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.
WE purpose giving our readers an occasional article on the culture of Dwarf Pears, a subject of primary interest to the pomologist who grows fruit for the market, and scarcely less so to the consumer. The question as to whether Dwarf Pears can be profitably grown for market has not yet, in the minds of many, and especially of the inexperienced, been satisfactorily settled. While many cases of undoubted success have been adduced affirmatively, the negative side of the question has not been wanting in its examples of failure. Our own opinion on the main question is pretty decided, and will form the subject of an article on a future occasion. We think we shall be better understood by the young pomologist by confining our remarks to one point at a time.
The causes of failure are frequently more difficult to understand than the means of success, and consequently assume a preponderating importance. The causes of failure in the culture of the Dwarf Pear are various, some of them being manifest to the most casual observer, while others are difficult to be understood. We shall confine our remarks on this occasion to one cause alone, which we believe to have been more prolific of failure than any other which can be named. We allude to deep planting. We shall probably be told that deep planting - planting up to the junction of the quince and pear - is recommended by the best writers in the country. We admit that this is so ; the recommendation proceeds from gentlemen whom we gladly recognize as giants in pomology ; and yet our own experience and a pretty extended observation, Convince us that such a recommendation, unqualified as it is, is not good sound doctrine in pear culture. Is deep planting ever recommended in the case of any other tree or plant than the Dwarf Pear ? Do we not rather do just the contrary ? A leading principle in terraculture, recognized and practised by intelligent practical men, and by none more readily than those who recommend deep planting for the Dwarf Pear, is to keep the roots near the surface, and the surface well stirred.
The principle is sound both in theory and practice, and is inconsistent with deep planting : its importance is greatly enhanced when trees are set in either a shallow or a heavy, undrained soil. Plants take up no unimportant portion of their food from the atmosphere through their roots, and they do this most readily when the roots are near the surface ; and they are then also in the best position to be benefited by the annual top dressings which are indispensable to the successful culture of the Dwarf Pear. If we mistakenly plant too deep, nature will at once begin to rectify the mistake by throwing out a series of roots nearer the surface ; sometimes, under favorable circumstances, with no untoward results, but very often, and especially in plants constitutionally weakened by artificial culture, the process exhausts the vital energies of the plant, and it lingers for a while, and then dies. Deep planting has no analogy in Nature, and experience has not taught us that she has made an exception in favor of the Dwarf Pear.
We design this article mainly for the novice, and wish to make it short and practical; we shall probably best do this by giving a brief chapter from our own experience, which has been abundantly confirmed by a multitude of similar cases which have come under our own eye. When, many years ago, we first planted Dwarf Pears, we got trees from two leading nurserymen, and put some in pots and some in the ground. The ground was thoroughly prepared for all alike. Some of the trees were worked high, some low. We were told to plant up to the junction of the quince and pear; this advise seemed well enough in regard to those trees that were worked low, but in reference to those that were worked from fifteen to twenty inches high, seemed so repugnant to what we deemed good practice, that even our respect for the authority of those who recommended it could not induce us to plant all our trees in that way. Some were planted up to the junction, and some at the depth at which they stood in the nursery rows. The soil was a light loam, and consequently more favorable to deep planting than a heavy one. Now mark the result.
Those that were worked low, and those that were planted as they stood in the nursery, did well, and have borne good crops of fruit for upward of fifteen years; the first, however, after a while threw out roots from the Pear, and made the largest and most vigorous trees. Those that were worked high and planted deep mostly made a feeble growth, and some of them finally died. At the end of two years those that remained alive were but little larger than when planted, and were so manifestly diseased that we took them up. We found that new but feeble roots had been emitted from the upper portion of the quince stock covered by soil, but the lower part had decayed, roots and all, and presented a charred appearance very much like the Pear blight. The diseased part in some cases extended so far up the stock as to make it manifest that the death of the tree could not be very remote. Where there seemed to be any hope of saving them, the decayed part was cut away, and the trees replanted. Some of them afterward made good specimens, and others died.
We subsequently made experiments in deep planting with precisely the same results; and we have seen and examined so many cases of the same kind in the grounds of our friends, that not a doubt lingers in our mind as to the impropriety of the practice.
The mistake made by those who recommend deep planting, consists in not regarding the manner in which different nurserymen work their trees; on some of the latter must rest the responsibility of many of the failures in the cultivation of Dwarf Pears. We know that it requires more time and care to work trees low; but an additional charge can be made for this. It is nothing to the purpose to say that the purchaser will not pay such additional charge; for besides the consideration that the purchaser will naturally consult his best interests, the nurseryman has this matter entirely under his own control.
It will be 8cen,.then, from what we have said, that the true theory in planting Dwarf Pears is, to set them up to the point of junction When the trees are worked low, but otherwise to plant them as they stood in the nursery. You may, by pursuing a different course, sometimes succeed, but it will only be under peculiarly favorable conditions of soil and great vigor in the trees. Success, however, we feel assured, will be more certain under all circumstances by regarding the conditions we have laid down. And we appeal to nurserymen to bud their Dwarf Pears as near as possible to the ground, no matter at what additional cost; for we cannot help feeling that on them will depend, in a great measure, the final solution of the long vexed question, whether Dwarf Pears can be profitably grown. If the trees be properly prepared in the nursery, we entertain little doubt of the result.