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.
In attempting to produce a new variety of strawberries from seed, it should first be decided what are the qualities desired, and then, by selecting two varieties that possess these qualities as near as may be, and by fertilizing one with the other, we can come nearer to the object in view than we should by sowing seed collected indiscriminately from varieties not properly fertilized.
For instance, let us take the Wilson, which is very prolific, quite large and firm, but is rather acid, and too dark color, with a calyx that does not part readily from the berry, and the Peabody, which is not prolific, though large, and is of superior color, and sweet, and has a calyx that parts readily.
Now, let us place these two varieties at some distance from other varieties, but in close proximity to each other, so that they can be the more readily operated upon. When they come into bloom we remove the stamens from as many flowers as desired, and then with a fine camel's hair pencil take the pollen from the other variety, and dust it over the pistils of the flower from which the stamens have been removed. It is well to place a fine netting over the plant operated upon, to prevent insects from fertilizing it with pollen from inferior varieties.
The flowers should have the pollen applied several times, a few hours between each application, so that the fertilization shall be complete. It is well to use both varieties as parents, and fertilize the Wilson with the Peabody, and vice versa, as it can not be determined which will produce the best until proved by actual experiment. I do not mention the Wilson and Peabody believing them to be the best to raise seedlings from, but only to illustrate the principle. From my own experiments with them I have been somewhat disappointed, for nine-tenths of the seedlings from the Wilson fertilized by the Peabody were more acid than the parent, although I succeeded in getting the color, and some of the other characteristics of the Peabody. But using the Peabody as the parent, I have had better success - getting a better colored berry, sweeter, and some plants that were quite prolific, with almost invariably the long neck, which is a peculiar characteristic of the Peabody.
Two varieties of the same species, or two distinct species, (unless too far removed, like the Alpine, which I believe will not hybridize with any of the others,) may be brought together and valuable varieties grown from the mixture.
But it must be remembered that the varieties now in cultivation have been so mixed and cross-fertilized that it is almost impossible to get a true cross between any two varieties.
The effect of fertilization of previous generations will sometimes show itself when and where least expected. Sometimes the best results will be obtained by merely sowing seeds of any good variety, trusting to its inherent good qualities being transmitted to the offspring.
From the Austin I have got seedlings all of which resembled the parent, but were inferior; and I have noticed that all of this class, such as the Downer, Iowa, Chorlton, Georgia Mammoth, etc., are very likely to produce varieties no better than the wild Western berry from which they evidently all originated. It is very easy to get a large variety from this class, but seldom a good one. From the Bicton Pine I have grown large, sweet, orange-colored fruit, but, like the parent, unproductive.
From the Oscar, which is a poor grower, I have produced fine growers, and those that were moderately prolific; but the fruit was sweet and dry.
The results of some of my experiments are exceedingly curious, such as producing five distinct varieties from the Bartlett, all of which had entire leaves, not lobed. They were similar to those described by Duchesne as raised by him at Versailles in 1761, and called the Monophylla, it being just 100 years (so far as I have been able to learn) since the first one-leaved strawberry was grown until the second was fruited by we in 1861. Bat neither was of any value, except as a botanical cariosity.
From the Iowa I produced a five-leaved variety, and one with leaves having a beautiful silver stripe, but of no value to the cultivator.