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.
Passe Colmar was considered the standard of good seeds, and its generations have filled our catalogues with most delicious fruits." In originating improved varieties, he found " the art to consist in regenerating, in a direct line of descent, and as rapidly as possible, taking care that there shall be no interval between the generations." He says, to sow and resow, in short, to do nothing but sow, is the practice to be pursued, and which cannot be departed from; and in short this is the whole secret of the art I have employed." Again, " the result of attempts to vary is to ameliorate: a fruit ceases to change only when it can be no further ameliorated, and becomes fixed at its ultimate point of perfection." " I have arrived at a point, as I had foreseen, where, instead of as at first gaining only one good fruit among an infinity of bad, I have only one, or rather no bad among an infinity of good or tolerable." "Those who have followed my method, and sown seeds of my new varieties, have already obtained some excellent fruits." Van Mons tried all fruits, but Mr. Berckmans states, "soon left all except the ' rebel' pear tree. He told me, that after three generations of peaches, plums, and apples, all were good and that 'it was disgusting' to stick to such experiments.
He was enamored of difficulty, and found the pear just the thing to keep his energy of mind alive." This method pursued by Van Mons was so successful, that in the words of de Jonghe, "to him we are indebted for a greater number of fine pears than have been handed down to us from all previous ages, and from all the nurserymen and pomologists of modern times." At the death of Van Mons, all his remaining seedlings passed into the hands of A. Bivort During his life, his grounds having been three times encroached upon by public works, he gave freely to his correspondents in America, Belgium, and France, of his seedlings still untested. Among the recipients were Manning, Poiteau (800 at once). Tou-gard, Demeraire, Diel, Drapiez, Millot four or five hundred, Bonnet and Leon le Clerc of Laval. From these originated the best of the French (so called) seedlings. In the sum of the results of the Van Mons theory, we must include then not only the great number of choice fruits that have his name attached to them, in our Catalogues and Fruit books, but likewise those credited to Bivort and others who came into possession of his seedlings. Consider also that every year is still bringing for the first time into fruit desirable varieties of the Van Mons collection.
Add to these the numerous varieties originated by Esperin, Berckmans, and his other disciples, and tell me if he was not right in his theory, that the seeds of newly obtained or renovated varieties are more apt to produce good results. Why in a little garden in Jodoigne, Gregoire, by dropping promiscuously a few seeds of recently obtained varieties of the pear, has reared at least twenty sorts of great merit (L. Berchmans).
Before Van Mons or his theory existed, his practice had been in a manner successfully inaugurated. I refer to the successive reproductions resorted to in forming our American orchards (See Downing, Fruits, p. 7). Our fathers brought from the old world seeds of their best fruits. Probably the immediate seedlings of these, like the first trials of Van Mons, returned in a measure to their wild state. Still from the best of these seedlings, the children of the colonists as they moved westward, or opened new lands at home, planted their own orchards. In this manner - by sowing and resow-ing - have been produced our unrivalled American apples. Even our Cherokee Indians within sixty years have thus raised more fine varieties of the apple (" of surpassing quality," Charles Downing says,) and suited to our climate, than there are cross-bred fruits described in our books. Thus originated such pears as Seckel, Sheldon, Ott, Tyson, Kirtland, Dix, Kingdessing, Brandywine, and Washington. Are there as fine ones to be met with among those cross-bred? In like manner have been produced all we need desire in the way of cherries and plums, and a list of peaches Europe cannot rival.
In this immediate section, the seedling peach orchards have furnished a list of Clings as large as that of your Catalogue's, equal in flavor, and prolonging the peach season here fully two months. By a collection made in a single season, from a wider area, the duration of good Freestone varieties was equally extended. We have already alluded to the rapid amelioration our native grapes are undergoing. The best of these are of unknown parentage, (except as to the species,) but the Louisa, Mary Ann, Diana, Tokalon, Anna and Emily sprung from recently obtained varieties, while the Concord seems to have been raised from a wilding, exactly on the Van Mons method. So successful have we been in gaining good varieties of fruit by these repeated reproductions, that we could to-day give back to Europe more and better varieties than we have retained of those she has originated.
Is it not, then, evident to those who have followed me through this long article, that if we wish to gain still more improved varieties, we will do well to bow the seeds of an improved fruit, recently originated, and trust to nature and chance for the result? In this way we have hitherto done passably well. The hybridizers, I wish, may do as well or better. Gentlemen, if you have already done so, bring on your grapes.