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.
It has been often remarked, in the best publications of the day, that there is advancement in the science and the art of horticulture. The evidences of the truth of this are numerous and satisfactory. And while floriculture and pomology have received a large share of attention, the cultivation of the grape has not been forgotten. This is true, both of the native and foreign varieties. I speak not now of vineyards, planted for the purpose of producing wine, and which are becoming a prominent feature in our agricultural history, especially in that of Ohio; but I refer to the raising of the best varieties of grapes for the table. It is said, that in a neighboring city, there is almost no garden, however small, but has its Isabella or Catawba grape vine. It is gratifying to learn that there is one city so far " in advance of the age;" and if there be others which have made equal progress, let it be published in the Horticulturist.
Here a query presents itself. Have all who have a suitable space, and opportunity to grow the foreign varieties under glass, attempted to do so? Have they ordered a structure from the manufacturer in Westchester county, or in Flushing? Or if another mode is pre ferable, have they bought their materials, engaged their mechanics, and in the meantime laid down a rich, well-drained and substantial border? But, says my neighbor, " it will never pay; it may do well enough as an amusement for the rich, who are visionary and eccentric in their tastes and mental habits, but it will prove an unprofitable speculation." True, it may not make returns in cash, dollar for dollar; and yet it is said that good Ham-burghs and Muscats sell readily in New York at six to eight shillings per pound. I do not believe a fine and cultivated taste is to be monopolized wholly by the "upper ten thousand" in the great metropolis. If this beautiful and delicious fruit will not bring the money again, it is better than gold or silver.
Who expects to make out the cash value of his luxuries, in dollars and cents? I would say to my neighbor, who is beginning to think seriously on the subject: you can not expect a good vinery, 30 feet long by 15 feet wide, handsomely glazed, to cost less than $150 to $170. But if it be properly attended to, and you sell the product for five years* after fruting, you can pay the interest on the out* lay twice over. But my friend, have you no unprofitable investments, or expensive luxuries? Did that well-furnished coach and matched horses cost less than six hundred dollars? And when I passed through his splendid mansion, and saw the tissue of his carpets, the lustre of his mahogany and rosewood furniture, and the five-hundred-dollar piano, and then going through the garden, I saw the poor, half-starved grape vine, bearing a small crop of fruit, the berries of which were as large as pistol shot, and almost as hard, too, I said to myself, " 0 consistency, thou art a jewel!"
But, says another, " I can not incur additional expense at present; I have a family to be supported, and children to be educated, and everything costs money." The education of children I admit to be an important duty. But what is education? Not a certain given amount of grammar, or Latin, or French, or algebra. Education is effected or obtained by every process which goes to discipline the mind, and enlarge and strengthen its faculties. Take your children with you under the crystal roof, some fine day in April, when all is bleak and leafless without. Take a leaf in one hand, and a microscope in the other, as did the lamented Downing, a self-taught man, and read to yourself and children a lesson from that theme. Describe to them its nature and tissue - its offices and uses. There are wonders in that leaf. You are making progress in the study of vegetable physiology, and begin to see its connection with the theory of horticulture. You may easily imagine yourself a priest of Nature, standing on the vestibule of her temple.
Is it nothing that you have so good an opportunity to guide and allure the minds of your children to a study of such beauty and sublimity?
But, says another, " I have no children to love or provide for; I can not incur this expense, and devote my time to attend upon a grapery, which I may not live to enjoy; and when I am gone, I have no assurance that it will pass into the hands of an amateur vine-dresser, or one who will appreciate the gift." You have no children 1 Then you should adopt some without delay, or something in their stead, to love and care for. Take some exotics - strangers from the old world, whose parents came from the classic banks of the Rhine, or the gardens of Fontainbleau, or the sunny slopes of the hills in the south of France. There are numerous families; the Hamburghs, the Frontignans, the Chasselas, and the Muscats, all good. You will find them more docile and manageable, than many children. They will never be refractory, being easily trained; and before you are aware, their adhesive, insinuating tendrils will twine and cling about your heart, and you will be never so happy as when in their company. Plant vines now, and deal kindly with them, before every drop of parental tenderness has exuded from your heart.
If we cultivate the foreign varieties, even in cold houses, we may have fruit matured and ready for the table by the 15th of August. Then the native grapes come into use about the 1st of October, and may be kept till January, so that the season of this delicious fruit, has a duration of four and a half months. Some prefer the flavor of our natives, because it is so highly aromatic and pungent, and agreeably seasoned with acid; but others choose the European, because of their perfect sweetness and superior delicacy, and because they are crisp, melting, and free from a tough core. I think, however, all will agree with me in choosing a large variety, rather than being shut up to one sort. And when your friends call, and you invite them to look into the garden and conservatory, would it not be gratifying to treat them with the fruit not only, but with a panoramic view of the finest countries of the Old world!
"The quality of mercy is not strained, It droppeth like the gentle dew from heaven, Upon the earth beneath; it is twice blessed; It blesseth htm that gives, and him that takes".
And this sentiment you may illustrate, by sending a few fresh clusters to that sick friend, who is languishing with fever, and to whom they will be more refreshing than the fabled nectar of the gods. It is no mean emblem of the millennium so long foretold, when " every man shall sit under his own vine and fig-tree, and none to molest or make him afraid." A. Messer.
Geneva, N.Y., November. 1852.