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.
Let me for a moment call your attention to the cultivation of the grape. This is now assuming so much importance in our country, that it seems entitled to special attention at this time. Its progress is indeed marvellous. Until within a few years, it was supposed that Providence had assigned grape-culture and the manufacture of wine to countries in the south of Europe, and that the soil and climate of America were not at all adapted to their production. Still later, the theory was promulgated, which has not as yet yielded in full to a more enlightened judgment, that no good grape could flourish on our eastern slope. Now, it is known to succeed in almost every aspect where soil and cultivation are suitable, and it is believed, that no country on earth is better adapted to the extensive cultivation of the grape than the United States of America. This branch of fruit culture is yet in its incipient state, but it has progressed so far as to authorize the belief that the grape can be grown with success in almost every State and Territory of the Union.
With the progress already made in raiting new aorta, it is only a question of time when we shall have varieties adapted to almost every locality. Thousands of cultivators, scattered over our extended country, are each of them raising new varieties from seed in the expectation of success. While some of them may be valuable, many must, of necessity, be failures, having been originated from natural and accidental impregnation, without any settled or philosophical plan. The laws of reproduction, in this department, are the same as in other branches of the vegetable kingdom. For instance, in northern latitudes, the great object should be to produce good kinds which ripen early, and are perfectly hardy. To procure these from the limited number of our native grapes, we must resort to the art of hybridization, taking for the parents those sorts which contain the characteristics we desire to combine. This work has already been commenced in good earnest, and is progressing rapidly in the hands of many practitioners. Illustrations have occurred under our own observation, proving the immediate and happy results from the crossing of native with foreign grapes.
A gentleman in my own vicinity has taken, as the mother parent, the Vitis labrusca, a common native grape, and crossed these vines with the pollen of the Black Hamburgh and the White Chasselas grapes. Of forty-five seedlings, thirty-seven have borne fruit. All progeny of these have proved perfectly hardy, and have stood without protection for several winters, where the Isabella and Diana have been much injured. Of the seedlings produced from impregnation of the Black Hamburgh, most of them inherit, in a good degree, the color and characteristics of the male parent; while those fertilized with the White Chasselas, all were of a reddish color, intermediate between the natural colors of the parents. Thus we see the positive and powerful effect of the art of hybridization in the hands of scientific cultivators, who can, in a measure, control the process of reproduction, and render it subservient to their purpose.
But, to prevent discouragement and sustain perseverance, it should be remembered that, in conformity with the experience of Van Mons, Knight, and other pioneers, a seedling does not attain to perfection at once. To arrive at its culminating point of excellence, it must often bo fruited for several years. Others maintain that a number of manipulations are requisite to bring a new variety to perfection. Some varieties attain this much earlier than others, and the same variety reaches it earlier or later in different localities. Hence, an originator should not reject a seedling of some apparent good qualities, simply because it may have some defect; for this may result from local or external influences. He should, therefore, cause it to be transferred for trial to a different soil and climate. Even grapes of acknowledged excellence are improved by this change. The Concord and Diana, of Massachusetts, valuable as they are at home, acquire a superiority in the south and south-west unknown in their original locality, even rivalling the Catawbas and Isabellas of those sections.
It seems to be a general law of nature, illustrated in our forests and fields, that some trees and grains will flourish in nearly all localities and latitudes, while others are particularly restricted to certain districts. By this arrangement an all-wise Providence diffuses blessings over our country and clime. Each has its appropriate share in the general munificence of the Creator, together with luxuries peculiarly its own. The grape is common and almost universal; but the varieties of this fruit are mutable and local, capable of endless adaptation by human skill. Hence this field for the culture of the grape, upon the borders of which we have scarcely entered, is, to the intelligent cultivator, full of promise and reward.
While it was formerly supposed that the peculiar, and, to many, the disagreeable aroma of our common grapes disqualified them for the production of choice fruits and wines, it has been proved, we think, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the characteristic designated, by way of contempt, as the fox or pole-cat flavor, will hereafter constitute one of the chief excellencies of of our new varieties, when, by the art of hybridization and civilization, this flavor shall have been modified and changed, by alliance with other grapes of excellence that are destitute of this quality. This flavor, thus improved, seems destined to form a distinctive characteristic of an important data of American grapes, even to giro them a marked superiority over math varieties as the Black Hamburgh, Sweet-water, and such other foreign aorta as are destitute of any special aroma, and consist mainly of sugar and water. It may yet make oar seedlings rivals of the Muscats, the Frontignana, and other highly flavored foreign grapes of the Old World. Multitudes of seedlings, deriving their origin from our native vines in various stages of civilisation, and with a special view to this result, arc now on probation in various pouts of our country.
From these must necessarily arise, in coming time, many sorts of superior quality.
What if the desire for new varieties has become a mania? What if it produce, here and there, personal sacrifices and disappointments 7 What if, from want of skill, or from adverse causes, many inferior or even worthless varieties are produced? The result is certain. The time fast approaches, when the ultimate good will be realised, and when America will become the great grape-growing and wine-producing country of the world.
I admit, in respect to all our fruits, that, as the number of varieties increases, more judicious and severe discrimination in the selection of very valuable, and in the rejection of comparatively inferior varieties will be demanded. This is the lesson which past progress teaches us. What would the gardener of fifty years ago have said, if he had been told that his favorite Bon Chretiens, Muscats, and BlanqueU, were soon to be thrown into the shade forever? He would have shown as much incredulity as some of our modem amateurs do when we talk of future progress. The Duchesse d'Angoulfime, the Beurre d'Anjou, Doyenne Bousaock, Beurre Superfin, Bartlett,and Seckel, had not revealed to him the vast extent of improvement in fruits which was to be made. What was true, in this respect, fifty years ago, is equally applicable to present varieties. The impossible has no place in the history of progressive science, whether relating to natural arts, or to mechanical industry.
We have spoken here, and on former occasions, of the advancement which has been made in pomology in our age sod country. This is to be ascribed in part to the great scheme of Providence which has developed such stupendous results in the march of civilization and all the arts of life. Human pursuits are allied by affinities so intimate, that a remarkable discovery or improvement in one advances them all. Never before has the public mind been so profoundly moved, nor the energies of mankind so concentrated upon efforts to relieve toll, to perfect skill, to reward labor, and to multiply the comforts and blessings of life.
Truly we live in an age of transition and wonder! The invention of to-day supersedes that of yesterday, and in its turn is to be supplanted by that of to-morrow. No enterprise, however bold, sdventorous, or vast, whether the construction of a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific; the laying of the mystic wire in old ocean's bed, or threading it through Behring's Straits and winding it around the globe, is too great for the capital, energy, or intelligence of the present generation. • * •
The great industrial pursuit which this Society seeks to promote, furnishes testimony of progress not a whit behind the most favored of the arts.
Behold the improved methods of cultivation; the vast number of nurseries and orchards, springing up every where, as by enchantment; the novel processes of reproduction, multiplying plants in endless profusion, and as by the stroke of a magician's wand. Witness the interminable lists of varieties now in cultivation, increasing with each revolving year; the restless and anxious desire to obtain every thing new and promising, from whatever country or sea-girt isle it comes: the refined taste for choice fruits rapidly extending through every gradation of society; the standard of pomology, like the star of empire rising in the east, moving still onward to the west, and exciting the attention and astonishment of mankind. But this progress results from no supernatural power. It is rather an illustration of human capability, acting in conformity with natural laws, and in harmony with the benevolent designs of the Great Husbandman for the amelioration of society, and the display of his infinite wisdom and love, "sought out of those who take pleasure therein." It exhibits the conquests of mind over matter, the dominion of man over nature, improving, adorning, and elevating her to the highest and noblest purposes of her creation.
Inspired with these sentiments, let us take encouragement, and press on in the career of improvement, ever remembering that study and experience make the man; and that, for the highest attainment and the greatest success, we must depend upon the culture of the mind as well as of the soil.
"Surrey the globe through every zone, From Lima to Japan, In lincamenls of light 'tis shown That culture makes the man. All that man has, had, hopes, can have, Past, promised, or possessed, Are fruits which culture gives, or gave At industry's behest".