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 the April number of the Horticulturist is an article on hybridising the Grape-Vine, by Wm. N. White. It refers particularly to the seedlings of Mr. Rogers of this place. Mr White says, "that if these vines produced (being true hybrids), and set their fruit well, and seed freely, it is remarkable; and should their fruit prove valuable, and they be brought into general cultivation, it will be the first instance of the kind in history, and I for one congratulate him on his success, if he has really succeeded".
These vines of Mr. Rogers, grown from seed of the native Fox Grapes, are true hybrids. They were alluded to in the report of the Fruit Committee of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1856. The bunches are well formed, large and fine. Of the quality of the fruit I am not prepared to speak, If I gave any opinion, it would be that the fruit retained too much of the fox flavor, and more pulp than would suit the general taste. The specimens tasted were not fully ripe. Several years since Mr. Amos W. Stetson exhibited grapes grown from seed of the native, impregnated with Black Hamburg. The Curtis Grape was thus produced. It resembled the Isabella much in color and form of bunch, and is rather earlier.
I have been producing seedling grape vines for twenty years from the Eastern or European varieties, and find that the tendency is in many kinds to run back to the original; the fruit produced resembling the "Verdelho," the Madeira wine grape. The Black Hamburg usually reproduces itself. Of course there has not been any cross here.
I have three fine seedlings, one red, two black, where a cross is apparent, the foliage showing this. In a grape house where several sorts are in blossom at the same time, this may be effected by the bees or by the wind. This crossing is not so difficult as Mr. White imagines. It is often two or three days before the pollen falls from the anthers, and before this takes place the stigma may have been impregnated as above. Many kinds that set badly under glass, such as Muscat of Alexandria, drop the anthers entire without shedding the pollen; and again, the stigma in moist weather is often enveloped with moisture, so as to prevent fecundation until the pollen has fallen, giving an opportunity for foreign aid. With the natives the chance to impregnate is good, as the anthers are often close to the base of the embryo, and it would seem that the aid of bees was necessary for fruitfulness. This defect in the blossom appears to me the cause of the bad setting of the wild grape.
I have impregnated the Wild Grape, the Diana, and the Isabella with pollen of the European, saved in a tin box and kept dry several weeks before using. In the third edition of my "Culture of the Grape," at page 151, can be seen a representation of the bud and flower, and of the latter, deprived of the anthers. At the 149th page begins directions for raising new kinds of seed by hybridization. Here mention also is made of my hybrids raised from the Isabella. The idea of Mr. White, that hybrids could not be raised in this way was entertained by many prominent horticulturists at that time (1843 and '44). As the foliage of the seedlings developed, much curiosity was manifested by these persons in noting the evidence that the experiment was successful. A white early grape, a red or purple late grape, a round black and several oval late black grapes were thus produced. No one acquainted with grape culture would doubt, after an inspection of the vines, that a cross had been effected. The foliage of the white grape more nearly resembles the native than does that of the others, and it is less subject to mildew. This vine I am now sending out to subscribers, that they may propagate it for sale, and thus disseminate it more rapidly than I could do.
It does not root readily from cuttings, but it is readily increased by layers. It is very sweet, juicy and free from pulp. Seedlings of another generation from these grapes may fruit this year or the next, and the expectation seems reasonable that other good varieties may be produced. The Isabella is a perfect flowering grape, and usually reproduces itself from seed, when not impregnated artificially.