but a few specimens.
I should add to the above list with great confidence, Belie Lucrative and Surpasse Virgalien, both of which are of the highest flavor, and, so far as I have seen, good bearers.
If I were now to plant a pear orchard, I should arrange the rows in quincunx order, ten feet apart; placing standards at intervals of about fifteen feet, filling the alternate spaces with dwarfs. I would prune erery one of them rigorously in pyramid form, until the standards encroached so much upon the dwarfs, as to render the removal of the latter expedient, when the former might be allowed to grow more at large. In this way, I have no doubt that, by selecting varieties judiciously, a fine return would be made to the planter.