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.
IN selecting fruits for cultivating in a small garden, far more care is requisite than for grounds of considerable extent. Few owners of limited grounds care to experiment beyond what is actually necessary to determine the adaptation of varieties to their soil and climate.
The novice, however, if he consults catalogues, or more pretentious works on horticulture, is very likely to become confused by the long array of names of varieties, each minutely described, and with the usual number of adjectives employed in extolling their merits.
I do not say this in a sarcastic spirit; for every word said in praise of a fruit may be true. Still, in certain localities, it will surely prove to be utterly worthless for cultivation.
The orange is a grand fruit for Florida, but of no value for field culture in New York; and the reverse of this is true in regard to our best varieties of apples and pears. This law of adaptation of species and varieties to climate as well as soil, is far more potent than even some of our most experienced horticulturists are willing to admit; hence, the many failures of otherwise well-directed efforts. The amateur, who has never had occasion to look into the subject, is liable to fall into the error of putting a too general meaning upon the words of writers on horticultural matters; and that which puzzles him most is not what to select, but what to avoid; for he probably wants only one variety out of every hundred described as good, or very good. Then, again, he will seldom think of selecting a sort described as second or third rate in quality, although experience may in time teach him that such are frequently the most valuable, if not a dernier resort. The writer has more than once been severely criticised for speaking well of, or recommending, certain fruits of inferior quality for particular locations; his critic taking the high but untenable ground, that, to elevate the tastes of the masses, the very best-flavored sorts should always be recommended.
It is well enough to aim high, if the game is worth the powder, and the marksman can afford the expense; but the owners of small gardens are not supposed to be, as a class, men who are disposed to spend money without receiving a full equivalent therefor.
It is far better that a family should have a full supply of a really good fruit, than to obtain only an occasional taste of something of a superlative order.
Garden Arrangement - Fruit trees, such as pears, apples, plums, and peaches, should be planted very sparingly in what would be termed small gardens, say. from a quarter of an acre to an acre. Most persons, however, fall into this error of planting too many large trees, and their grounds soon become shaded, to such an extent that the really more valuable products have to be excluded. A few dwarf pears, or apples, may, however, be introduced, or a less number of standards, if planted where they will not shade ground required for other purposes. There are vegetables, and some of the small fruits, which succeed well in partial shade - therefore may be cultivated among trees, for a few years at least; but such an arrangement will necessarily be only temporary, and calculations must be made accordingly. But whether it would be advisable to admit large trees into a small garden, or not, will depend very much upon circumstances. If they are introduced, a selection of varieties should be made, - not only to suit the tastes of the family, and to meet certain wants that cannot readily be supplied by the nearest markets.
For instance; winter apples can, usually, be purchased in market cheaper than a man with limited grounds can afford to produce them; and the same is probably true in regard to certain sorts of peaches, plums and pears; especially in the older and thickly settled portions of the country. The idea should be to produce those kinds which are most profitable, - not for the market, but the household; and this will certainly bring us to the more delicate and perishable kinds, especially to what are termed