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.
MUCH as we love the subject of grape culture, we ap". proach our next topic with some misgivings, produced in a great measure by the effects of the past winter. We may not, it is true, have another such in many years; but we have been of opinion for several years past that our seasons are changing and becoming more trying. The "cycle" may or may not have been completed during the past winter; the next may be better or worse; but of that we know nothing. The only safe course, therefore, in recommending What Kinds of Grapes to Plant, is, to take for a basis what we already know, not what we would wish. The interests involved in this matter of grape planting are so great, that we are impelled to take the only safe basis, the facts already obtained. We prefer, in brief, to be on the safe side, and to be so cautious in our recommendations that no man shall hereafter reproach us with having misled him. We may not go as far as some would wish, but quite as far, we think, as our knowledge and experience, and a due regard to the interests of our readers, will warrant.
Let us now examine such kinds as may be safely recommended for "general cultivation." For this purpose we want a grape constitutionally healthy and vigorous, productive, of fair size in bunch and berry, of at least " very good " quality, and having such hardiness and early maturity as to fit it for all sections of the country. We have here requirements hard to be met at present, but we shall, no doubt, in a few years have a number of grapes that will fully meet them. At present the number is very limited. Of these, we unhesitatingly place the Delaware at the head of the list. It exceeds our requirements in one particular, in being of the "best" quality. If all grapes for "general cultivation" were required to be of the " best" quality, we should, with our present experience, be compelled to stop short with the Delaware. Last fall we should have placed the Diana second, and would like to do so now; but during the past winter it has in many places been killed, when left fully exposed. Were the practice of covering the vines common, all doubts in regard to the Diana, as well as some others, would be removed, since it ripens sufficiently early. In quality it will rank among the best. We think, on the whole, that the Concord may be added.
Inferior in quality to the Delaware, Diana, and some others, it is still "very good," and nearly meets our other requirements. We were of the first, we believe, outside of those interested in its sale, to speak a fair word for the Concord, and to predict that it would take its place by the side of the Isabella, as a market-fruit.
Our list for general cultivation we shall have to close here, to the disappointment, no doubt, of not a few; but it must be borne in mind what our requirements are, and that we are recommending table grapes only. When speaking of grapes for wine and amateurs, others may be added to the list Some may think that we should have added the Isabella and Catawba, since they are on the list of the Pomological Society; but we do not hesitate to say that they have no right there whatever, and never should have been placed there. There never has been a time when the Catawba was fit for general cultivation, and that fact is now almost universally admitted. We take no exception to its fine quality; that all recognize; but its late ripening and tenderness unfit it for cultivation in half the country; moreover, it rots more than all other grapes together, and infects every thing within reach of it. The Isabella, too, is a good grape, though much inferior to the Catawba; it is not early and hardy enough, however, for general cultivation.
Both these grapes should, therefore, be stricken from the general list of the Pomological Society; their proper place is for localities.
There are some of the new grapes which we think will, in time, take their place on the list for general cultivation; but they have not yet been sufficiently tested to speak of them confidently; such, for instance, as the Cuyahoga, Creveling, Hartford Prolific, and others. The last has been some time before the public, but its character is not yet satisfactorily established. The Cuyahoga and Creveling are much less known, but we have formed a favorable opinion of them; but all of them must have been tested over a wide extent of country before we can form a just estimate of their fitness for general cultivation. It is much in favor of a grape for this class that it originated or has ripened its fruit for some time in a section sufficiently rigorous to test its hardiness.
If, now, we lessen our circle a little, we shall be enabled to enlarge our list. Wherever the Isabella ripens its fruit unfailingly, we may name in addition to it the Diana and Union Village. We are tempted to place the Rebecca here, because we find it, when fully established, nearly or quite as hardy as the Isabella; it is a much superior grape.
Contracting our circle again, we may add the Catawba and Anna; and either here or on the preceding list, the Allen's Hybrid will probably take its place; but it is not yet sufficiently known to locate it. The Catawba, as before remarked, is very liable to the rot, which has caused its culture to be entirely abandoned in some places. This is deeply to be regretted, since it is one of our best grapes; but the fact ought to be known. We have almost ceased to recommend it on this account alone. The Pauline, Brinckle, Maxatawny, (a very promising grape,) and others, must go some distance south of New York. There are many new grapes before the public, but we have seen too little of them to give them a place yet, though we have most of them growing. If any of our readers think we have omitted in either of our lists any grape that really belongs there, we should be glad to hear from them. We have no objection at all to having our lists criticised. Of more local varieties we shall say something hereafter.
Of the small berried grapes, we may mention as hardy the Elsingburgh and Lenoir. Though the berries are small, the bunches are large, and the quality excellent. The Herbemont requires covering or shelter, and properly belongs further south.
A few words may be added in regard to suitable kinds for the garden, where a succession of fruit is usually wanted. Nothing should be admitted here that is not really "best," except among that small but useful class of amateurs who can afford to indulge in the luxury of trying every thing new. Of kinds well known a choice selection for the garden may be made from the Delaware, Diana, Rebecca, Union Village, Anna, Isabella, and, but for the rot, Catawba. To these will probably be added, Allen's Hybrid, Cuyahoga, Manhattan, and others.