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- Success With Small Fruits - 40/57 -
If but two or three foreign berries are to be chosen, I would recommend Crown Bob, Bearing Lion, and Whitesmith.
I am sorry to say that seedlings of these foreign varieties have the same tendency to mildew shown by their parents. The Late Emerald was originated in the old garden at Newburgh, and is a sad example of this fact. For many years it thrived in its birthplace without a trace of mildew, but on my own place it has behaved so badly that I do not recommend it. Were it not for this fault, I should grow no other variety.
In view of this inveterate evil, mildew, which is so seldom escaped and so difficult to overcome, we must turn to the second great class, our native species, since they are adapted to our climate. Of these there are several species, of which the following are the most prominent:
_Ribes speciosum_, showy, flowering gooseberry of California, cultivated for ornament, especially in England, and likely to succeed in the southern Middle States. It is trained like a climber; has small, shining leaves, very handsome flowers resembling those of a fuchsia, berry prickly, and few-seeded.
_R. rotundifolium_, more common in the West, is often downy-leaved; peduncles slender; the slender stamens and two-parted style longer than the narrow calyx; berry smooth.
_R. cynosbati_ is found in the rocky woods of the North, is downy- leaved, with slender peduncle, stamens and undivided style not exceeding the broad calyx; large berry, usually prickly.
_R. lacustre_, Lake or Swamp Gooseberry, with the prickly stems of the gooseberry, but with a raceme of flowers like those of a currant; found in the cold bogs and wet woods of the North; small, bristly berries, of unpleasant flavor.
Last, but by no means the least, is the _Ribes hirtellum_, "commonest in our Eastern States, seldom downy, with very short thorns or none, very short peduncles, stamens and two-cleft style scarcely longer than the bell-shaped calyx; and the smooth berry is purple, small and sweet." (Gray.) This is the parent of the most widely known of our native varieties, the Houghton Seedling, named from its originator, Abel Houghton, of Lynn, Massachusetts. The bush is a vigorous grower, that will thrive, with decent culture, on any moderately good soil, and is very rarely injured by mildew. At the same time it improves greatly under high culture and pruning. The bush has a slender and even weeping habit of growth, and can be propagated readily by cuttings. From the Houghton have been grown two seedlings that now are justly the most popular.
The first and best of these is the Downing, originated by Mr. Charles Downing of Newburgh. It is an "upright, vigorous-growing plant, very productive. Fruit somewhat larger than the Houghton, roundish-oval, whitish-green, with the rib veins distinct. Skin smooth. Flesh rather soft, juicy." I consider this the best and most profitable variety that can be generally grown in this country. In flavor, it is excellent. I have had good success with this whenever I have given it fair culture. It does not propagate readily from cuttings, and therefore I increase it usually by layering.
The second seedling is Smith's Improved, a comparatively new variety that is winning favor. It more closely resembles the Houghton in its habit of growth than the Downing, and yet is more vigorous and upright than its parent. The fruit is considerably larger than the Houghton, oval, light green, with a bloom, moderately firm, sweet and good.
Mountain Seedling, originating with the Shakers at Lebanon, New York, is the largest of the American varieties, but for some reason it does not gain in popularity.
Cluster, or American Red, is a variety of unknown origin. The ancestral bush may have been found in the woods. The fruit is scarcely as large as that of the Houghton, is darker in color when fully ripe, hangs long on the bush, and is sweet and good. Mr. P. Barry says that it never mildews. Therefore, it should be made one of the parents of new varieties, for in this direction lies the future of this fruit in America.
In support of this opinion, I am led to quote the following letter, recently received:
"I write to call your attention to a native variety of gooseberry, of which you make no mention in your 'Scribner Papers,' growing in great abundance in the Sierra Nevada, at an elevation of from 2,000 to 3,000 feet, often in the most exposed places, generally on northern slopes. Thinking it may not have come to your knowledge, I will describe it. The bush is of stiff, erect habit, two to three feet high, a stocky grower and an abundant bearer. The berries vary from one-half to one and one-quarter inches in diameter, are covered with innumerable thorns, scarcely less savage in the green state than those on an ordinary wild bush of this country. When cooked, the prickles soften down to the same consistence as the skin, which is rather thick. When ripe, they are easily peeled, and well repay the trouble, the spines being then much less obdurate than when green. The mature fruit is of a deep, dull, coppery red color, and in flavor is equal, if not superior, to any of the _red_ varieties which I have eaten in England. I have often wondered whether cultivation might not remove the spines from the berries, or, that failing, whether a seedling could not be raised from them which would give us a berry far more reliable than any good gooseberry we now have. The scorching sun of the long, dry season of California seemed to have no effect on the foliage, and is five years' experience I never found a mildewed berry.
"The berry is _round_, like the red English berries, instead of ellipsoid, like their white or golden ones.
"There is also another variety, hairy instead of spiny, about the size of your picture of the Downing; bush not so free a grower, rarely reaching two feet, and the berry, to my taste, much inferior. Tastes, however, differ, and it may be the more promising fruit.
"Both varieties are common throughout the eastern end of El Dorado, Placer, and Nevada counties."
The first-named, or thorny gooseberry, probably belongs to the _Ribes cynosbati_, and the latter to the _R. rotundifolium_. The writer is correct in thinking that, if such gooseberries are growing wild, cultivation and selection could secure vast improvements. When we remember that English gardeners started with a native species inferior to ours, we are led to believe that effort and skill like theirs will here be rewarded by kinds as superb, and as perfectly adapted to our climate.
DISEASES AND INSECT ENEMIES OF SMALL FRUITS
Nature is very impartial. It is evidently her intention that we shall enjoy all the fruits for which we are willing to pay her price, in work, care, or skill, but she seems equally bent on supplying the hateful white grub with strawberry roots, and currant worms with succulent foliage. Indeed, it might even appear that she had a leaning toward her small children, no matter how pestiferous they are. At any rate, under the present order of things, lordly man is often their servant, and they reap the reward of his labors.
Did not Nature stumble a little when man fell? She manages to keep on the right side of the poets and painters, for it would seem that they see her only when in moods that are smiling, serious, or grand. The scientist, too, she beguiles, by showing under the microscope how exquisitely she has fashioned some little embodiment of evil that may be the terror of a province, or the scourge of a continent. While the learned man is explaining how wonderfully its minute organs are formed, for mastication, assimilation, procreation, etc., practical people, who have their bread to earn, are impatiently wishing that the whole genus was under their heels, confident that the organs would become still more minute.
The horticulturist should be cast in heroic mold, for he not only must bear his part in the fight with moral wrong, like other men, but must also cope with vegetable and insect evil. Weeds, bugs, worms, what hateful little vices many of them seem in nature! I do not wish to be thought indiscriminate. Many insects are harmless and beautiful; and, if harmless, no one can object if they are not pretty. Not a few are very useful, as, for instance, the little parasite of the cabbage worm. There is need of a general and unremitting crusade against our insect enemies; but it should be a discriminating war, for it is downright cruelty to kill a harmless creature, however small. Still, there are many pests that, like certain forms of evil, will destroy if not destroyed; and they have brought disaster and financial ruin to multitudes.
Mark Tapley hit upon the true philosophy of life, and it is usually possible to take a cheerful view of everything; such a view I suggest to the reader, in regard to the pests of the garden that often lead us into sympathy with the man who wished that there was "a form of sound words in the Prayer-Book which might be used in cases of great provocation." Under the present order of things, skills, industry, and prompt, vigilant action are rewarded. Humanity's besetting sin is laziness; but weeds and insects for months together make this vice wellnigh impossible, save to those who are so unfortunate as to live on the industry of others. Therefore, though our fruits often suffer, men are developed, and made more patient, energetic, resolute, persevering--in brief, more manly. Put the average man into a garden where there were no vegetable diseases, insects, and weeds to cope with, and he himself would become a weed. Moreover, it would seem that in those regions where Nature hinders men as much as she helps them, they are all the better for their difficulties, and their gardens also. Such skill and energy are developed that not only are the horticultural enemies vanquished, but they are often made the means of a richer and a fuller success.
In a valuable paper read before the New Jersey State Horticultural Society, and recently published in the "American Entomologist," Mr. A. S. Fuller makes the following useful suggestions:
"Insects and diseases are frequently so closely united, or so dependent upon each other, that the naturalist often finds it difficult to determine to which the fruit grower should attribute his losses. Some species of insects attack only diseased or dead plants; others only the living and healthy. If a plant shows signs of failing, we are inclined to speak of it as being diseased, whether the failure is caused by a lack of some element in the soil, attacks of parasitic fungi, or noxious insects. The loss is the same in the end, whether from one or all of these enemies combined.
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