The Works of E.P. Roe
SUCCESS WITH SMALL FRUITS
I Dedicate this Book
MR. CHARLES DOWNING
A Neighbor, Friend, and Horticulturist
FROM WHOM I SHALL ESTEEM IT A PRIVILEGE TO LEARN IN COMING YEARS AS I HAVE IN THE PAST
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.
CORNWALL-ON-THE-HUDSON, NEW YORK.
PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION
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 to supply the demand.
Beginning on page 349, the reader will find supplemental bits of varieties which have appeared to me worthy of mention at the present time. I may have erred in my selection of the newer candidates for favor, and have given some unwarranted impressions in regard to them. Let the reader remember the opinion of a veteran fruit-grower. "No true, accurate knowledge of a variety can be had," he said, "until it has been at least ten years in general cultivation."
I will now take my leave, in the hope that when I have something further to say, I shall not be unwelcome. E. P. R.
CORNWALL-ON-THE-HUDSON, N. Y. January 16,1886.
I. PRELIMINARY PARLEY
II. THE FRUIT GARDEN
III. SMALL FRUIT FARMING AND ITS PROFITS
IV. STRAWBERRIES: THE FIVE SPECIES AND THEIR HISTORY
V. IDEAL STRAWBERRIES VERSUS THOSE OF THE FIELD AND MARKET
VI. CHOICE OF SOIL AND LOCATION
VII. PREPARING AND ENRICHING THE SOIL
VIII. PREPARATION OF SOIL BY DRAINAGE
IX. THE PREPARATION OF SOILS COMPARATIVELY UNFAVORABLE—CLAY, SAND, ETC
X. COMMERCIAL AND SPECIAL FERTILIZERS
XI. OBTAINING PLANTS AND IMPROVING OUR STOCK
XII. WHEN SHALL WE PLANT?
XIII. WHAT SHALL WE PLANT? VARIETIES, THEIR CHARACTER AND ADAPTATION TO SOILS
XIV. SETTING OUT PLANTS
XVI. A SOUTHERN STRAWBERRY FARM, AND METHODS OF CULTURE IN THE SOUTH
XVII. FORCING STRAWBERRIES UNDER GLASS
XVIII. ORIGINATING NEW VARIETIES—HYBRIDIZATION
XIX. RASPBERRIES—SPECIES, HISTORY, PROPAGATION, ETC
XX. RASPBERRIES—PRUNING—STAKING—MULCHING—WINTER PROTECTION, ETC
XXI. RASPBERRIES—VARIETIES OF THE FOREIGN AND NATIVE SPECIES
XXII. RUBUS OCCIDENTALS—BLACK-CAP AND PURPLE-CANE RASPBERRIES
XXIII. THE RASPBERRIES OF THE FUTURE
XXIV. BLACKBERRIES—VARIETIES, CULTIVATION, ETC.
XXV. CURRANTS—CHOICE OF SOIL, CULTIVATION, PRUNING, ETC.
XXVI. CURRANTS, CONTINUED—PROPAGATION, VARIETIES
XXVIII. DISEASES AND INSECT ENEMIES OF SMALL FRUITS
XXIX. PICKING AND MARKETING
XXXI. SUGGESTIVE EXPERIENCES FROM WIDELY SEPARATED LOCALITIES
XXXII. A FEW RULES AND MAXIMS
XXXIII. VARIETIES OF STRAWBERRIES
XXXIV. VARIETIES OF OTHER SMALL FRUITS
XXXV. CLOSING WORDS
In the ages that were somewhat shadowed, to say the least, when Nature indulged her own wild moods in man and the world he trampled on rather than cultivated, there was a class who in their dreams and futile efforts became the unconscious prophets of our own time—the Alchemists. For centuries they believed they could transmute base metals into gold and silver. Modern knowledge enables us to work changes more beneficial than the alchemist ever dreamed of; and it shall be my aim to make one of these secrets as open as the sunlight in the fields and gardens wherein the beautiful mutations occur. To turn iron into gold would be a prosaic, barren process that might result in trouble to all concerned, but to transform heavy black earth and insipid rain-water into edible rubies, with celestial perfume and ambrosial flavor, is indeed an art that appeals to the entire race, and enlists that imperious nether organ which has never lost its power over heart or brain. As long, therefore, as humanity's mouth waters at the thought of morsels more delicious even than "sin under the tongue," I am sure of an audience when I discourse of strawberries and their kindred fruits. If apples led to the loss of Paradise, the reader will find described hereafter a list of fruits that will enable him to reconstruct a bit of Eden, even if the "Fall and all our woe" have left him possessed of merely a city yard. But land in the country, breezy hillsides, moist, sheltered valleys, sunny plains— what opportunities for the divinest form of alchemy are here afforded to hundreds of thousands!
Many think of the soil only in connection with the sad words of the burial service—"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes." Let us, while we may, gain more cheerful associations with our kindred dust. For a time it can be earth to strawberry blossoms, ashes to bright red berries, and their color will get into our cheeks and their rich subacid juices into our insipid lives, constituting a mental, moral, and physical alterative that will so change us that we shall believe in evolution and imagine ourselves fit for a higher state of existence. One may delve in the earth so long as to lose all dread at the thought of sleeping in it at last; and the luscious fruits and bright-hued flowers that come out of it, in a way no one can find out, may teach our own resurrection more effectually than do the learned theologians.
We naturally feel that some good saints in the flesh, even though they are "pillars of the church," need more than a "sea-change" before they can become proper citizens of "Jerusalem the Golden;" but having compared a raspberry bush, bending gracefully under its delicious burden, with the insignificant seed from which it grew, we are ready to believe in all possibilities of good. Thus we may gather more than berries from our fruit-gardens. Nature hangs thoughts and suggestions on every spray, and blackberry bushes give many an impressive scratch to teach us that good and evil are very near together in this world, and that we must be careful, while seeking the one, to avoid the other. In every field of life those who seek the fruit too rashly are almost sure to have a thorny experience, and to learn that prickings are provided for those who have no consciences.
He who sees in the world around him only what strikes the eye lives in a poor, half-furnished house; he who obtains from his garden only what he can eat gathers but a meagre crop. If I find something besides berries on my vines, I shall pick it if so inclined. The scientific treatise, or precise manual, may break up the well-rooted friendship of plants, and compel them to take leave of each other, after the arbitrary fashion of methodical minds, but I must talk about them very much as nature has taught me, since, in respect to out-of-door life, my education was acquired almost wholly in the old-fashioned way at the venerable "dame's school." Nay more, I claim that I have warrant to gather from my horticultural texts more than can be sent to the dining table or commission merchant. Such a matter-of-fact plant as the currant makes some attempt to embroider its humble life with ornament, and in April the bees will prove to you that honey may be gathered even from a gooseberry bush. Indeed, gooseberries are like some ladies that we all know. In their young and blossoming days they are sweet and pink-hued, and then they grow acid, pale, and hard; but in the ripening experience of later life they become sweet again and tender. Before they drop from their places the bees come back for honey, and find it.
In brief, I propose to take the reader on a quiet and extended ramble among the small fruits. It is much the same as if I said, "Let us go a-strawberrying together," and we talked as we went over hill and through dale in a style somewhat in harmony with our wanderings. Very many, no doubt, will glance at these introductory words, and decline to go with me, correctly feeling that they can find better company. Other busy, practical souls will prefer a more compact, straightforward treatise, that is like a lesson in a class-room, rather than a stroll in the fields, or a tour among the fruit farms, and while sorry to lose their company, I have no occasion to find fault.
I assure those, however, who, after this preliminary parley, decide to go further, that I will do my best to make our excursion pleasant, and to cause as little weariness as is possible, if we are to return with full baskets. I shall not follow the example of some thrifty people who invite one to go "a-berrying," but lead away from fruitful nooks, proposing to visit them alone by stealth. All the secrets I know shall become open ones. I shall conduct the reader to all the "good places," and name the good things I have discovered in half a lifetime of research. I would, therefore, modestly hint to the practical reader— to whom "time is money," who has an eye to the fruit only, and with whom the question of outlay and return is ever uppermost—that he may, after all, find it to his advantage to go with us. While we stop to gather a flower, listen to a brook or bird, or go out of our way occasionally to get a view, he can jog on, meeting us at every point where we "mean business." These points shall occur so often that he will not lose as much time as he imagines, and I think he will find my business talks business-like—quite as practical as he desires.
To come down to the plainest of plain prose, I am not a theorist on these subjects, nor do I dabble in small fruits as a rich and fanciful amateur, to whom it is a matter of indifference whether his strawberries cost five cents or a dollar a quart. As a farmer, milk must be less expensive than champagne. I could not afford a fruit farm at all if it did not more than pay its way, and in order to win the confidence of the "solid men," who want no "gush" or side sentiment, even though nature suggests some warrant for it, I will give a bit of personal experience. Five years since, I bought a farm of twenty-three acres that for several years had. been rented, depleted, and suffered to run wild. Thickets of brushwood extended from the fences well into the fields, and in a notable instance across the entire place. One portion was so stony that it could not be plowed; another so wet and sour that even grass would not grow upon it; a third portion was not only swampy, but liable to be overwhelmed with stones and gravel twice a year by the sudden rising of a mountain stream. There was no fruit on the place except apples and a very few pears and grapes. Nearly all of the land, as I found it, was too impoverished to produce a decent crop of strawberries. The location of the place, moreover, made it very expensive—it cost $19,000; and yet during the third year of occupancy the income from this place approached very nearly to the outlay, and in 1878, during which my most expensive improvements were made, in the way of draining, taking out stones, etc., the income paid for these improvements, for current expenses, and gave a surplus of over $1,800. In 1879, the net income was considerably larger. In order that these statements may not mislead any one, I will add that in my judgment only the combined business of plants and fruit would warrant such expenses as I have incurred. My farm is almost in the midst of a village, and the buildings upon it greatly increased its cost. Those who propose to raise and sell fruit only should not burden themselves with high-priced land. Farms, even on the Hudson, can be bought at quite moderate prices at a mile or more away from centres, and yet within easy reach of landings and railroad depots.
Mr. Charles Downing, whose opinions on all horticultural questions are so justly valued, remarked to me that no other fruit was so affected by varying soils and climates as the strawberry. I have come to the conclusion that soil, locality, and climate make such vast differences that unless these variations are carefully studied and indicated, books will mislead more people than they help. A man may write a treatise admirably adapted to his own farm; but if one living a thousand, a hundred, or even one mile away, followed the same method, he might almost utterly fail. While certain general and foundation principles apply to the cultivation of each genus of fruit, important modifications and, in some instances, almost radical changes of method must be made in view of the varied conditions in which it is grown.
It is even more important to know what varieties are best adapted to different localities and soils. While no experienced and candid authority will speak confidently and precisely on this point, much very useful information and suggestion may be given by one who, instead of theorizing, observes, questions, and records facts as they are. The most profitable strawberry of the far South will produce scarcely any fruit in the North, although the plant grows well; and some of our best raspberries cannot even exist in a hot climate or upon very light soils. In the preparation of this book it has been my aim to study these conditions, that I might give advice useful in Florida and Canada, New York and California, as well as at Cornwall. I have maintained an extensive correspondence with practical fruit growers in all sections, and have read with care contributions to the horticultural press from widely separated localities. Not content with this, I have visited in person the great fruit-growing centres of New Jersey, Norfolk and Richmond, Va.; Charleston, S. C.; Augusta and Savannah, Ga,; and several points in Florida. Thus, from actual observation and full, free conversation, I have familiarized myself with both the Northern and Southern aspects of this industry, while my correspondence from the far West, Southwest, and California will, I hope, enable me to aid the novice in those regions also.
I know in advance that my book will contain many and varied faults, but I intend that it shall be an expression of honest opinion. I do not like "foxy grapes" nor foxy words about them.
THE FRUIT GARDEN
Small fruits, to people who live in the country, are like heaven— objects of universal desire and very general neglect. Indeed, in a land so peculiarly adapted to their cultivation, it is difficult to account for this neglect if you admit the premise that Americans are civilized and intellectual. It is the trait of a savage and inferior race to devour .with immense gusto a delicious morsel, and then trust to luck for another. People who would turn away from a dish of "Monarch" strawberries, with their plump pink cheeks powdered with sugar, or from a plate of melting raspberries and cream, would be regarded as so eccentric as to suggest an asylum; but the number of professedly intelligent and moral folk who ignore the simple means of enjoying the ambrosial viands daily, for weeks together, is so large as to shake one's confidence in human nature. A well-maintained fruit garden is a comparatively rare adjunct of even stylish and pretentious homes. In June, of all months, in sultry July and August, there arises from innumerable country breakfast tables the pungent odor of a meat into which the devils went but out of which there is no proof they ever came. From the garden under the windows might have been gathered fruits whose aroma would have tempted spirits of the air. The cabbage- patch may be seen afar, but too often the strawberry-bed even if it exists is hidden by weeds, and the later small fruits struggle for bare life in some neglected corner. Indeed, an excursion into certain parts of Hew England might suggest that many of its thrifty citizens would not have been content in Eden until they had put its best land into onions and tobacco. Through the superb scenery of Vermont there flows a river whose name, one might think, would secure an unfailing tide from the eyes of the inhabitants. The Alpine strawberry grows wild in all that region, but the puritan smacked his lips over another gift of nature and named the romantic stream in its honor. To account for certain tastes or tendencies, mankind must certainly have fallen a little way, or, if Mr. Darwin's view is correct, and we are on a slight up-grade, a dreadful hitch and tendency to backslide has been apparent at a certain point ever since the Hebrews sighed for the "leeks and onions of Egypt."
Of course, there is little hope for the rural soul that "loathes" the light manna of small fruits. We must leave it to evolution for another cycle or two. But, as already indicated, we believe that humanity in the main has reached a point where its internal organs highly approve of the delicious group of fruits that strayed out of Paradise, and have not yet lost themselves among the "thorns and thistles." Indeed, modern skill—the alchemy of our age—has wrought such wonders that Eden is possible again to all who will take the trouble to form Eden- like tastes and capacities.
The number who are doing this is increasing every year, The large demand for literature relating to out-of-door life, horticultural journals, like the fruits of which they treat, flourishing in regions new and remote, are proof of this. The business of supplying fruit- trees, plants, and even flowers, is becoming a vast industry. I have been informed that one enterprising firm annually spends thousands in advertising roses only.
But while we welcome the evidences that so many are ceasing to be bucolic heathen, much observation has shown that the need of further enlightenment is large indeed. It is depressing to think of the number of homes about which fruits are conspicuous only by their absence— homes of every class, from the laborer's cottage and pioneer's cabin to the suburban palace. Living without books and pictures is only a little worse than living in the country without fruits and flowers. We must respect to some extent the old ascetics, who, in obedience to mistaken ideas of duty, deprived themselves of the good things God provided, even while we recognize the stupidity of such a course. Little children are rarely so lacking in sense as to try to please their father by contemptuously turning away from his best gifts, or by treating them with indifference. Why do millions live in the country, year after year, raising weeds and brambles, or a few coarse vegetables, when the choicest fruits would grow almost as readily? They can plead no perverted sense of duty.
It is a question hard to answer. Some, perhaps, have the delusion that fine small fruits are as difficult to raise as orchids. They class them with hot-house grapes. Others think they need so little attention that they can stick a few plants in hard, poor ground and leave them to their fate. One might as well try to raise canary-birds and kittens together as strawberries and weeds. There is a large class who believe in small fruits, and know their value. They enjoy them amazingly at a friend's table, and even buy some when they are cheap., A little greater outlay and a little intelligent effort would give them an abundant supply from their own grounds. In a vague way they are aware of this, and reproach themselves for their negligence, but time passes and there is no change for the better. Why? I don't know. There are men who rarely kiss their wives and children. For them the birds sing unheeded and even unheard; flowers become mere objects, and sunsets suggest only "quitting time." In theory they believe in all these things. What can be said of them save that they simply jog on to-day as they did yesterday, ever dimly hoping at some time or other "to live up to their privileges"? But they usually go on from bad to worse, until, like their neglected strawberry-beds, they are "turned under."
In cities not a hundred miles from my farm there are abodes of wealth with spacious grounds, where, in many instances, scarcely any place is found for small fruits. "It is cheaper and easier to buy them," it is said. This is a sorry proof of civilization. There is no economy in the barbaric splendor of brass buttons and livery, but merely a little trouble (I doubt about money) is saved on the choicest luxuries of the year. The idea of going out of their rural paradises to buy half-stale fruit! But this class is largely at the mercy of the "hired man," or his more disagreeable development, the pretentious smatterer, who, so far from possessing the knowledge that the English, Scotch, or German gardeners acquire in their long, thorough training, is a compound of ignorance and prejudice. To hide his barrenness of mind he gives his soul to rare plants, clipped lawns, but stints the family in all things save his impudence. If he tells his obsequious employers that it is easier and cheaper to buy their fruit than to raise it, of course there is naught to do but go to the market and pick up what they can; and yet Dr. Thurber says, with a vast deal of force, that "the unfortunate people who buy their fruit do not know what a strawberry is."
In all truth and soberness it is a marvel and a shame that so many sane people who profess to have passed beyond the habits of the wilderness will not give the attention required by these unexacting fruits. The man who has learned to write his name can learn to raise them successfully. The ladies who know how to keep their homes neat through the labors of their "intelligent help," could also learn to manage a fruit garden even though employing the stupidest oaf that ever blundered through life. The method is this: First learn how yourself, and then let your laborer thoroughly understand that he gets no wages unless he does as he is told. In the complicated details of a plant farm there is much that needs constant supervision, but the work of an ordinary fruit garden is, in the main, straightforward and simple. The expenditure of a little time, money, and, above all things, of seasonable labor, is so abundantly repaid that one would think that bare self-interest would solve invariably the simple problem of supply.
As mere articles of food, these fruits are exceedingly valuable. They are capable of sustaining severe and continued labor. For months together we might become almost independent of butcher and doctor if we made our places produce all that nature permits. Purple grapes will hide unsightly buildings; currants, raspberries, and blackberries will grow along the fences and in the corners that are left to burdocks and brambles. I have known invalids to improve from the first day that berries were brought to the table, and thousands would exchange their sallow complexions, sick headaches, and general ennui for a breezy interest in life and its abounding pleasures, if they would only take nature's palpable hint, and enjoy the seasonable food she provides. Belles can find better cosmetics in the fruit garden than on their toilet tables, and she who paints her cheeks with the pure, healthful blood that is made from nature's choicest gifts, and the exercise of gathering them, can give her lover a kiss that will make him wish for another.
The famous Dr. Hosack, of New York City, who attended Alexander Hamilton after he received his fatal wound from Burr, was an enthusiast on the subject of fruits. It was his custom to terminate his spring course of lectures with a strawberry festival. "I must let the class see," he said, "that we are practical as well as theoretical. Linnaeus cured his gout and protracted his life by eating strawberries."
"They are a dear article," a friend remarked, "to gratify the appetites of so many."
"Yes, indeed," replied the doctor, "but from our present mode of culture they will become cheap."
It is hard to realize how scarce this fruit was sixty or seventy years ago, but the prediction of the sagacious physician has been verified even beyond his imagination. Strawberries are raised almost as abundantly as potatoes, and for a month or more can be eaten as a cheap and wholesome food by all classes, even the poorest. By a proper selection of varieties we, in our home, feast upon them six weeks together, and so might the majority of those whose happy lot is cast in the country. The small area of a city yard planted with a few choice kinds will often yield surprising returns under sensible culture.
If we cultivate these beautiful and delicious fruits we always have the power of giving pleasure to others, and he's a churl and she a pale reflection of Xantippe who does not covet this power. The faces of our guests brighten as they snuff from afar the delicate aroma. Our vines can furnish gifts that our friends will ever welcome; and by means of their products we can pay homage to genius that will be far more grateful than commonplace compliments. I have seen a letter from the Hon. Wm. C. Bryant, which is a rich return for the few strawberries that were sent to him, and the thought that they gave him pleasure gives the donor far more. They are a gift that one can bestow and another take without involving any compromise on either side, since they belong to the same category as smiles, kind words, and the universal freemasonry of friendship. Faces grow radiant over a basket of fruit or flowers that would darken with anger at other gifts.
If, in the circle of our acquaintance, there are those shut up to the weariness and heavy atmosphere of a sick-room, in no way can we send a ray of sunlight athwart their pallid faces more effectually than by placing a basket of fragrant fruit on the table beside them. Even though the physician may render it "forbidden fruit," their eyes will feast upon it, and the aroma will teach them that the world is not passing on, unheeding and uncaring whether they live or die.
The Fruit and Flower Mission of New York is engaged in a beautiful and most useful charity. Into tenement-houses and the hot close wards of city hospitals, true sisters of mercy of the one Catholic church of love and kindness carry the fragrant emblems of an Eden that was lost, but may be regained even by those who have wandered farthest from its beauty and purity. Men and women, with faces seemingly hardened and grown rigid under the impress of vice, that but too correctly reveal the coarse and brutal nature within, often become wistful and tender over some simple flower or luscious fruit that recalls earlier and happier days. These are gifts which offend no prejudices, and inevitably suggest that which is good, sweet, wholesome and pure. For a moment, at least, and perhaps forever, they may lead stained and debased creatures to turn their faces heavenward. There are little suffering children also in the hospitals; there are exiles from country homes and country life in the city who have been swept down not by evil but the dark tides of disaster, poverty, and disease, and to such it is a privilege as well as a pleasure to send gifts that will tend to revive hope and courage. That we may often avail ourselves of these gracious opportunities of giving the equivalent of a "cup of cold water," we should plant fruits and flowers in abundance.
One of the sad features of our time is the tendency of young people to leave their country homes. And too often one does not need to look far for the reason. Life at the farm-house sinks into deep ruts, and becomes weary plodding. There are too many "one-ideaed" farmers and farms. It is corn, potatoes, wheat, butter, or milk. The staple production absorbs all thought and everything else is neglected. Nature demands that young people should have variety, and furnishes it in abundance. The stolid farmer too often ignores nature and the cravings of youth, and insists on the heavy monotonous work of his specialty, early and late, the year around, and then wonders why in his declining years there are no strong young hands to lighten his toil. The boy who might have lived a sturdy, healthful, independent life among his native hills is a bleached and sallow youth measuring ribbons and calicoes behind a city counter. The girl who might have been the mistress of a tree-shadowed country house disappears under much darker shadows in town. But for their early home life, so meagre and devoid of interest, they might have breathed pure air all their days.
Not the least among the means of making a home attractive would be a well-maintained fruit garden. The heart and the stomach have been found nearer together by the metaphysicians than the physiologists, and if the "house-mother," as the Germans say, beamed often at her children over a great dish of berries flanked by a pitcher of unskimmed milk, not only good blood and good feeling would be developed, but something that the poets call "early ties."
There is one form of gambling or speculation that, within proper limits, is entirely innocent and healthful—the raising of new seedling fruits and the testing of new varieties. In these pursuits the elements of chance, skill, and judgment enter so evenly that they are an unfailing source of pleasurable excitement. The catalogues of plant, tree, and seed dealers abound in novelties. The majority of them cannot endure the test of being grown by the side of our well- known standard kinds, but now and then an exceedingly valuable variety, remarkable for certain qualities or peculiarly adapted to special localities and uses, is developed. There is not only an unfailing pleasure in making these discoveries, but often a large profit. If, three or four years ago, a country boy had bought a dozen Sharpless strawberry plants, and propagated from them, he might now obtain several hundred dollars from their increased numbers. Time only can show whether this novelty will become a standard variety, but at present the plants are in great demand.
The young people of a country home may become deeply interested in originating new seedlings. A thousand strawberry seeds will produce a thousand new kinds, and, although the prospects are that none of them will equal those now in favor, something very fine and superior may be obtained. Be this as it may, if these simple natural interests prevent boys and girls from being drawn into the maelstrom of city life until character is formed, each plant will have a value beyond silver or gold.
One of the supreme rewards of human endeavor is a true home, and surely it is as stupid as it is wrong to neglect some of the simplest and yet most effectual means of securing this crown of earthly life. A home is the product of many and varied causes, but I have yet to see the man who will deny that delicious small fruits for eight months of the year, and the richer pleasure even of cultivating and gathering them, may become one of the chief contributions to this result. I use the words "eight months" advisedly, for even now, January 29, we are enjoying grapes that were buried in the ground last October. I suppose my children are very material and unlike the good little people who do not live long, but they place a white mark against the days on which we unearth a jar of grapes.
SMALL FRUIT FARMING AND ITS PROFITS
A farm without a fruit garden may justly be regarded as proof of a low state of civilization in the farmer. No country home should be without such simple means of health and happiness. For obvious reasons, however, there is not, and never can be, the same room for fruit raising as there is for grain, grass, and stock farming. Nevertheless, the opportunities to engage with profit in this industry on a large scale are increasing every year. From being a luxury of a few, the small fruits have become an article of daily food to the million. Even the country village must have its supply, and the number of crates that are shipped from New York city to neighboring towns is astonishingly large. As an illustration of the rapidly enlarging demand for these fruits, let us consider the experience of one Western city, Cincinnati. Mr. W. H. Corbly, who is there regarded as one of the best informed on these subjects, has gathered the following statistics: "In 1835 it was regarded as a most wonderful thing that 100 bushels of strawberries could be disposed of on the Cincinnati market in one day, and was commented on as a great event. A close estimate shows that during the summer of 1879 eighty to eighty-five thousand bushels of strawberries were sold in Cincinnati. Of course, a large part of these berries were shipped away, but it is estimated that nearly one half were consumed here. About the year 1838 the cultivation of black raspberries was commenced in this county by James Gallagher and F. A. McCormick of Salem, Anderson township. The first year, Gallagher's largest shipment in one day was six bushels, and McCormick's four. When they were placed on the market, McCormick sold out at 6 1/4 cents per quart, and Gallagher held off till McCormick had sold out, when he put his on sale and obtained 8 1/8 cents per quart, and the demand was fully supplied. It is estimated that the crop for the year 1879, handled in Cincinnati, amounted to from seventy-five thousand to eighty thousand bushels—the crop being a fairly good one—selling at an average of about two dollars per bushel." It has been stated in "The Country Gentleman" that about $5,000,000 worth of small fruits were sold in Michigan in one year; and the same authority estimates that $25,000,000 worth are consumed annually in New York city. In the future it would seem that this demand would increase even more rapidly; for in every fruit-growing region immense canning establishments are coming into existence, to which the markets of the world are open. Therefore, in addition to the thousands already embarked in this industry, still larger numbers will engage in it during the next few years.
Those who now for the first time are turning their attention toward this occupation may be divided mainly into two classes. The first consists of established farmers, who, finding markets within their reach, extend their patches of raspberries, currants, or strawberries to such a degree that they have a surplus to sell. To the extent that such sales are remunerative, they increase the area of fruits, until in many instances they become virtually fruit farmers. More often a few acres are devoted to horticulture, and the rest of the farm is carried on in the old way.
The second class is made up chiefly of those who are unfamiliar with the soil and its culture—mechanics, professional men, who hope to regain health by coming back to nature, and citizens whose ill-success or instincts suggest country life and labors. From both these classes, and especially from the latter, I receive very many letters, containing all kinds of questions. The chief burden on most minds, however, is summed up in the words, "Do small fruits pay?" To meet the needs of these two classes is one of the great aims of this work; and it is my most earnest wish not to mislead by high-colored pictures.
Small fruits pay many people well; and unless location, soil, or climate is hopelessly against one, the degree of profit will depend chiefly upon his skill, judgment and industry. The raising of small fruits is like other callings, in which some are getting rich, more earning a fair livelihood, and not a few failing. It is a business in which there is an abundance of sharp, keen competition; and ignorance, poor judgment, and shiftless, idle ways will be as fatal as in the workshop, store, or office.
Innumerable failures result from inexperience. I will give one extreme example, which may serve to illustrate, the sanguine mental condition of many who read of large returns in fruit culture. A young man who had inherited a few hundred dollars wrote me that he could hire a piece of land for a certain amount, and he wished to invest the balance—every cent—in plants, thus leaving himself no capital with which to continue operations, but expecting that a speedy crop would lift him at once into a prosperous career. I wrote that under the circumstances I could not supply him—that it would be about the same as robbery to do so; and advised him to spend several years with a practical and successful fruit grower and learn the business.
Most people enter upon this calling in the form of a wedge; but only too many commence at the blunt end, investing largely at once in everything, and therefore their business soon tapers down to nothing. The wise begin at the point of the wedge and develop their calling naturally, healthfully—learning, by experience and careful observation, how to grow fruits profitably, and which kinds pay the best. There ought also to be considerable capital to start with, and an absence of the crushing burden of interest money. No fruits yield any returns before the second or third year; and there are often Unfavorable seasons and glutted markets. Nature's prizes are won by patient, persistent industry, and not by Wall Street sleight of hand.
Location is very important. A fancy store, however well-furnished, would be a ruinous investment at a country crossroad. The fruit farm must be situated where there is quick and cheap access to good markets, and often the very best market may be found at a neighboring village, summer resort, or canning establishment. Enterprise and industry, however, seem to surmount all obstacles. The Rev. Mr. Knox shipped his famous "700" strawberries (afterward known to be the Jucunda, a foreign variety) from Pittsburgh to New York, securing large returns; and, take the country over, the most successful fruit farms seem to be located where live men live and work. Still, if one were about to purchase, sound judgment would suggest a very careful choice of locality with speedy access to good markets. Mr. J. J. Thomas, editor of "The Country Gentleman," in a paper upon the Outlook of Fruit Culture, read before the Western N. Y. Horticultural Society, laid down three essentials to success: 1. Locality—a region found by experience to be adapted to fruit growing. 2. Wise selection of varieties of each kind. 3. Care and culture of these varieties. He certainly is excellent authority.
These obvious considerations, and the facts that have been instanced, make it clear that brains must unite with labor and capital. Above all, however, there must be trained, practical skill. Those succeed who learn how; and to add a little deftness to unskilled hands is the object of every succeeding page. At the same time, I frankly admit that nothing can take the place of experience. I once asked an eminent physician if a careful reading of the best medical text-books and thorough knowledge of the materia medica could take the place of daily study of actual disease and fit a man for practice, and he emphatically answered, "No!" It is equally true that an intelligent man can familiarize himself with every horticultural writer from the classic age to our own and yet be outstripped in success by an ignorant Irish laborer who has learned the little he knows in the school of experience. The probabilities are, however, that the laborer will remain such all his days, while the thoughtful, reading man, who is too sensible to be carried away by theories, and who supplements his science with experience, may enrich not only himself but the world.
Still, there is no doubt that the chances of success are largely in favor of the class I first named,—the farmers who turn their attention in part or wholly toward fruit growing. They are accustomed to hard out-of-door work and the general principles of agriculture. The first is always essential to success; and a good farmer can soon become equally skillful in the care of fruits if he gives his mind to their culture. The heavy, stupid, prejudiced plodder who thinks a thing is right solely because his grandfather did it, is a bucolic monster that is receding so fast into remote wilds before the horticultural press that he scarcely need be taken into account. Therefore, the citizen or professional man inclined to engage in fruit farming should remember that he must compete with the hardy, intelligent sons of the soil, who in most instances are crowning their practical experience with careful reading. I do not say this to discourage any one, but only to secure a thoughtful and adequate consideration of the subject before the small accumulations of years are embarked in what may be a very doubtful venture. Many have been misled to heavy loss by enthusiastic works on horticulture; I wish my little book to lead only to success.
If white-handed, hollow-chested professional men anxious to acquire money, muscle, and health by fruit raising,—if citizens disgusted with pavements and crowds are willing to take counsel of common-sense and learn the business practically and thoroughly, why should they not succeed? But let no one imagine that horticulture is the final resort of ignorance, indolence, or incapacity, physical or mental. Impostors palm themselves off on the world daily; a credulous public takes poisonous nostrums by the ton and butt; but Nature recognizes error every time, and quietly thwarts those who try to wrong her, either wilfully or blunderingly.
Mr. Peter Henderson, who has been engaged practically in vegetable gardening for over a quarter of a century, states, as a result of his experience, that capital, at the rate of $300 per acre, is required in starting a "truck farm," and that the great majority fail who make the attempt with less means. In my opinion, the fruit farmer would require capital in like proportion; for, while many of the small fruits can be grown with less preparation of soil and outlay in manure, the returns come more slowly, since, with the exception of strawberries, none of them yield a full crop until the third or fourth year. I advise most urgently against the incurring of heavy debts. Better begin with three acres than thirty, or three hundred, from which a large sum of interest money must be obtained before a penny can be used for other purposes. Anything can be raised from a farm easier than a mortgage.
Success depends very largely, also, on the character of the soil. If it is so high and dry as to suffer severely from drought two years out of three, it cannot be made to pay except by irrigation; if so low as to be wet, rather than moist, the prospects are but little better. Those who are permanently settled must do their best with such land as they have, and in a later chapter I shall suggest how differing soils should be managed. To those who can still choose their location, I would recommend a deep mellow loam, with a rather compact subsoil,— moist, but capable of thorough drainage. Diversity of soil and exposure offer peculiar advantages also. Some fruits thrive best in a stiff clay, others in sandy upland. Early varieties ripen earlier on a sunny slope, while a late kind is rendered later on a northern hillside, or in the partial shade of a grove. In treating each fruit and variety, I shall try to indicate the soils and exposures to which they are best adapted.
Profits.—The reader will naturally wish for some definite statements of the profits of fruit farming; but I almost hesitate to comply with this desire. A gentleman wrote to me that he sold from an acre of Cuthbert raspberries $800 worth of fruit. In view of this fact, not a few will sit down and begin to figure,—"If one acre yielded $800, ten acres would produce $8,000; twenty acres $16,000," etc. Multitudes have been led into trouble by this kind of reasoning. The capacity of an engine with a given motor power can be measured, and certain and unvarying results predicted; but who can measure the resources of an acre through varying seasons and under differing culture, or foretell the price of the crops? In estimating future profits, we can only approximate; and the following records are given merely to show what results have been secured, and therefore may be obtained again, and even surpassed. "The Country Gentleman" gives a well-authenticated instance of a fruit grower who "received more than $2,000 from three acres of strawberries." In contrast, however, it could be shown that many fields have not paid expenses. I once had such an experience. The market was "glutted," and the variety yielded berries so small and poor that they did not average five cents per quart. Occasionally we hear of immense shipments from the South being thrown into the dock.
Mr. William Parry, a veteran fruit grower in New Jersey, states the truth I wish to convey very clearly, and gives a fair mean between these two extremes:
"YIELD AND PROFIT
"There are so many circumstances connected with strawberry growing, such as varieties, soil, climate, location, markets, and the skill and management of the grower, that the results of a few cases cannot be relied on for general rules.
"We have grown over two hundred bushels per acre here, and realized upward of six hundred dollars per acre for the crop; but that is much above the general average. Having kept a careful record, for fourteen years past, of the yield per acre and price per quart at which our strawberries have been sold, we find the average to be about 2,500 quarts per acre, and the price eleven cents per quart in market, giving the following results:
"Commissions, 10 per cent $27.50 Picking 2,500 quarts, at 2c. per quart 50.00 Manure 17.50 Use of baskets 10.00 Cultivation, etc 25.00 Net profits per acre 145.00
"Gross proceeds, 2,500 quarts at 11e $275.00"
In the year 1876 the same gentleman had ten acres of Brandywine raspberries that yielded about eighty-two bushels to the acre, giving a clear profit of $280, or of $2,800 for the entire area. This crop, so far from being the average, was awarded a premium as the most profitable that year in the section.
J. R. Gaston & Sons, of Normal, Ill., have given the following record of a plantation of Snyder blackberries: "We commenced to pick a field of seven acres July 12th, and finished picking August 22. The total amount gathered was 43,575 quarts, equal to 1,361 bushels and 22 quarts. The average price was eight cents per quart, making the gross proceeds equal to $3,486. We paid for picking $435.75. The cost of trimming and cultivating was about $400; cost of boxes, crates, and marketing was $1,307.25, leaving a net profit of $1,343."
A gentleman in Ulster Co., N.Y., stated that 200 bushes of the Cherry currant yielded him in one season 1,000 lbs. of fruit, which was sold at an average of eight cents per pound. His gross receipts were $80 from one-fourteenth of an acre, and at the same ratio an acre would have yielded $1,120. Is this an average yield? So far from it, there are many acres of currants and gooseberries that do not pay expenses. Thus it can be seen that the scale ranges from marvellous prizes down to blanks and heavy losses; but the drawing is not a game of chance, but usually the result of skill and industry, or their reverse.
I might have given many examples of large, and even enormously large, profits obtained under exceptional circumstances; but they tend to mislead. I write for those whose hearts prompt them to co-work with nature, and who are most happy when doing her bidding in the breezy fields and gardens, content with fair rewards, instead of being consumed by the gambler's greed for unearned gold. At the same time, I am decidedly in favor of high culture, and the most generous enriching of the soil; convinced that fruit growers and farmers in general would make far more money if they spent upon one acre what they usually expend on three. In a later chapter will be found an instance of an expenditure of $350 per acre on strawberry land, and the net profits obtained were proportionately large.
STRAWBERRIES: THE FIVE SPECIES AND THEIR HISTORY
The conscientious Diedrich Knickerbocker, that venerated historian from whom all good citizens of New York obtain the first impressions of their ancestry, felt that he had no right to chronicle the vicissitudes of Manhattan Island until he had first accounted for the universe of which it is a part. Equally with the important bit of land named, the strawberry belongs to the existing cosmos, and might be traced back to "old chaos." I hasten to re-assure the dismayed reader. I shall not presume to follow one who could illumine his page with genius, and whose extensive learning enabled him to account for the universe not merely in one but in half a dozen ways.
It is the tendency of the present age to ask what is, not what has been or shall be. And yet, on the part of some, as they deliberately enjoy a saucer of strawberries and cream,—it is a pleasure that we prolong for obvious reasons,—a languid curiosity may arise as to the origin and history of so delicious a fruit. I suppose Mr. Darwin would say, "it was evolved." But some specimens between our lips suggest that a Geneva watch could put itself together quite as readily. At the same time, it must be said that our "rude forefathers" did not eat Monarch or Charles Downing strawberries. In few fruits, probably, have there been such vast changes or improvements as in this. Therefore, I shall answer briefly and as well as I can, in view of the meagre data and conflicting opinions of the authorities, the curiosity, that I have imagined on some faces. Those who care only for the strawberry of to-day can easily skip a few pages.
If there were as much doubt about a crop of this fruit as concerning the origin of its name, the outlook would be dismal, indeed. In old Saxon, the word was streawberige or streowberrie; and was so named, says one authority, "from the straw-like stems of the plant, or from the berries lying strewn upon the ground." Another authority tells us: "It is an old English practice" (let us hope a modern one also) "to lay straw between the rows to preserve the fruit from rotting on the wet ground, from which the name has been supposed to be derived; although more probably it is from the wandering habit of the plant, straw being a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon strae, from which we have the English verb stray." Again tradition asserts that in the olden times children strung the berries on straws for sale, and hence the name. Several other causes have been suggested, but I forbear. I have never known, however, a person to decline the fruit on the ground of this obscurity and doubt. (Controversialists and sceptics please take note.)
That the strawberry should belong to the rose family, and that its botanical name should be fragaria, from the Latin fragro, to smell sweetly, will seem both natural and appropriate.
While for his knowledge of the plant I refer the reader to every hillside and field (would that I might say, to every garden!), there is a peculiarity in the production of the fruit which should not pass unnoted. Strictly speaking, the small seeds scattered over the surface of the berry are the fruit, and it is to perfect these seeds that the plants blossom, the stamens scatter, and the pistils receive the pollen on the convex receptacle, which, as the seeds ripen, greatly enlarges, and becomes the pulpy and delicious mass that is popularly regarded as the fruit. So far from being the fruit, it is only "the much altered end of the stem" that sustains the fruit or seeds; and so it becomes a beautiful illustration of a kindly, genuine courtesy, which renders an ordinary service with so much grace and graciousness that we dwell on the manner with far more pleasure than on the service itself. The innumerable varieties of strawberries that are now in existence appear, either in their character or origin, to belong to five great and quite distinct species. The first, and for a long time the only one of which we have any record, is the Fragaria vesca, or the "Alpine" strawberry. It is one of the most widely spread fruits of the world, for it grows, and for centuries has grown, wild throughout Northern and Central Europe and Asia, following the mountains far to the south; and on this continent, from time immemorial, the Indian children have gathered it, from the Northern Atlantic to the Pacific. In England this species exhibits some variation from the Alpine type, and was called by our ancestors the Wood strawberry. The chief difference between the two is in the form of the fruit, the Wood varieties being round and the Alpine conical. They are also subdivided into white and red, annual and monthly varieties, and those that produce no runners, which are known to-day as Bush Alpines.
The Alpine, as we find it growing wild, was the strawberry of the ancients. It is to it that the suggestive lines of Virgil refer:—
"Ye boys that gather flowers and strawberries, Lo, hid within the grass an adder lies."
There is no proof, I believe, that the strawberry was cultivated during any of the earlier civilizations. Some who wrote most explicitly concerning the fruit culture of their time do not mention it; and Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny name it but casually, and with no reference to its cultivation. It may appear a little strange that the luxurious Romans, who fed on nightingales' tongues, peacocks' brains, and scoured earth and air for delicacies, should have given but little attention to this fruit. Possibly they early learned the fact that this species is essentially a wildling, and like the trailing arbutus, thrives best in its natural haunts. The best that grew could be gathered from mountain-slopes and in the crevices of rocks. Moreover, those old revellers became too wicked and sensual to relish Alpine strawberries.
Its congener, the Wood strawberry, was the burden of one of the London street cries four hundred years ago; and to-day the same cry, in some language or other, echoes around the northern hemisphere as one of the inevitable and welcome sounds of spring and early summer.
But few, perhaps, associate this lovely little fruit, that is almost as delicate and shy as the anemone, with tragedy; and yet its chief poetical associations are among the darkest and saddest that can be imagined. Shakespeare's mention of the strawberry in the play of Richard III. was an unconscious but remarkable illustration of the second line already quoted from Virgil:—
"Lo, hid within the grass an adder lies."
The bit of history which is the occasion of this allusion is given in the quaint old English of Sir Thomas More, who thus describes the entrance to the Council of the terrible "Protector," from whom nothing good or sacred could be protected. He came "fyrste about IX of the clocke, saluting them curtesly, and excusing himself that he had been from them so long, saieing merily that he had been a slepe that day. And after a little talking with them he said unto the bishop of Elye, my lord, You have very good strawberries at your gardayne in Holberne, I require you let us have a messe of them." He who has raised fine fruit will know how eagerly the flattered bishop obeyed. According to the poet, the dissembler also leaves the apartment, with his unscrupulous ally, Buckingham.
"Where is my lord protector? I have sent For these strawberries,"
said the Bishop of Ely, re-entering.
Lord Hastings looks around with an air of general congratulation, and remarks:—
"His grace looks cheerfully and smooth this morning; There's some conceit or other likes him well."
The serpent is hidden, but very near. A moment later, Gloster enters, black as night, hisses his monstrous charge, and before noon of that same day poor Hastings is a headless corpse.
Far more sad and pitiful are the scenes recalled by the words of the fiendish Iago,—type for all time of those who transmute love into jealousy:—
"Tell me but this— Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief, Spotted with strawberries, in your wife's hand?" "I gave her such a one; 'twas my first gift."
was the answer of a man whom the world will never forgive, in spite of his immeasurable remorse.
From the poet Spenser we learn that to go a-strawberrying was one of the earliest pastimes of the English people. In the "Faerie Queen" we find these lines:—
"One day, as they all three together went To the green wood to gather strawberries, There chaunst to them a dangerous accident."
Very old, too is the following nursery rhyme, which, nevertheless, suggests the true habitat of the F. vesca species:—
"The man of the wilderness asked me How many strawberries grew in the sea; I answered him, as I thought good, 'As many red herrings as grew in the wood.'"
The ambrosial combination of strawberries and cream was first named by Sir Philip Sidney. Old Thomas Tusser, of the 16th century, in his work, "Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry united to as many of Good Housewifery," turns the strawberry question over to his wife, and doubtless it was in better hands than his, if his methods of culture were as rude as his poetry:—
"Wife, into the garden, and set me a plot With strawberry roots, of the best to be got; Such, growing abroad, among thorns in the wood, Well chosen and picked prove excellent good."
Who "Dr. Boteler" was, or what he did, is unknown, but he made a sententious remark which led Izaak Walton to give him immortality in his work, "The Compleat Angler." "Indeed, my good schollar," the serene Izaak writes, "we may say of angling as Dr. Boteler said of strawberries, 'Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did;' and so if I might be judge, God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling." If this was true of the wild Wood strawberry, how much more so of many of our aromatic rubies of to-day.
John Parkinson, the apothecary-gardener of London, whose quaint work was published in 1629, is not so enthusiastic. He says of the wild strawberry: "It may be eaten or chewed in the mouth without any manner of offense; it is no great bearer, but those it doth beare are set at the toppes of the stalks, close together, pleasant to behold, and fit for a gentlewoman to wear on her arme, &c., as a raritie instead of a flower."
In England, the strawberry leaf is part of the insignia of high rank, since it appears in the coronets of a duke, marquis, and earl. "He aspires to the strawberry leaves" is a well-known phrase abroad, and the idea occurs several times in the novels of Disraeli, the present British Premier. Thackeray, in his "Book of Snobs," writes: "The strawberry leaves on her chariot panels are engraved on her ladyship's heart."
After all, perhaps it is not strange that the Alpine species should be allied to some dark memories, for it was the only kind known when the age was darkened by passion and crime.
The one other allusion to the strawberry in Shakespeare is peculiarly appropriate to the species under consideration. In the play of Henry V., an earlier Bishop of Ely says:—
"The strawberry grows underneath the nettle, And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best Neighbored by fruit of baser quality."
And this, probably, is still true, for the Alpine and Wood strawberries tend to reproduce themselves with such unvarying exactness that cultivation makes but little difference.
All these allusions apply to the F. vesca or Alpine species, and little advance was made in strawberry culture in Europe until after the introduction of other species more capable of variation and improvement. Still, attempts were made from time to time. As the Alpine differed somewhat from the Wood strawberry, they were brought to England about 200 years later than the tragedy of Lord Hastings' death, which has been referred to.
In connection with the White and Red Wood and Alpine strawberries, we find in 1623 the name of the "Hautbois" or Haarbeer strawberry, the Fragaria elatior of the botanists. This second species, a native of Germany, resembles the Alpine in some respects, but is a larger and stockier plant. Like the Fragaria vesca, its fruit-stalks are erect and longer than the leaves, but the latter are larger than the foliage of the Alpine, and are covered with short hairs, both on the upper and under surface, which give them a rough appearance. As far as I can learn, this species still further resembles the Alpines in possessing little capability of improvement and variation. Even at this late day the various named kinds are said to differ from each other but slightly. There is a very marked contrast, however, between the fruit of the Hautbois and Alpine species, for the former has a peculiar musky flavor which has never found much favor in this country. It is, therefore, a comparatively rare fruit in our gardens, nor do we find much said of it in the past.
There is scarcely any record of progress until after the introduction of the two great American species. It is true that in 1660 a fruit grower at Montreuil, France, is "said to have produced a new variety from the seed of the Wood strawberry," which was called the "Cappron," and afterward the "Fressant." It was named as a distinct variety one hundred years later, but it may be doubted whether it differed greatly from its parent. Be this as it may, it is said to be the first improved variety of which there is any record.
Early in the 17th century, intercourse with this continent led to the introduction of the most valuable species in existence, the "Virginian" strawberry (Fragaria Virginiana), which grows wild from the Arctic regions to Florida, and westward to the Rocky Mountains. It is first named in the catalogue of Jean Robin, botanist to Louis XIII., in 1624. During the first century of its career in England, it was not appreciated, but as its wonderful capacity for variation and improvement—in which it formed so marked a contrast to the Wood strawberry—was discovered, it began to receive the attention it deserved. English gardeners learned the fact, of which we are making so much to-day, that by simply sowing its seeds, new and possibly better varieties could be produced. From that time and forward, the tendency has increased to originate, name and send out innumerable seedlings, the majority of which soon pass into oblivion, while a few survive and become popular, usually in proportion to their merit.
The Fragaria Virginiana, therefore, the common wild strawberry that is found in all parts of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, is the parent of nine-tenths of the varieties grown in our gardens; and its improved descendants furnish nearly all of the strawberries of our markets. As we have seen, the Fragaria vesca, or the Alpine species of Europe, is substantially the same to-day as it was a thousand years ago. But the capacity of the Virginian strawberry for change and improvement is shown by those great landmarks in the American culture of this fruit,—the production of Hovey's Seedling by C. M. Hovey, of Cambridge, Mass., forty-five years since; of the Wilson's Albany Seedling, originated by John Wilson, of Albany, N. Y., about twenty- five years ago, and, in our own time, of the superb varieties, Monarch of the West, Seth Boyden, Charles Downing, and Sharpless.
As in the Alpine species there are two distinct strains,—the Alpine of the Continent, and the Wood strawberry of England,—so in the wild Virginian species there are two branches of the family,—the Eastern and the Western. The differences are so marked that some writers have asserted that there are two species; but we have the authority of Professor Gray for saying that the Western, or Fragaria Illincensis, is "perhaps" a distinct species, and he classifies it as only a very marked variety.
There are but two more species of the strawberry genus. Of the first of these, the Fragaria Indica, or "Indian" strawberry, there is little to say. It is a native of Northern India, and differs so much from the other species that it was formerly named as a distinct genus. It has yellow flowers, and is a showy house-plant, especially for window- baskets, but the fruit is dry and tasteless. It is said by Professor Gray to have escaped cultivation and become wild in some localities of this country.
Fragaria Chilensis is the last great species or subdivision that we now have to consider. Like the F. Virginiana, it is a native of the American continent, and yet we have learned to associate it almost wholly with Europe. It grows wild on the Pacific slope, from Oregon to Chili, creeping higher and higher up the mountains as its habitat approaches the equator. "It is a large, robust species, with very firm, thick leaflets, soft and silky on the under side." The flowers are larger than in the other species; the fruit, also, in its native condition, averages much larger, stands erect instead of hanging, ripens late, is rose-colored, firm and sweet in flesh, and does not require as much heat to develop its saccharine constituents; but it lacks the peculiar sprightliness and aroma of the Virginia strawberry. It has become, however, the favorite stock of the European gardeners, and seems better adapted to transatlantic climate and soil than to ours. The first mention of the Fragaria Chilensis, or South American strawberry, says Mr. Fuller, "is by M. Frezier, who, in 1716, in his journey to the South Sea, found it at the foot of the Cordillera mountains near Quito, and carried it home to Marseilles, France." At that time it was called the Chili strawberry, and the Spaniards said that they brought it from Mexico.
From Mr. W. Collett Sandars, an English antiquarian, I learned that seven plants were shipped from Chili and were kept alive during the voyage by water which M. Frezier saved from his allowance, much limited owing to a shortness of supply. He gave two of the plants to M. de Jessieu, "who cultivated them with fair success in the royal gardens." In 1727, the Chili strawberry was introduced to England, but not being understood it did not win much favor.
Mr. Fuller further states: "We do not learn from any of the old French works that new varieties were raised from the Chili strawberry for at least fifty years after its introduction." Duchesne, in 1766, says that "Miller considered its cultivation abandoned in England on account of its sterility. The importations from other portions of South America appeared to have met with better success; and, early in the present century, new varieties of the F. Chilensis, as well as of the Virginiana, became quite abundant in England and on the Continent."
If we may judge from the characteristics of the varieties imported to this country of late years, the South American species has taken the lead decidedly abroad, and has become the parent stock from which foreign culturists, in the main, are seeking to develop the ideal strawberry. But in all its transformations, and after all the attempts to infuse into it the sturdier life of the Virginian strawberry, it still remembers its birthplace, and falters and often dies in the severe cold of our winters, or, what is still worse, the heat and drought of our summers. As a species, it requires the high and careful culture that they are able and willing to give it in Europe. The majority of imported varieties have failed in the United States, but a few have become justly popular in regions where they can be grown. The Triomphe de Gand may be given as an example, and were I restricted to one variety I should take this. The Jucunda, also, is one of the most superb berries in existence; and can be grown with great profit in many localities.
Thus the two great species which to-day are furnishing ninety-nine hundredths of the strawberries of commerce and of the garden, both in this country and abroad, came from America, the Fragaria Chilensis reaching our Eastern States by the way of Europe, and in the form of the improved and cultivated varieties that have won a name abroad. We are crossing the importations with our own native stock. President Wilder's superb seedling, which has received his name, is an example of this blending process. This berry is a child of the La Constante and Hovey's Seedling, and, therefore, in this one beautiful and most delicious variety we have united the characteristics of the two chief strawberry species of the world, the F. Virginiana and F. Chilensis.
It will be seen that the great law of race extends even to strawberry plants. As in the most refined and cultivated peoples there is a strain of the old native stock, which ever remains, a source of weakness or strength, and will surely show itself in certain emergencies, so the superb new varieties of strawberries, the latest products of horticultural skill, speedily indicate in the rough-and- tumble of ordinary culture whether they have derived their life from the hardy F. Virginiana or the tender and fastidious F. Chilensis. The Monarch of the West and the Jucunda are the patricians of the garden, and on the heavy portions of my land at Cornwall I can scarcely say to which I give the preference. But the Monarch is Anglo-Saxon and the Jucunda is of a Latin race; or to drop metaphor, the former comes of a species that can adapt itself to conditions extremely varied, and even very unfavorable, and the latter cannot.
IDEAL STEAWBERRIES VERSUS THOSE OF THE FIELD AND MARKET
There are certain strong, coarse-feeding vegetables, like corn and potatoes, that can be grown on the half-subdued and comparatively poor soil of the field; but no gardener would think of planting the finer and more delicate sorts in such situations. There are but few who do not know that they can raise cauliflowers and egg-plants only on deep, rich land. The parallel holds good with this fruit. There are strawberries that will grow almost anywhere, and under any circumstances, and there is another class that demands the best ground and culture. But from the soil of a good garden, with a little pains, we can obtain the finest fruit in existence; and there is no occasion to plant those kinds which are grown for market solely because they are productive, and hard enough to endure carriage for a long distance. The only transportation to be considered is from the garden to the table, and therefore we can make table qualities our chief concern. If our soil is light and sandy, we can raise successfully one class of choice, high-flavored varieties; if heavy, another class. Many worry over a forlorn, weedy bed of some inferior variety that scarcely gives a week's supply, when, with no more trouble than is required to obtain a crop of celery, large, delicious berries might be enjoyed daily, for six weeks together, from twenty different kinds.
The strawberry of commerce is a much more difficult problem. The present unsatisfactory condition of affairs was admirably expressed in the following editorial in the "Evening Post" of June 12, 1876, from the pen of the late William Cullen Bryant:—
STRAWBERRIES "In general, an improvement has been observed of late in the quality of fruit. We have more and finer varieties of apple; the pear is much better in general than it was ten years since; of the grape there are many new and excellent varieties which the market knew nothing of a few years ago, and there are some excellent varieties of the raspberry lately introduced. But the strawberry has decidedly deteriorated, and the result is owing to the general culture of Wilson's Albany for the market. Wilson's Albany is a sour, crude berry, which is not fully ripe when it is perfectly red, and even when perfectly ripe is still too acid. When it first makes its appearance in the market, it has an exceedingly harsh flavor and very little of the agreeable aroma which distinguishes the finer kinds of the berry. If not eaten very sparingly, it disagrees with the stomach, and you wake with a colic the next morning. Before Wilson's strawberry came into vogue there were many other kinds which were sweeter and of a more agreeable flavor. But the Wilson is a hard berry, which bears transportation well; it is exceedingly prolific and altogether hardy, —qualities which give it great favor with the cultivator, but for which the consumer suffers. The proper way of dealing in strawberries is to fix the prices according to the quality of the sort. This is the way they do in the markets of Paris. A poor sort, although the berry may be large, is sold cheap; the more delicate kinds—the sweet, juicy, and high-flavored—are disposed of at a higher price. Here the Wilson should be sold the cheapest of all, while such as the Jucunda and the President Wilder should bear a price corresponding to their excellence. We hope, for our part, that the Wilsons will, as soon as their place can be supplied by a better berry, be banished from the market. It can surely be no difficult thing to obtain a sort by crossing, which shall bear transportation equally well, and shall not deceive the purchaser with the appearance of ripeness."
The reader will perceive that Mr. Bryant has portrayed both the evil and the remedy. The public justly complains of the strawberry of commerce, but it has not followed the suggestion in the editorial and demanded a better article, even though it must be furnished at a higher price.
In spite, however, of all that is said and written annually against the Wilson, it still maintains its supremacy as the market berry. Those who reside near the city and can make, to some extent, special arrangements with enlightened customers, find other varieties more profitable, even though the yield from them is less and some are lost from lack of keeping qualities. But those who send from a considerable distance, and must take their chances in the general market, persist in raising the "sour, crude berry," which is red before it is ripe, and hard enough to stand the rough usage which it is almost certain to receive from the hands through which it passes. I do not expect to see the day when the Wilson, or some berry like it, is not the staple supply of the market; although I hope and think it will be improved upon. But let it be understood generally that they are "Wilsons,"—the cheap vin ordinaire of strawberries. Cities will ever be flooded with varieties that anybody can grow under almost any kind of culture; and no doubt it is better that there should be an abundance of such fruit rather than none at all. But a delicately organized man, like Mr. Bryant, cannot eat them; and those who have enjoyed the genuine strawberries of the garden will not. The number of people, however, with the digestion of an ostrich, is enormous, and in multitudes of homes Wilsons, even when half-ripe, musty, and stale, are devoured with unalloyed delight, under the illusion that they are strawberries.
If genuine strawberries are wanted, the purchaser must demand them, pay for them, and refuse "sour, crude berries." The remedy is solely in the hands of the consumers.
If people would pay no more for Seckel than for Choke pears, Choke pears would be the only ones in market, for they can be furnished with the least cost and trouble. It is the lack of discrimination that leaves our markets so bare of fine-flavored fruit. What the grower and the grocer are seeking is a hard berry, which, if not sold speedily, will "keep over." Let citizens clearly recognize the truth,—that there are superb, delicious berries, like the Triomphe, Monarch, Charles Downing, Boyden, and many others, and insist on being supplied with them, just as they insist on good butter and good meats, and the problem is solved. The demand will create the supply; the fruit merchant will write to his country correspondents: "You must send fine-flavored berries. My trade will not take any others, and I can return you more money for half the quantity of fruit if it is good." The most stolid of growers would soon take such a hint. Moreover, let the patrons of high-priced hotels and restaurants indignantly order away "sour, crude berries," as they would any other inferior viand, and caterers would then cease to palm off Wilsons for first-class strawberries. If these suggestions were carried out generally, the character of the New York strawberry market would speedily be changed. It is my impression that, within a few years, only those who are able to raise large, fine-flavored fruit will secure very profitable returns. Moreover, we are in a transition state in respect to varieties, and there are scores of new kinds just coming before the public, of which wonderful things are claimed. I shall test nearly a hundred of these during the coming season, but am satisfied in advance that nine-tenths of them will be discarded within a brief period. Indeed, I doubt whether the ideal strawberry, that shall concentrate every excellence within its one juicy sphere, ever will be discovered or originated. We shall always have to make a choice, as we do in friends, for their several good qualities and their power to please our individual tastes.
There is, however, one perfect strawberry in existence,—the strawberry of memory,—the little wildlings that we gathered perhaps, with those over whom the wild strawberry is now growing. We will admit no fault in it, and although we may no longer seek for this favorite fruit of our childhood, with the finest specimens of the garden before us we sigh for those berries that grew on some far-off hillside in years still farther away.
CHOICE OF SOIL AND LOCATION
The choice that Tobias Hobson imposed on his patrons when he compelled them to take "the horse nearest to the stable-door" or none at all, is one that, in principle, we often have to make in selecting our strawberry-ground. We must use such as we have, or raise no berries. And yet it has been said that "with no other fruit do soil and locality make so great differences." While I am inclined to think that this is truer of the raspberry, it is also thoroughly established that location and the native qualities of the soil are among the first and chief considerations in working out the problem of success with strawberries.
Especially should such forethought be given in selecting a soil suited to the varieties we wish to raise. D. Thurber, editor "American Agriculturist," states this truth emphatically. In August, 1875, he wrote: "All talk about strawberries must be with reference to particular soils. As an illustration of this, there were exhibited in our office windows several successive lots of the Monarch of the West, which were immense as to size and wonderful as to productiveness. This same Monarch behaved in so unkingly a manner on our grounds (very light and sandy in their nature) that he would have been deposed had we not seen these berries, for it was quite inferior to either Charles Downing, Seth Boyden, or Kentucky."
It is a generally admitted fact that the very best soil, and the one adapted to the largest number of varieties, is a deep sandy loam, moist, but not wet in its natural state. All the kinds with which I am acquainted will do well on such land if it is properly deepened and enriched. Therefore, we should select such ground if we have it on our places, and those proposing to buy land with a view to this industry would do well to secure from the start one of the best conditions of success.
It is of vital importance that our strawberry fields be near good shipping facilities, and that there be sufficient population in the immediate vicinity to furnish pickers in abundance. It will be far better to pay a much higher price for land—even inferior land—near a village and a railroad depot, than to attempt to grow these perishable fruits in regions too remote. A water communication with market is, of course, preferable to any other. Having considered the question of harvesting and shipping to market, then obtain the moist, loamy land described above, if possible.
Such ground will make just as generous and satisfactory returns in the home garden, and by developing its best capabilities the amateur can attain results that will delight his heart and amaze his neighbors.
Shall the fact that we have no such soil, and cannot obtain it, discourage us? Not at all! There are choice varieties that will grow in the extremes of sand or clay. More effort will be required, but skill and information can still secure success; and advantages of location, climate, and nearness to good markets may more than counterbalance natural deficiencies in the land. Besides, there is almost as solid a satisfaction in transforming a bit of the wilderness into a garden as in reforming and educating a crude or evil specimen of humanity. Therefore if one finds himself in an unfavorable climate, and shut up to the choice of land the reverse of a deep, moist, sandy loam, let him pit his brain and muscle against all obstacles.