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.
Up to the opening of the present month, (June,) Western Pennsylvania presented a scene of almost unrivalled luxuriance and beauty. The few cold days in January, which proved so injurious to many of the Arbor Vitro and Norway Spruce trees in New England, had passed over this region without leaving any mark whatever. Trees and shrubbery of all kinds had never hybernated with more perfect freedom from injury. Never have we had a greater profusion of blossoms, a better show of fruit, or a more encouraging prospect of superabundant crops in all the departments of agricultural economy; - even dwarf pear-trees made a fair attempt to retrieve their sullied reputation, and the pomologist looked forward to a kind of horticultural millennium, when he should be permitted to test his new varieties of fruit and draw a comparison of their merits. But the fatal night of the 4th arrived, and a thousand golden anticipations were in a few short hours "Nipp'd by an untimely frost".
As the sun obtained power on the morning of the 5th, the whole air became fragrant with the sweetness of the wilting vegetation. In abject humility for having been so stiff-necked the night before, the ascetic dock hung its head meekly to the ground; the elders and ferns bewailed their former verdancy in sackcloth and ashes, while the hickories donned a sable mantle of velvet and went into mourning for the loss of their cousins, the butternuts. The ash-trees for once were true to their cinereous appellation, while the Tulip Poplars, which botanists have poetically styled the Liriodendron, showed no resemblance whatever to a lyre, unless it was perchance a blasted one. The poor locusts died with an air of catholic sanctity, holding bouquets of white flowers in their hands, while the maples endeavored to braze it out, and treat the matter as a bagatelle; their coppery tints, however, showed that it was at best but a bogus assumption of indifference.
The dark cloud which rested upon the landscape, found a sympathetic shade on many a human countenance. The farmer made a wry face over his shrivelled fields of wheat; the pomologist found a melancholy amusement in popping his hollow peaches, which exploded with the slightest compression, while the florist exclaimed with Scotia's bard, "But our flowers were in flushing When their blighting was nr«recl".
After a week of despondency, and minor frosts at intervals, we have now a most healthy and cheering reaction, - copious warm showers have greatly revived the drooping vegetation. The farmer has repaired damages so far as labor could accomplish it; wheat fields supposed to be fatally injured are beginning to blossom and show symptoms of returning vitality; while here and there an unscathed orchard has obtained a pleasant notoriety, like the green spots which show themselves amid the Alpine glaciers.
As the half-foundered vessel is sometimes righted up by cutting away the masts and the rigging, so many cultivators have put their pets into better condition by clipping off the wilted leaves and the softened branches preparatory to a renewal of their growth.
Consolation in the shape of flour at ten dollars a barrel, has been freely administered to the most panic-stricken, who are now happily convalescent, and altogether we have a host of agencies and energies at work to render the balance of the season anything but a barren or unfruitful one.
Amid the wreck in the gardens, the peas are blossoming afresh, the currants have partly escaped, and we enjoyed a larger and finer crop of strawberries than I have grown for years. The Hooker and Wilson's Albany, have fruited with me for the first time, and appear to be nearly equal in merit; the largest berries (about four inches in circumference) were on the first, but the others were nearly as large, - both kinds presenting very strong trusses of fruit. A seedling of Messrs. Eliwanger & Barry, probably the Orange Prolific, has also proven itself in every way satisfactory.
Grapes under glass with me this year are doing very nicely, with the prospect of a very heavy crop. One Hamburgh vine alone, presents 250 clusters of fruit. A self-registering thermometer in the grapery in which this vine stands, gave during the frosts the following results: night of June 4th, 29 1/5; June 11th, 31 1/2; June 12th, 33 1/2. Notwithstanding these low figures, nothing in the grapery, not in contact with the glass, appeared to be injured, except a few leaves of the White Frontignac. I have found this grape on four years' trial very tender, and a miserable bearer; according to the books it ought to be prolific. Has any one else a similar experience? I notice that the fruit upon the higher portions of all the vines is frequently quite in advance of that on the lower branches; the explanation of this is, I take it, the higher temperature of the upper atmosphere in the grapery; and this is also, I suppose, the solution of what in several manuals is spoken of as a natural tendency of the grape to send its sap to the higher branches. I have never discovered any want of force or strength in the lower branches, and nave never had any difficulty in fruiting the vines clear to the border.
If a vine on being taken up in the spring is slung in a pendant position, the head being lowest, is kept in the coolest atmosphere, and the lower branches get a good start, but are overtaken by the top, when it is tied up, which brings the whole vine into uniformity. The upper grapes on some vines which I tied to the trellis this spring, without slinging them at all, had attained to the size of marrowfat peas by the time the lower clusters were out of bloom. The increased temperature above, also frequently shows its effects in the setting of the fruit - the clusters on a Sweetwater vine above, being almost impenetrable to the scissors,while below the fruit will set more irregularly and thinly. I have growing to the south of my dwelling, a vine of the grape lately spoken of in the Rural New Yorker, and in the Gardeners' Monthly, as the Franklin. I have some doubts about its Franklin origin, and am inclined to believe that it was introduced here without a name from Mr. Adlum's garden, D. C, some thirty years ago.
The vine above referred to, was set out some sixteen years ago, and now measures ten inches in circumference, and covers above and below a porch extending itself for about seventy feet. It probably had half a ton of fruit upon it when injured by the late frost. I notice the dormant buds are already pushing, and it may possibly produce new clusters of fruit. I think this variety a valuable one for northern climates. It has stood, unsheltered, the test of our severest winters, and has never failed to ripen its fruit perfectly. The clusters are small and abundant; the fruit sets irregularly, some bunches being too compact, and others open and uneven. The color is black, with a blue bloom; the skin thin, too thin to enable it to bear much transportation or to keep long. The pulp is free from toughness, and the flavor, without any saccharine qualities, is sweet enough to be agreeable. The fruit stains a little on being eaten, but I have never known those who partake of it to show any other blueness than a temporary discoloration of the lips. It is a popular grape here, and for our northern latitudes is a very reliable one.* Mr. Hobbs, a nurseryman in this county, has produced a seedling from this grape, and exhibited to me last year a sample of the fruit.
It resembled the parent vine very closely in its qualities, and the fruit was somewhat larger. If it proves superior on future trials when the vine has grown older, I will speak of it again.