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 encouraged by the present trial, with a view of obtaining a still greater variety of choice grapes, adapted to open-air culture here, and for wine making, we have again, the last spring, hybridized a few of the best of these hybrids with some of the best foreign sorts, as the Muscats, Queen of Nice, Rose Chasselas, Hamburgh, Syrian, Gross Malaga, etc., and await with much interest the result. The conclusion is, that it will be many years before any large amount of superior varieties can be obtained fit for open-air culture, in this N. E. climate, free from all the imperfections of the native, and combining all their good qualities.
A description of some few of the best fruits of these hybrids may not be uninteresting.
1. The best grape of them all has a bunch, medium size. Berries, oval, like Black Hamburgh. Size, about the same. Skin, tender, and somewhat spotted or marbled. Color, reddish brown. Flesh, soft and juicy, with scarcely any pulp, with a sweet, rich, peculiar, aromatic flavor, of extra quality. (This grape is sweet some time before ripening.) Ripened, first season of bearing, only two bunches, about 20th September, ten days or more before the Diana; second season (much improved, with two or three dozen bunches), about 10th October, about the same time, or earlier than the Diana. Isabellas here all cut off by frost, etc.
The vine is among the four most vigorous of the whole lot Blossom, perfect; sets every berry. Long filament. Wood, short-jointed, and perfectly hardy. Foliage, resembling native.
2. Another grape is of medium size bunch. Berries, nearly round, or less oval than B. Hamburgh - more resembling native; larger than Diana. Skin, soft and tender. Color, brownish-red. Flesh, soft, and very sweet, retaining a very slight trace of the native. Ripened both seasons, as early, if not the earliest of any. First season, about 10th September; second season, latter part of September; much improved, second season, in size, and otherwise. The earliest in the garden in 1857, two or three weeks before the Diana or Concord growing near. Vine, a great bearer, both seasons, and perfectly hardy.
3. Another grape is of medium size bunch. Berries, in shape and bunch, resembling more the native. Color, like the Isabella. Size, large as B. Hamburgh. Fresh, when ripe, soft. Flavor, sweet and rich. Ripened, first season, the earliest, about first week in September; second season, about 10th October, much improved in size and quality. Vine, a great bearer, and one of the two most vigorous of the lot.
4. A grape very similar to the foregoing one, excepting in shape of the bunch and berry, both like that of B. Hamburgh. Ripened, first season, 10th September; second season, 20th October, greatly improved in size of berry. Second season, vine perfectly hardy.
5. A grape with bunch large, and somewhat shouldered. Berries, long, oral, larger than B. Hamburgh. Skin, thin. Color, yellowish-white, with reddish flash on one side. Flesh, with little or no palp, juicy, of an aromatic flavor. Ripened about same time as Isabella, first season; this (second one), before it. Wood of vine, quite short-jointed, perfectly hardy.
The above five grapes were all of the B. Hamburgh hybrids.
6. A grape of the Sweetwater hybrids. Bunch, good size. Berries, larger than Diana. Shape, like Sweetwater. Skin, thin. Color, just before ripening, resembling Sweetwater; when fully ripe, flushed with red. Flesh, juicy, and delicate. Flavor, very sweet and aromatic. Ripened about 20th September, first season; second season, about 10th October - improved since last year. Tine, a good bearer.
Two or three vines of this Sweetwater variety came into bearing last season, for the first time, showing but a few bunches, nearly equal to in quality, and a little earlier than the best grape (No. 1) before described, but of a smaller bunch, mostly flushed with red.
Among the B. Hamburgh hybrids are some kinds promising to be fine wine or table grapes.
One with bunch large, and shouldered. Berries, quite large. Skin, moderately thin. Color of the B. Hamburgh. Flesh, when ripe, with little pulp, juicy, with high vinous flavor. Quality, extra. Ripened, first season, with the Isabella; last season, did not quite ripen - same as Isabella. Vine, perfectly hardy, and vigorous, with short-jointed wood, and a great bearer, both seasons.
Another grape, bunch compact, large, and shouldered. Berries, close-set, quite large, of size and appearance of B. Hamburgh. Skin, rather thick, like native. Flesh, tender, of a red color, and juicy, of a strong, vinous flavor. Ripened both previous and last season. Vine perhaps the most vigorous of the lot, perfectly hardy, and a great bearer.
Several others came into bearing the past season, promising to be very fine. One, with the largest berry of any of them, but did not quite ripen. Another, with the handsomest bunch (only one) and berry of any of them, shrivelled just as ripening, but bids fair to be one of the very best.
Among the remaining ones, not particularized, are many nearly equal to some of the best described, and others of comparatively middling, and a few of inferior quality. Comparing them with the Concord Grape growing near, under high cultivation, most of the inferior class are decidedly its superior in flavor and size of the berry, the only good qualities of the Concord here, in a favorable situation, being its fine, well-set bunch, and hardy habit. Its flavor is rather harsh, and quite foxy, ripening a little earlier than the Isabella, about same time with the Diana.
A good quality, noticeable among most of these hybrids is, they never drop their fruit, like the native species, including the Isabella and Diana, about the time of ripening. Undoubtedly, they will all improve under better cultivation and more room, growing in common soil, and within six to twelve inches apart.
Having thus endeavored to give a fair statement of this experiment, and some account of its fruit in an early stage, we should bear in mind " that in raising and blooming seedling plants in this way, there is one point which it appears to be of importance to keep in view, and that is, whether it be fruit or flowers, the real properties and qualities of the seedling are not at first to be detected, and, therefore, no hasty conclusion should be arrived at as to its merits".