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 continue our extract from Dr. Diel's work. It will be found intersting.
"Fruit trees in pots require only a small flower garden, or even only a few boards before the windows; and yet for all that they will give more pomological knowledge in ten years, than a large orchard can possibly give in twenty. I will suppose, for example, that one can find place for only fifty pots, whose width at top is tight inches and depth seven inches, ordinary flower pots, containing about 309 cubic inches of soil. This would be sufficient to become acquainted with 225 varieties in ten years. That is to say, I calculate, by experience, that of fifty trees planted in pots, one half will always bear the second year, and this amounts, deducting the first year of planting, in the following nine years to the above number. Who is there that has not room enough or ground enough to accomplish this. And how small a nursery is sufficient for this purpose? If one procures only thirty proper stacks every fall, on which we can graft those varieties we wish to grow, they may be grafted as soon as the following spring, or budded the next summer; and after two years' growth of the graft they are planted in the pots.
If such a tree in the ground is allowed two, or at most three square feet of space, such a nursery - allowing five trees to fail - would scarcely require more than one rod of ground in four years.
"To acquire an extended, reliable, and speedy knowledge of the numerous varieties of fruit, then, without large outlays of money and time, the raising of fruit trees in pots is an urgent necessity. But to discover new varieties it is just as important and advantageous.
"It has long since and often been recommended to select those seedlings from the seed beds which in their growth and leaves show nothing wild or thorny, and to plant them for fruiting without grafting them. That in this way many new varieties have originated, still originate daily, and perhaps all have so originated, is an acknowledged and well-known fact. But as it must not be dreamed that each noble-looking seedling will yield a valuable variety of fruit, the planting of such trees would be a great risk, calculated to do more harm than good, by distributing many inferior kinds.
"To avoid all this, and to know, without losing the seedling, with what sort of fruit any good looking one would have enriched us, pot culture is a means as convenient, easy, and precious, as it is truly entertaining, and ending in no disappointment. In the pot such a tree will bear fruit at latest the third year, and we then know whether it is worthy of propagation or not. In the orchard this would have taken six to ten years.
"It is truly desirable that in large nurseries where seedlings are raised from seed of select varieties! a number of such trial pots should be kept. Thereby many new varieties could be discovered, of which many would be a real enrich ment to our present stock, and which are lost without this means. How often may inferior cooking fruits have been grafted on a seedling, whose own fruit would have been an ornament on table?
"For those who make pomology their study, pot culture is also a sure way to effect pure artificial crossings, and to raise pure specific seed of select varieties. An artificial crossing is sometimes effected through the wind, but principally by- insects. But if the crossing is to be perfect, if the artificial impregnation is to affect the whole nature of the seed, all the anthers in all the blossoms of the tree that . is to be impregnated must be cut out before their maturity, and the pistil there by be isolated. * * *
"By pot culture also such kinds of fruit can be raised, tried, and enjoyed, that would either not stand the winter in that locality in the open ground, or whose blossoms might be easily destroyed by late frosts, or else would ripen too late in the fall, to expect fine weather to bring them to perfection. To this class belong principally Peaches, Figs, Almonds, Apricots, and some Plums. A Russian coun-tess assured me, that she cultivated many French fruit trees in pots in Moscow, wintering them in large green-houses.
"Pot culture could also assist greatly in distributing good and rare varieties, A large part of our beloved Germany is yet so far backward in the distribution of select fruit, nay, many neighborhoods known to me are so poor in plantations of the most indifferent kinds of kitchen fruit even, that every encouragement to fruit culture would be compensative. What hidden wealth of the country, what healthy enjoyment, what true economy lies in this culture. A country without fruit is ever poor. * * *
"The Babylonic chaos of names of varieties could also be cleared through pot culture. How great this chaos is, and how it requires the labors of an Augeas to sift this mish-mash, is well known to every amateur, and much more to the professional pomologist. * * *
"But if several pomologists in different parts of Germany would join in an association, and mutually send each other the varieties known in their neighborhood under an acknowledged name, how speedily would each, after previously communicating his catalogue, distribute his wealth, and in turn become possessed of that of others. This exchange would, indeed, be effected the quickest by sending directly such ripe fruit as could be transported; but the pomologist would, in fact, learn little in this way. For, to the system, the study of the tree itself is necessary.
"Pot culture is a speedy and easy means for this end. If, for instance, each member of the association kept only one hundred trees in pots, and considering that these are studied through every three years, what a wealth of knowledge would spring therefrom. How insignificant would be the cost; for each member would have to raise only about forty trees yearly for exchange. To exchange scions would also be a good way, but slow and uncertain, particularly with stone-fruit".
Some time since we saw at Mr. Erhard's an old German work on the Cultivation of Fruit-Trees in Pots, by Dr. A. F. A. Diel, published in 1798. There was so much simplicity, freshness, and breadth of view in it, that we determined to give our readers some extracts from it, and now present the first. At this time, when pot culture is exciting so much attention, it will be read with interest. The work has a historical value too, as giving us an insight into the origin of this particular mode of culture, which many regard as quite new, though it really dates back beyond Diel, who, however, seems to have been the first to practice it in a systematic way. Kiel is regarded as an authority in pomology in Germany even at the present day. We do not agree with all his views in regard to the value of pot culture; for amateurs, however, they will have a peculiar interest. It is curious to observe that even in his day the multiplicity of names was a sore vexation; it has now got to be an intolerable nuisance.
But to the first extract:
" In trifles, as well as in important matters, it is almost ever chance which leads us to new discoveries. I should have missed many an hour of serene pleasure, if necessity had not driven roe, in the fall of 1782, to plant a peach tree in a pot, because, on account of the frost, 1 could not plant it in the ground* I kept the pot in a room, where the earth did not freeze, and as early as the beginning of March the tree commenced to thrive, and blossomed quite unexpectedly. I bestowed the greatest care on it, gave it every chance to receive the sunshine, and throughout the whole summer it throve admirably. The tree retained two peaches, and in the fall they proved to bo the real long sought-for Venusbreast ( Teton de Venus), "I had, indeed, seen trees in pots before that time in France, but these were always the dwarf Reinette (Reinette pomier naiu), or the dwarf Peach of Orleans, and the double-flowering Peach In Strasburg I saw also the dwarf Almond in pats, But all this made as little impression on me, as to deriving therefrom any conclusions for pomology, as my forcing of ruses, or the many large orangeries which I only wondered at.
"Solely, then, this makeshift to preserve a tree, that I had long sought after, awoke the idea in me to try all kinds of fruit in pots. My fruit garden at that time was small, but the cultivation of the manifold kinds of fruit gave me, nevertheless, the greatest pleasure from my earliest youth. How I delight to the present time, in some trees which I grafted in my eleventh year I My love for the cultivation of fruit trees, was mainly created and sustained by the beautiful plantations of select varieties in the large gardens attached to the "German House," at Marburg, When yet a schoolboy 1 brought many a good thing home from there, and I had scarcely a tree which had not from four to six varieties in its crown.
"The idea of raising all kinds of fruit in pots, opened to me the grand prospect of being able to dedicate my leisure hours to pomology, and to try all and retain the best So far I had wasted these moments of evening leisure on flowers, and how many of them yield us for fifty weeks of care, only two weeks of pleasure, which is often spoiled by bad weather! Now these splendidly blossoming fruit trees are my pot flowers, and throughout the summer hope is watching over them, that they may gladden me with ripe fruit in the fall. Indeed, many of my friends have already exchanged their flowers for fruit trees.
"This, however, would be only pleasure and enjoyment, without real profit. Indeed, many of my acquaintances did not seek for any thing else at first; but soon they sought for new varieties, and enquired into the genuineness of names. In this wise, knowledge and activity, a general love for nature, a greater attentive-ness for her rich treasures, and many a profounder observation of vegetation were developed, which slumbered before unnoticed.
" The advantages to the study of pomology, of cultivating all kind of fruit trees in pots, are various and important. Most of my varieties I know only by this means. Not to mention, that the amateur can only by this method become by degrees, and, as it were, playingly, an adept, the cultivation of fruit trees in pots is just as desirable, in fact, it is a real necessity for the professional pomologist, who is bent on studying the whole subject of pomology. By it only is he enabled to acquire in a few years a wealth of pomological knowledge in regard to genuineness of varieties, nomenclature, diversity of vegetation, and value of varieties, and so to become finally a competent judge in such matters. Orchards on a grand scale are by no means so efficient for this purpose, and the cost of them, both in money and time, is very large. And where is there an orchard that contains all varieties?"