John Jacobs Thomas.

The fruit culturist, adapted to the climate of the northern states; containing directions for raising young trees in the nursery, and for the management of the orchard and fruit garden online

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Online LibraryJohn Jacobs ThomasThe fruit culturist, adapted to the climate of the northern states; containing directions for raising young trees in the nursery, and for the management of the orchard and fruit garden → online text (page 1 of 10)
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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1846, by

in the Clerk's Office for the Northern District of New- York.


THE OBJECT OF THIS WORK, is not only to fur-
nish useful directions to those who may be little
acquainted with the management of Fruit Trees,
but to promote the culture of the best varieties,
and to improve their treatment so as to secure ex-
cellSnce and productiveness in a more eminent de-
gree than is usually attained.

It was a very just remark of Professor Lindley,
that those who have sought for information in
books on this subject, have generally found plenty
of rules for action, but very few reasons. The
writer has aimed to avoid this error, and by occa-
sionally presenting the rationale of operations, to
simplify the directions given, and render them
more clear and obvious to the practical cultivator.

As this is comparatively a small work, intended
partly as an answer to numerous inquiries, those
who need more extended information, especially
in relation to the different varieties of fruit known


in this country, are referred to the excellent work
of A. J. Downing, on " The Fruits and Fruit Trees
of America," which has just issued from the press.
The writer is indebted to his father, David
Thomas, of Cayuga county, for several valuable
original notes, which will he found in various parts
of the work.



CHAP. I. Introductory Remarks 5 profits and advan-
tages of Fruit Culture, 9

" II. History, Improvement, and Nomenclature, 16
" III. Influence of Climate, Culture and other

Causes, 23

IV. Best kinds of Stocks, 33

" V. Production of New Varieties, 36

VI. Propagation by Budding and Grafting, by ,

Layers and by Cuttings, 42

VII. Soil, Situation, and Enclosures, 54

" VIII. Transplanting, 60

" IX. Cultivation of the ground, , 68

" X. Pruning old Trees, and budding and graft-
ing new tops, 74

" XI. Causes of Fruitfulness, 80

XII. Implements, 85


CHAP. I. TheApple, 93

II. ThePear, Ill

III. The Quince, 118

IV. The Peach and Nectarine, , ........ 123


CHAP. V. The Apricot, 140

VI. The Plum, 142

>" VII. TheCherry, 150

VIII. The Grape...... 156

" IX. The Gooseberry and Currant, 164

X. The Raspberry, 167

XI. The Strawberry, O o., 3 169

XII. Work in the order of Time, 173

Selection of kinds, 178


Apples, 180

Pears, 192

Cherries, 202

Plums, 206

Peaches, 211

Nectarines, 215

Apricots, 216

Note on Grafting the Vine, 217

Note on Pruning the Vine, 218









IT is believed that if our landowners knew that
a continued succession of the finer fruits, through-
out most of the year, could be had with very mode-
rate attention and labor, we should not much longer
witness such general destitution. The abundant
products of their gardens and orchards, already
prove that the fault is not in the climate and soil;
the contrast between the kinds they cultivate, and
those which rank as first rate, shows how much
they are losing; while the few choice collections
to be found, exhibit most plainly what might be
accomplished by all.

A single instance may serve to show what is
easily placed within our reach. A cultivator, pos-
sessing a moderate collection, had fully ripe upon
his trees at mid-summer, or at the time of wheat
harvest, three varieties of pear, five of apricot, two


of plum, four of apple, and several of the later
yarieties of cherry, making nearly twenty in all ;
besides an early peach just beginning to ripen.
Most of these were good, and some of them delicious.

Intelligent persons are often greatly surprised at
such facts, which are but a specimen of what a
succession may afford for several months together.
In our latitude, the supply begins with the first
days of summfer; the earliest Strawberries and
Cherries ripen nearly together ; they are followed
for several weeks by other varieties, and by Rasp-
berries ; the earlier Apricots and Pears become ripe
from one to two weeks before our wheat harvest ;
Apples and Plums only a few days later ; and
soon after, from the latter part of summer to mid-
autumn and later, a host of the richest varieties of
Apples, Pears, Peaches and Nectarines, Plums and
Grapes, keep up a continued succession, to be fol-
lowed, in their turn, by the more durable winter
fruits. Pears and Grapes may be kept till spring,
and some of the best keeping Apples the whole
year through. Who that already has a bearing
orchard of all these, would forego the luxuries they
yield, for ten times the labor and expense they
have cost ?

It is not surprising that such fine fruits should
be neglected, when in fact most of them are un-
known to the mass of well informed persons. An
intelligent acquaintance remarked that he did not


consider so poor a fruit as the Cherry worth culti-
vating ; but subsequent conversation proved that
he had never seen a, the names of such
delicious varieties as Elton, Florence, and Black
Eagle, being as unknown to him as Hebrew to an
untaught child. Another intelligent person, who
had spent a considerable portion of many years
in making a collection of bearing trees, had never
even seen an Apricot, nor had known that there was
such a fruit, hardy as the Peach, raised with nearly
the same facility, ripening at mid-summer, and
superior in delicious qualities to our finest and rich-
est plums.

But the expense of procuring and planting the
trees, and the time required for bearing, deter many
from the attempt. They do not know, perhaps,
that the unnecessary cost yearly lavished on fine
furniture, fine carriages and harness, and other
needless luxuries, would pay for and plant a fruit
garden, and in five years afford a hundred fold
more real enjoyment and utility. But will trees
come into plentiful bearing in five years ? They
will, with a selection of proper varieties and with
the best culture. It is true, more than twice
that period often passes, before the owner reaps
his reward ; but neglect is nearly always the cause.
What farmer would plant a field of corn, and,
omitting entirely the operations of cultivating and
hoeing, expect a crop in the midst of grass and


weeds ? Not less ruinous is the neglected culture
of newly planted fruit trees ; and the loss in the
delicious qualities of their subsequent products, as
well as in delay, is incredibly great. But when
selection and culture have been attended to, fre-
quent instances are witnessed of valuable returns
in three to five years from setting out. A Bartlett
pear tree, six feet high and two years from trans-
planting, bore a peck of superb fruit ; a Julienne,
even younger, yielded nearly the same ; a Jonathan
apple, removed to the orchard when not larger than
a carriage- whip, produced a bushel the fifth year;
and many similar cases might be named. But, in
every instance, the best treatment was given.


Those with whom pecuniary considerations are
of importance, may be interested to know the re-
turns yielded by the best varieties. A cultivator
of fine fruit, well known to the writer, obtained in
market eight dollars for one year's crop, grown on
two fine early young cherry trees. In another sea-
son he received twenty-four dollars from four early
peach trees, only six years after they were budded.
Another acquaintance sold the crop of a Yellow
Spanish cherry tree for seven dollars ; another
sold the crop of one large apple tree, amounting
to forty bushels, for ten dollars ; and his neighbor
obtained thirty dollars for a crop of pears of equal


size from a single tree. More extraordinary re-
turns are on authentic record ; the preceding are
scarcely greater than good selection and good man-
agement will often insure. And what amount
would an acre of such trees yield to the owner ?
An acre of cherries, for instance, might include a
hundred and fifty trees. Four dollars from each,
the lowest example just given, would be six hun-
dred dollars per annum, a sum almost incredible,
and yet not impossible, with the best management
and selection, in the neighborhood of cities. The
same number of the best early peach trees, usually
of smaller growth than later sorts, would occupy
an equal space, and the crop afforded would not
be less profitable. There are few trees, which,
well attended to, would yield less than two or
three bushels, and as a consequence afford a return
of three to ten dollars each. An acquaintance, on
being asked, last summer, what he received for his
fine early peaches, replied, " Whatever I ask."
The price was three to four dollars ; which was
but little more than that obtained by his neighbor,
whose peach orchard covered ten acres. But it
must be remembered that those often regarded
erroneously as very fine, will not command such a
market. A cultivator found he could sell fine
specimens of the Early York peach, sooner at a
dollar and a half per bushel, than the common
" rare-ripes,"of the country, on the same day, for


half that sum. While the finest early Peaches
bring three or four dollars, some others, later and
poorer, will not sell for fifty cents.

Good winter apples always command a market.
For the, last thirty years, the Swaar, Rhode Island
Greening, and Esopus Spitzenburgh, have scarcely
varied from twenty-five cents a bushel in the most
productive portions of the State. Late keepers are
sold early in summer for more than triple that sum.
An acre of forty trees, with good culture, will
average through all seasons not less than two hun-
dred bushels, or fifty dollars a year. Instances are
frequent of thrice this amount. The farmer, then
who sets out twenty acres of good apple orchard,
and takes care of it, may expect at no remote pe-
riod a yearly return of five to fifteen hundred dol-
lars a year, and even more, if a considerable portion
is occupied'with late keepers. This is, it is true,
much more than the majority obtain; but 'the ma-
jority wholly neglect cultivating and enriching
the soils of their, orchards.

But where a market is not at hand, a plentiful
supply of fine fruit through most of the year, be-
comes a very important article in family economy.
The cost of providing for the table, is greatly les-
sened, where daily dishes of Strawberries, or Rasp-
berries, or Apricots, Nectarines, or Peaches, are at
hand. The great saving, too, as well as the com-
fort and health, from an abundance of good and


highly flavored apples for culinary use, should not
be forgotten. How many pounds of sugar would
be saved in a family per year, by a constant use of
such rich fruit as the Tallman Sweeting, the Fall
Pippin, and the Spitzenburgh, for cooking, which
have been found cheaper for this very reason, at
thirty cents a bushel, than others commonly known
as " cooking apples" merely, at ten cents a bushel.
It may perhaps strike some as a reason for doubt-
ing the preceding estimates, that if such profitable
returns may be had, more people would, as a mat-
ter of course, have engaged in the business. But
this inference is by no means correct. From the
general neglect of cultivation, bearing trees are
looked upon as the result almost of a man's life
time ; and many, reasoning perhaps as he did,
who asked, " Why work for posterity what has
posterity done for ns ?" unwittingly punish them-
selves instead. Slow and sure profits, are mostly
set aside for immediate results. The future is too
often eclipsed by the present. Benefits at a dis-
tance, give procrastination a thousand times stronger
foot-hold than those close at hand. Hence the l{
reason so many, in their eagerness for present
gain, exclude entirely the claims of the future, and
neglect what may certainly at some time prove
highly beneficial.



earliest fruits mentioned in history, are the
Grape, the Apple, and the Fig, the former being
cultivated about the time of the deluge. The Al-
mond is mentioned repeatedly in the sacred records,
nearly 4000 years ago ; and Theophrastus, who
lived about 300 years before the Christian era, re-
marks that it was the only tree in Greece that pro-
duced blossoms before the leaves ; hence we may
safely infer that the Peach was then unknown.
The fact that the Jewish history no where speaks
of the Peach, indicates that it was not a native of
Persia, a country long inhabited by that people.*
It was known to the Eomans at the height of their
power, and the Nectarine was spoken of by Colu-
mella and by Pliny, as an admired fruit of their
time. The Apple and Pear were well known in
the days of Pliny, who speaks of twenty-two vari-
eties of the former, and thirty-six of the latter. The
Cherry, a native of Pontus and some parts of Eu-

* II is found wild on the Himalayan mountains, whence it was
probably carried to Persia, and to other parts of the world.


rope, was introduced among the Romans at the
time of the Mithridatic war. The Plum was known
both to the Greeks and Romans ; and Pliny, who
sometimes dealt in the marvellous when writing
on fruits, asserts that they were grafted upon
apple stocks, producing what were called Apple-
Plums, and upon almond stocks, yielding both
fruits, the stone being like that of an almond.
And Virgil, with equal absurdity, speaks of grafting
Apples on planes, of adorning the wild ash with
the blossoms of the pear and represents swine as
crunching acorns under elms ; nor is it very long
since a few equally singular notions were held by
some moderns.

The cultivation of fruit in Britain, from which
so much of our own was obtained, began to receive
attention with other rural improvements. The
earliest British writer on this subject, was Richard
Arnold, who published a chapter in his "Chronicles"
in 1502, "On the crafteof graftynge andplantynge
and alterynge of fruits, as well in color as in taste."
He was succeeded about 1538 by Tusser ; in 1597
by Gerard; in 1629 by Parkinson; in 1658 by
Evelyn; in 1724 by Miller; in 1791 by Forsyth;
soon after which the great improvements intro-
duced by the late president Knight, and followed
by Lindley, Thompson, and others, formed a new
era in the cultivation of fruits. The gradual pro-
gress df the art is indicated in part by the number


of varieties distinctly named or described by the
various authors already mentioned. u Apples of all
sorts," are mentioned by Tusser ; seven sorts by
Gerard;* Parkinson enumerates sixty-seven; Hart-
lib in 1650 alluded to one cultivator who possessed
two hundred, and believed there were not less
than five hundred ; Ray in 1688 says there were
seventy-eight cultivated in the London nurseries;
Forsyth in 1806 describes a hundred and ninety -
six kinds ; George Lindley, in 1831, minutely and
accurately described two hundred and fourteen;
while the Fruit Catalogue of the London Horticul-
tural Society gives a list of fourteen hundred va-
rieties, collected and cultivated by that society,
three fourths of which were found to be either the
same fruit under different names, or else unworthy
of cultivation. The same remark will apply, at least
in part, to the many hundreds advertised for sale
in different nurseries in the United States.

*It is of course evident from the very nature of the Apple,
and the facility with which new varieties are formed,
that this number was only a selection of a few ; as Gerard
himself says, " The fruit of Apples do differ in greatness,
form, color, and taste ; some covered with a redskin, others
yellow or green, varying exceedingly ; some very great,
some little, and many of a middle sort ; some are sweet of
taste, or something sour ; most are of a middle taste, be-
tween sweet and sour; the which to distinguish I think it
impossible, notwithstanding I hear of one that intended to
write a peculiar volume, of Apples, and the use of them."


A similar progress, less in degree, is indicated
in the cultivation of the Pear. Tusser speaks " of
all sorts;" Parkinson enumerates sixty-four vari-
eties ; Miller, eighty ; and Lindley describes one
hundred and sixty- two.

Most of these writers also mention numerous
varieties of the Cherry and Plum.

Gerard describes the early, and the white, red,
and yellow peaches, and says there were many
others ; Parkinson enumerates twenty-one ; Miller
thirty-one; Lindley describes sixty; and in this
country, more favorable to the peach than Eng-
land, there are probably not less than two or three
hundred known and named varieties.

Eminent advantages have resulted from the ap-
plication of scientific principles, by Lindley, Knight
and others, in the cultivation of fruit, and in the
propagation of improved varieties. Several hun-
dred new Pears, some of them of the finest quality,
were obtained by Van Mons of Belgium, by a suc-
cessive selection of improved seedlings ; and Knight
in England has produced some of the finest varie-
ties of the Cherry, Plum, and Apple, by a cross
fertilization of old sorts.

One of the greatest difficulties yet remaining 1 ,
is the confusion in the names of varieties. The
very slight shades of difference in many ; the im-
possibility of accurately defining these shades in
written descriptions ; and the changes produced


in them by soil, situation, climate, and culture,
have largely contributed to this difficulty. It has
also been increased by looseness, carelessness, and
want of precision in descriptions, and especially
the almost total neglect of a classification of fla-
vors, usually the most unvarying and great deci-
sive point of distinction in varieties. " Some indi-
viduals," says Loudon, " who have cultivated,
fruited, or studied extensive collections of Apples,
Pears or Plums, may know at sight a considerable
number of varieties ; but in general, very few sorts
are known by one individual; and in the great
majority of cases a gentleman gardener can speak
with confidence regarding those sorts only which
are under his care. The reason of this is that the
shades which distinguish varieties are so fleeting
as not to be retained in memory, or only retained
to a very limited extent. An Apple may be dis-
tinguished from twenty other apples all very much
alike, when the whole twenty are placed together
before the eye ; but any one of the twenty, taken
apart, and delineated and described, however per-
fectly, will hardly present any marks sufficiently
distinctive to be remembered, and by which it
may be recognized with any degree of certainty."
The great number of names often given to one
fruit, either from ignorance or to promote its sale,
have added to the confusion. The celebrated
Virgalieu pear has thirty different names; the


Brown Beurre, fourteen ; several others have nearly
an equal number. The confusion resulting also
from various applications of these different names
by different cultivators, may be easily imagined.
The varieties of the Peach which Lindley describes
as Grosse Mignonne, Neil's Early Purple, Pourpree
Hative, Royal Kensington, and Superb Royal, are
all described as a single variety by Mclntosh, under
the name Grosse Mignonne, to which he adds
twenty-seven synonyms.

The labors of the London Horticultural Society
have contributed much towards removing the be-
wildering confusion into which the numerous fruits
and their names were thrown. Large collections
were made from different countries ; and by a
careful and minute examination for several suc-
cessive years, innumerable mistakes were corrected.
The Massachusetts Horticultural Society, at Bos-
ton, in connexion with the labors of the late Robert
Manning of Salem, (whose collection of Pears
alone contained eight hundred sorts,) have tended
greatly towards the same useful end in this coun-
try. The subject is also receiving much attention
in various parts of the United States. The indis-
pensible necessity of a more thorough examina-
tion of fruits by those who propagate them for sale,
is more appreciated and becoming reduced to prac-
tice. Several extensive collections of American
and European fruits have recently been made or


greatly augmented, for the purpose of a more tho-
rough examination, comparison, and selection of
varieties. .;o[)ib

That every difficulty may he removed, and every
disputed question settled, is not to he expected;
hut they will of course be diminished in proportion
to the extent and accuracy of these labors.
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THE importance of attention to the variation in
, fruit, caused by a change in climate, soil, and culti-
vation, appears to be much underrated. While
the peculiar or essential character remains unchang-
ed, the quality, or degree of excellence, is variously
modified. This is sometimes so great that serious
disappointment results ; and high expectations caus-
ed by success in one case, are defeated by differ-
ent circumstances in another. Hence the neces-
sity of understanding these modifying influences.

The changes produced by climate are greater in
some classes of fruits than in others. The Cherry
varies but little in character and quality ; the fine
varieties originated by Thomas Andrew Knight
near London, are also among the finest when
removed to the northern states of America. This
may be owing in part to their period of maturity,
which, occurring early in summer, could not be
influenced by the length of the seasons. But
with the Apple, Pear, and Peach, the case is quite


otherwise. Very few of the whole British cata-
logue of Apples, are first in quality here. The
White Astracan, an apple of high reputation in
Russia, becomes very inferior in England ; and
a similar loss takes place on the removal to Eng-
land of some of the finest Apples of Italy. Some
of the best Peaches in the neighborhood of Phila-
delphia, become second or third rate in Western
New- York, the shorter and cooler summers of the
latter region not being sufficient to give full flavor
to many of the more southern varieties. American
peaches taken to England lose still more. Of fifty
sorts, from the middle and western states, tested
at the great Chiswick garden, all but two were
pronounced "worthless."

The Pear is perhaps more changed in quality and
flavor by external causes than any other species of
fruit. Variations in different regions of our own
country, and even in different seasons, are great
and striking. The Virgalieu, regarded on the
whole as the finest pear in Western New-York,
is pronounced by Kenrick in the neighborhood of
Boston, as an " outcast, intolerable even to sight."
Some sorts, which fail at Boston, are still cultivated
with success at Salem, only fifteen miles distant.

But the influence of seasons alone produces ex-
traordinary results. In the year 1842, the Wur-
temburg pear was regarded in Western New- York
as the finest foreign pear among several which had


then just fruited; but the two succeeding seasons
it was nearly worthless. The Bezi de la Motte,
about one year in seven, is a delicious melting pear,
and at other times dry and tasteless. Some stri-
king cases were mentioned by the late Robert Man-
ning of Salem. The Beurre Duval, which has a
high reputation in Europe, produced, the first year
of bearing, beautiful fruit ; but on ripening, they
were found tasteless and worthless. The next
year the same tree produced fewer pears, half the
size, different in shade of color, and delicious in
flavor. In another case the Hericart yielded fruit

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Online LibraryJohn Jacobs ThomasThe fruit culturist, adapted to the climate of the northern states; containing directions for raising young trees in the nursery, and for the management of the orchard and fruit garden → online text (page 1 of 10)