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.
For the past year my grape culture may be put down as a failure, and notwithstanding all my enthusiasm in its success, candor compels me to admit this result.
For these three years past my Catawba vines have produced no ripe vintage; for although they opened splendidly, and summer seemed to indicate a large yield, the rot finally ruined the prospect; and when October came, almost nothing was found but shriveled and blasted fruit, unfit for any use whatever - no grapes, no wine!
After experimenting for almost twenty years, I find the Catawba, from some cause or other, in this section unfit for vineyard cultivation, and therefore last fall I dug up my vines of this description, and am replacing them with the Ives Seedling, a variety said to be much hardier, and free from mildew and rot.
The Herbemont and the Diana are two other varieties which at one time promised well with me, but after one or two seasons they showed signs of mildew, and now I place them as vines suitable only for garden culture, with winter protection.
The Iona, which yielded fruit of most excellent quality, and which was introduced to the grape world as the grape, superior and reliable for the table or the wine press, like the Catawba, has given way; and although it is a fruit equal in every respect to any grape cultivated here, it is fast following the misfortunes of the Catawba, of which it appears, to my judgment, to be a seedling.
I have tried the Anna, Alvey, Adirondac, Allen's Hybrid, Clara, Elsinburg, Lincoln, Lenoir, and a number of others of fancy varieties, and have found them all failures, as out-door hardy grapes - not worth the attempt of cultivation.
But there are a few varieties which, with proper common care, succeed well; these are the Clinton, Concord, Hartford Prolific, and the Ives Seedling, which promise right. To these I may add the Delaware and Israella; the first for hardiness and quality of fruit, the second for earliness and size of bunch and berry. The Rebecca is a most beautiful grape, but has proved with me a complete failure, and so have the hybrids of Rogers.
Perhaps it may be said that my vineyard is not suitable, or that I do not cultivate aright. My vine-hill lies east by south, and in bygone years produced Catawbas equal to any of Kelly's Island. In regard to the cultivation, I have spared neither time, skill, or money; and in making wine, I have been successful as an amateur wine-maker. The climate also is not far wrong, being on the 40th parallel, and my residence on the second bench of the beautiful White Water. Hence I am of the opinion, that when the grape suitable for this region is found, I may yet enjoy my otium cum dignitate under my own vine and fig-tree.
I am now past the meridian of life; the snows of fifty winters have powdered my once raven locks, and a few more years are all that I can expect to pass on earth ; how pleasant, then, to look forward through a vista of flowers and fruits, to sit under the blossom of the peach and the apple, and in autumn to enjoy their luscious production. Hence, notwithstanding my many failures, I continue planting and resetting, trimming and cultivating, preparing for that evening of life when the hands will refuse their cunning and the strong muscle its action, and labor becomes a burden.
This season I shall plant five hundred Ives and a few hundred Concords, which with those I have, and the other varieties, I will look forward to the enjoyment of a feast of roses, of wine on the lees well refined, such as I have had in former years, when I sent your predecessor a bottle of my red-cork to wet his whistle.
This is Easter Sunday - cold, bleak, and stormy. The peach blossoms are opening their beautiful flowers, I am afraid, to be destroyed long before the fruit is matured. The green bud of the raspberry has bursted its winter covering and looks chilly and feeble; the grape has begun to swell and the early pear to bloom. May we flatter ourselves that He who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb will so arrange the seasoDs that spring and summer and autumn and winter shall each in its own proper orbit pervade the world ?
My own white and black seedling grapes I am carefully nursing, and testing their quality and strength. As last year was a failure with me in the grape line, they were no exception; still, each showed qualities of No. 1 grapes, and this season I hope to report satisfactorily their status in the list of grape excellence, or not at all.
I wish some grape fancier, who enjoys the pleasure of having something nice in the way of a white grape not found in market, would send me in exchange a small rootlet or a few eyes of his variety, and 111 return in kind from my white. I am anxious to obtain a white grape the bunch and berry of which will equal the Catawba in quality, and excel it in durability and health or power to resist disease.
O that I was on the shores of the Mediterranean, where the Falernian used to flourish, or the grapes of Eschol were found! then I would wander amid the vineyards of the past, and perhaps find some vine whose fruit would unite the luscious sweetness of the Roman with the size of the Jewish grape.