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.
The season of our principal Horticultural Exhibitions for the year is just concluded, and a few words upon them may not be altogether useless. We have, in truth, been much gratified by the aspect of those at which we have had the opportunity to be present, (and we doubt not that those of our readers who have attended them, will agree with us in opinion,) that the exhibitions of the present year have shown an onward movement, which testifies plainer than any other evidence can do, that our progress in every department of cultivation, whether fruit, flowers, or vegetables, is highly satisfactory. In every branch, the state of perfection in which the generality of exhibitors have brought their several productions to the contest, has been very good, and after making allowances for the diversity of localities, and the contingencies consequent on the weather upon some things, we have seen quite enough to satisfy us that many intelligent minds are engaged, and careful hands at work, to develope and apply the many advantages which this country so amply possesses, for growing all products of the earth in that high degree of luxuriance and perfection, which the judicious union of art in aid of nature's efforts, can alone effect.
Our object at present is not, however, to generalize in useless speculation, or to indulge in the lengthened expression of satisfactory anticipations as to the future; but to make some remarks upon the comparative degrees of excellence which have been manifested in some of the various departments of horticulture, with the view to offer a few suggestions for the consideration of exhibitors.
Uniformly, we have found the fruit at all exhibitions, as a whole, highly creditable to our fellow laborers in the science; and forming, as it does, one of the most important branches, this is the more .commendable in them. The specimens of many varieties of foreign grapes have been shown on several of their exhibition tables in condition, which leaves nothing to be desired; and we question whether finer samples of this fruit have ever graced the hospitable board of any of our readers. In point of size, the bunches exhibited have generally been satisfactory; and seeing that the culture of the foreign grape under glass, to any extent among us, may be said to be comparatively of recent origin, it has gratified us to find them usually shown with such evenly sized berries. There is one caution which we must nevertheless give some of our young grape growers, (a class that we have reason to know is now every day largely increasing in number,) and that is, not on any account to cut for exhibition a bunch of grapes that is not fully ripe.
We have observed in many instances this year, individual bunches which were not ripe, placed with others that were perfectly so, and in some cases we have seen that this defect has been overlooked, or rather disregarded by the judges, and premiums have been awarded for them. Now this should not be. We know full well, from considerable past personal experience, that it is a very disagreeable duty in judging at Horticultural Exhibitions, to be under the necessity of putting aside and disqualifying that which, as a whole, is a fine collection of fruit, on account of some defect, such as unripeness in a portion of it; or perhaps for some other requirement, which a little more time would have remedied; and which was not altogether a fault arising from any controllable defect in cultivation. We know that in such cases, to say nothing of the disappointment and dissatisfaction frequently produced, the cause even of the rejection is, to young cultivators,often unknown; and that discouragement and discontent thence produced, sometimes induce the exhibitor to decline to take part in future trials of skill.
But, however unfortunate this is, the judges should never allow such considerations to influence them- The very object of all parties engaged is the attainment of perfection in the pursuit; and although we know that it is in degree alone, and not in the full sense of the term, that this can be obtained; yet certain and distinct minimum limits of excellence should be laid down and adhered to, below which no subject of competition should be receivable. For it will be evident, upon consideration, that unless this be done, on the one hand, the very object of the discouragement of mediocre culture will be defeated, and on the other, the stimulus to exertion to reach a high standard of excellence, will be to a great extent taken away. A far preferable mode forjudges to adopt, whenever the general appearance of the subject of competition would appear, as compared with others exhibited, to entitle it to a premium, but which it is disqualified from receiving on account of defects or deficiencies not readily apparent to the inexperienced eye, is for the judges to attach a paper with a short note of the reason, thus, "Disqualified by the judges on account of * * * - ." This will always testify that the judges have not been negligent in the discharge of their duty; and will generally reconcile the unsuccessful candidate himself to his misfortune.
He will regard the paper as tantamount to a testimonial by the judges in favor of the general good results of his exertions, and his vanity, (or perhaps commendable pride,) will not be wounded; and the consolation which he derives from the idea that but for the one mischance, he would have obtained the reward of his care and skill, neutralises the feeling of disappointment at its loss; and he resolves on more circumspection in future.
Our Boston friends who have so well earned, and so long claimed a pre-eminent position amongst us in pear culture, will, we are well assured, join us in congratulating our cultivators something farther south, at their success this season* In numerous instances we have seen a considerable increase this year in the number of good varieties exhibited by the New York and other growers. Doubtless every year adds to their experience as to the particular varieties suited to their locations in our varied climate, and to this the re suit alluded to is in a great measure to be attributed. Our advice to pear amateurs is, rather to aim at confining themselves to such varieties as, upon a fair trial, are found to afford satisfactory results, first and principally, as regards flavor and quality, and secondly as regards the average crop, than to increase numerically the varieties they grow. In our opinion, the rapid advances now making in horticultural chemistry, may, at no very distant period, open to us an arcana in the laws immediately applied to the texture and the flavoring of fruits, which may enable us by-and-bye to influence these particulars to a degree at present perceptible but dimly, if at all, only in that vista of the scientific future, which those alone who are laboring silently but nevertheless ardently upon the subject, at present dare glance into.