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- Success With Small Fruits - 1/57 -

The Works of E.P. Roe





I Dedicate this Book



A Neighbor, Friend, and Horticulturist



A book should be judged somewhat in view of what it attempts. One of the chief objects of this little volume is to lure men and women back to their original calling, that of gardening. I am decidedly under the impression that Eve helped Adam, especially as the sun declined. I am sure that they had small fruits for breakfast, dinner and supper, and would not be at all surprised if they ate some between meals. Even we poor mortals who have sinned more than once, and must give our minds to the effort not to appear unnatural in many hideous styles of dress, can fare as well. The Adams and Eves of every generation can have an Eden if they wish. Indeed, I know of many instances in which Eve creates a beautiful and fruitful garden without any help from Adam.

The theologians show that we have inherited much evil from our first parents, but, in the general disposition to have a garden, can we not recognize a redeeming ancestral trait? I would like to contribute my little share toward increasing this tendency, believing that as humanity goes back to its first occupation it may also acquire some of the primal gardener's characteristics before he listened to temptation and ceased to be even a gentleman. When he brutally blamed the woman, it was time he was turned out of Eden. All the best things of the garden suggest refinement and courtesy. Nature might have contented herself with producing seeds only, but she accompanies the prosaic action with fragrant flowers and delicious fruit. It would be well to remember this in the ordinary courtesies of life.

Moreover, since the fruit-garden and farm do not develop in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way, why should I write about them after the formal and terse fashion of a manual or scientific treatise? The most productive varieties of fruit blossom and have some foliage which may not be very beautiful, any more than the departures from practical prose in this book are interesting; but, as a leafless plant or bush, laden with fruit, would appear gaunt and naked, so, to the writer, a book about them without any attempt at foliage and flowers would seem unnatural. The modern chronicler has transformed history into a fascinating story. Even science is now taught through the charms of fiction. Shall this department of knowledge, so generally useful, be left only to technical prose? Why should we not have a class of books as practical as the gardens, fields, and crops, concerning which they are written, and at the same time having much of the light, shade, color, and life of the out-of-door world? I merely claim that I have made an attempt in the right direction, but, like an unskillful artist, may have so confused my lights, shades, and mixed my colors so badly, that my pictures resemble a strawberry-bed in which the weeds have the better of the fruit.

Liberal outlines of this work appeared in "Scribner's Magazine," but the larger scope afforded by the book has enabled me to treat many subjects for which there was no space in the magazine, and also to give my views more fully concerning topics only touched upon in the serial. As the fruits described are being improved, so in the future other and more skillful horticulturists will develop the literature relating to them into its true proportions.

I am greatly indebted to the instruction received at various times from those venerable fathers and authorities on all questions relating to Eden-like pursuits--Mr. Chas. Downing of Newburg, and Hon. Marshall P. Wilder of Boston, Mr. J. J. Thomas, Dr. Geo. Thurber; to such valuable works as those of A. S. Fuller, A. J. Downing, P. Barry, J. M. Merrick, Jr.; and some English authors; to the live horticultural journals in the East, West, and South; and, last but not least, to many plain, practical fruit-growers who are as well informed and sensible as they are modest in expressing their opinions.



On page 315 of this volume will be found the following words: "To attempt to describe all the strawberries that have been named would be a task almost as interminable as useless. This whole question of varieties presents a different phase every four or five years. Therefore I treat the subject in my final chapter in order that I may give revision, as often as there shall be occasion for it, without disturbing the body of the book. A few years since certain varieties were making almost as great a sensation as the Sharpless. They are now regarded as little better than weeds in most localities." Now that my publishers ask me to attempt this work of revision, I find that I shrink from it, for reasons natural and cogent to my mind. Possibly the reader may see them in the same light. The principles of cultivation, treatment of soils, fertilizing, etc., remain much the same; My words relating to these topics were penned when knowledge-- the result of many years of practical experience--was fresh in memory. Subsequent observation has confirmed the views I then held, and, what is of far more weight in my estimation, they have been endorsed by the best and most thoroughly informed horticulturists in the land. I wrote what I then thought was true; I now read what has been declared true by highest authorities. I have more confidence in their judgment than in my own, and, having been so fortunate as to gain their approval, I fear to meddle with a record which, in a sense, has become theirs as well as mine. Therefore I have decided to leave the body of the book untouched.

When I read the lists of varieties I found many that have become obsolete, many that were never worthy of a name. Should I revise these lists, as I fully expected to do, from time to time? At present I have concluded that I will not, for the following reasons:

When, between six and seven years ago, I wrote the descriptions of the various kinds of fruit then in vogue, I naturally and inevitably reflected the small-fruit world as it then existed. The picture may have been imperfect and distorted, but I gave it as I saw it. With all its faults I would like to keep that picture for future reference. The time may come when none of the varieties then so highly praised and valued will be found in our fields or gardens. For that very reason I should like to look back to some fixed and objective point which would enable me to estimate the mutations which had occurred. Originators of new varieties are apt to speak too confidently and exultantly of their novelties; purchasers are prone to expect too much of them. Both might obtain useful lessons by turning to a record of equally lauded novelties of other days. Therefore I would like to leave that sketch of varieties as seen in 1880 unaltered. To change the figure, the record may become a landmark, enabling us to estimate future progress more accurately. Should the book still meet with the favor which has been accorded to it in the past, there can be frequent revisions of the supplemental lists which are now given. Although no longer engaged in the business of raising and selling plants, I have not lost my interest in the plants themselves. I hope to obtain much of my recreation in testing the new varieties offered from year to year. In engaging in such pursuits even the most cynical cannot suspect any other purpose than that of observing impartially the behavior of the varieties on trial.

I will maintain my grasp on the button-hole of the reader only long enough to state once more a pet theory--one which I hope for leisure to test at some future time. Far be it from me to decry the disposition to raise new seedling varieties; by this course substantial progress has been and will be made. But there is another method of advance which may promise even better results.

In many of the catalogues of to-day we find many of the fine old varieties spoken of as enfeebled and fallen from their first estate. This is why they decline in popular favor and pass into oblivion. Little wonder that these varieties have become enfeebled, when we remember how ninety-nine hundredths of the plants are propagated. I will briefly apply my theory to one of the oldest kinds still in existence--Wilson's Albany. If I should set out a bed of Wilson's this spring, I would eventually discover a plant that surpassed the others in vigor and productiveness--one that to a greater degree than the others exhibited the true characteristics of the variety. I should then clear away all the other plants near it and let this one plant propagate itself, until there were enough runners for another bed. From this a second selection of the best and most characteristic plants would be made and treated in like manner. It appears to me reasonable and in accordance with nature that, by this careful and continued selection, an old variety could be brought to a point of excellence far surpassing its pristine condition, and that the higher and better strain would become fixed and uniform, unless it was again treated with the neglect which formerly caused the deterioration. By this method of selection and careful propagation the primal vigor shown by the varieties which justly become popular may be but the starting-point on a career of well-doing that can scarcely be limited. Is it asked, "Why is not this done by plant-growers?" You, my dear reader, may be one of the reasons. You may be ready to expend even a dollar a plant for some untested and possibly valueless novelty, and yet be unwilling to give a dollar a hundred for the best standard variety in existence. If I had Wilsons propagated as I have described, and asked ten dollars a thousand for them, nine out of ten would write back that they could buy the variety for two dollars per thousand. So they could; and they, could also buy horses at ten dollars each, and no one could deny that they were horses. One of the chief incentives of nurserymen to send out novelties is that they may have some plants for sale on which they can make a profit. When the people are educated up to the point of paying for quality in plants and trees as they are in respect to livestock, there will be careful and capable men ready

Success With Small Fruits - 1/57

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