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.
Mr, Editor: - If we were asked by some person how the human mind could be improved, - how the human soul could be made radiant with joy, - how to gain a positive knowledge of, and be able to realize in a degree the great creative power of God, we should say, study nature; and I plead ignorance of any branch better adapted for intellectual exercise than the pursuit of horticulture and floriculture.
There is in the cultivation of fruits and flowers a lovely attractiveness which the outside world little dreams of; a charm for the most vacant mind; a plane of thought for those whose mental capacity probes far down into cause and effect; a field of study for those of most austere thought, and an invitation from beauty and loveliness in every phase that can yield pleasure and delight to the most fastidious, as well as the humble mind.
The heart that bears no affinity to those beauties of loveliness must be cold indeed. The warble of the blue-bird, and the song of the robin never drops in sweet cadence on his soul, and the man must walk in comparative darkness to all that belongs to higher life.
Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures derived from this pursuit is the art of hybridizing - raising new and improved varieties of fruits and flowers; for however beautiful flowers are in a state of nature, they are doubly so when they come from the hands of the skilful hybridizer.
In doing this he is only taking advantage of the known laws that govern the vegetable reproduction; he is assisting nature, and to this means we owe, in a great measure, our many improved fruits and flowers of the present day. The field of experiment is almost as boundless as is that of nature itself. The hand of the artist is fast changing the character and quality of our fruits as well as flowers. You see him standing in his garden admiring some beautiful flower; but, alas I it is too delicate for our changeable climate; it comes from some country perhaps where frost never congealed its flowing sap or blighted its opening beauties; still he admires and covets it; he has some of the same family in his garden, hardy fellows, that brave every blast, but they want the color, form and substance of the exotic. Our amateur is one who has studied the structure and functions of plants, and the' laws by which those functions are governed in their operations. He thinks he can transfer the beautiful inflorescence of the exotic to its hardy relation in his garden, and he does so; art and perseverance triumph over all; his skill and forethought are crowned with abundant success.
In thousands of instances has the transfer of inflorescence taken place, to the gratification and delight of every admirer of nature's most lovely productions.
Again, you see him perhaps mourning over his pet Isabella; mourns because the cruel frost has withered its beautiful fruit some few days before it was ripe; hybridizing flashes across his mind; 'a variety a little earlier, worked on my Isabella? Yes; the hybrids most likely will be just what I require;' - but then he recollects that some great botanist says it can't be done; but our amateur does his own thinking, and he feels determined to have this difficulty obviated. He watches the opening flowers on his vine momently, and determines the period when stamen, and anther with its fecundating dust, must be removed, and with the pollen of his favorite sort impregnates the stigma artificially, and it becomes the male parent of the young progeny.
What is the result? Just that which he expected: the hardy, productive constitution of the female combined with the early ripening of the other. He is satisfied, gratified, and amply rewarded, but it has not been gained without toil, care, observation, and perseverance; some years were spent in hybridizing by following the rules of others, producing some good, others good-for-nothing seedlings, and the remark was often made in reference to them - 'They sport - run out; how singular it is that seedlings will so degenerate. This is exactly like that old so-and-so that I had here some three or four years ago, and here is a white seedling from a red or purple one. How is it that you get just what you want?' 'stop, friend; did you ever think yourself about this - did you ever think that there are no effects without their cause? Well, there must be some cause for all this jumble. Now try this plan, and mark it well - never impregnate a plant that has ever before been impregnated by a different male variety; because if you do, you may expect some of the seedlings to bear the identity of male parentage of years gone by.' However strange this doctrine may appear, it is a truth.
It appears that, under some peculiar influences, the female organization becomes in a measure daguerreotyped with the first impress of the opposite sex, and the chances are as favorable to that of retrogression as they are of progression. So well is this fact understood among the animal stock-breeding physiologists of England, that it is to this fact almost alone they owe their great success in the constant production of their fine breeds; and I would earnestly call the attention of all who are interested in the production of the superior quality of fruits and flowers, to give this matter their calm consideration, as they will find in the end that it will be a saving of much anxiety, trouble, and expense.
We could better substantiate the truth of this statement by entering more largely into the subject of animal physiology, but as that subject does not come exactly within the limits of the Horticulturist, the above must suffice.