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PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS. Once more, gentlemen of the Pennsylvaniania Fruit Growers' Society, we have been permitted by a beneficent Providence to meet in our annual convention, and relate our individual experiences of the past twelve months, so that others may reap the benefit of our successes, and avoid the causes of our failures. With each succeeding year are we not made painfully aware of the limited amount of knowledge we possess, and of the great store-house of facts into which we are only permitted to enter after the most laborious work? The most experienced member of this association, even if beyond the allotted age of man, has but reached the threshold, as it were, of the study of horticulture, and is amazed at the limited amount of knowledge he has gained throughout his many years of practice in the orchard and garden.
It is only the ignorant and egotistical who presume to be teachers in this science; those who are really the most competent to act as instructors, are generally the most diffident in regard to their knowledge. Therefore, my friends, we do not presume to come among you as teachers, but rather as students in the great school of nature, expecting and desiring to receive quite as much as to give. This association has been termed an itinerent, minister, going from place to place, preaching the gospel of good fruits and beautiful flowers. Perhaps, it may be true. I sincerely hope it is, although sometimes skeptical as to the results. Like the hackneyed quotation from Dickens' fertile brain, Oliver Twist-like, we ask for more. We ask that those who believe they have been benefited by our efforts, may in the future encourage our labors by their presence as well as by their words of experience. We need more earnest workers. Interested, silent, co-laborers form pleasant memories, but never accomplish greak works. We thank them for their attendance, but cordially invite them to participate in our discussions, not only at this time, but in future years, wherever we may go.
This association, as the most of you are aware, was organized “for the advancement of the science of pomology, and the art of fruit culture generally," but within the past few years its scope has been greatly enlarged, so that it embraces at the present time every department of horticulture. In my remarks this evening, I purpose giving precedence to the art and practice of
Fruit Culture, not only in view of the value l character of the subjeet, but in deference to the original work of our Society. Allow me in the first place to sketch the too prevalent farmer's orchard of Pennsylvania, and I doubt-not that such may be found everywhere else as well.
The old orchard planted by his father, most likely in his younger days, is on the wane. The crop of fruit, wormy, and knotty, and unpalatable, almost refused by the swine, is about to be gathered in. This reminds him of the necessity, as it has time and time again, of setting out a new plantation of trees. But unlike his former pledges in the autumns that have past, he firmly entertains the conviction that delays are dangerous ; so, from fear that his newly formed resolution may once more be dissipated, he hastily settles upon a spot of grvuud, not withstanding it is in sod, scoops out the necessary number of shallow little holes, and repairs to the nursery for his trees. What varieties he needs has probably never once entered into his calculations. He has heard of the Grindstone, the Carthouse, the old Gray House, with, perhaps, a few other local sorts, and here his information ends. “Apples are apples, anyhow," and he has no time to worry his brain over the competitive merits of a long list of mod. ern varieties. He purchases his trees at last, wondering, however, what an expensive luxury tree planting is.
His trees are thrown into his wagon, without protection of any kind, and upon reaching home are at once distributed over the would be orchard, each by the side of one of the aforesaid shallow basins, called, by courtesy, holes, which is destined to be its final home, alike its cradle and its grave, with a very short interval betwern. Should there be no other work pressing, the planting process will commence at once; but should there be any farming operation requiring attention, the ill-fated trees will lay until the other work is completed. With the hired help to hold the tree, the soil is hastily thrown in on the poor, cramped roots, and, perhaps, a hasty stamp on the surface is given as an additional incentive to success.
Staking the trees is entirely too much trouble, so they stand alone as best they can. The soft earth around their bases, after a heavy rain, allows
swing about in every direction, making, as it were, capital illustrations of the learning tower of Pisa. Should the grass have “ run out,” the orchard will, in all probability, be plowed during the ensuing spring; but, if not, it will never pay to ruin a fine prospect for hay, simply because some people say young trees require to be cultivated. And so it goes on to the end of the chapter, and it is very often an exceedingly short chapter, too.
The many blank spaces which, in a few years, become painfully apparent, tell the tale more plainly than any words of mine can possibly depict.
And what may I say of the shattered ranks left standing as monuments of ignorance, and something, perchance, that may not merit so excusable a name? I have seen just such exhibitions of planting as these; where the suckers from the base showed unmistakable evidence that the destructive “borers” were having it all their own way; where the mosses and lichens were luxuriating upon the trunks and larger limbs that had never received the least attention since the trees were planted ; and where the yellow, sickly foliage indicated, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that their careers were about drawing to a close.
Have I owerdrawn this picture? Have not every one of you observed the prototype of this ideal orchard ?
Although, with a feeling of regret, I am forced to declare that I have noticed too many just such exhibitions, over and over again, and to eradicate this very evil was our society conceived; but, whether it has, even in part, fulfilled its mission, I am not prepared to say, although, hoping that the good seed sown may, at no very distant day, ripen into a plentiful harvest.
Let us for a few moments turn to a brighter picture, one bearing the impress of refinement, study, experience, and profit. The intelligent fruit grower of to-day, prepares the soil for an orchard a year in advance, and the preparation is, by no means, superficial, as the future needs of his trees are borne in mind, and a thorough foundation laid in advanee of the planting. Whether the removal is performed in autumn or spring, is of little moment to him, in comparison with the essential requirments of the work itself.
The site for the orchard is carefully considered. The proper aspect, the most suitable soil, the sheltered position, and the need of draining are, in his estimation, questions of vital importance, and, by no means, to be hastily solved. The next consideration is that of varieties, and right here is where the great blunder is too frequently made, even by those of large experience. Our careful orchardist, understanding that fruits have their preferences, selects only such that he knows, by practical tests, to be adapted to his soil. The splendid specimens grown in other States, with a climate differing from his oan, have no temptation for him. His list, carefully and thoughtfully prepared, is sdhered to and purchased. Extra-sized trees and extra-sized roots are his abomination. He leaves such as these for the many deluded victims of some unscrupulous dealer in high-priced stock. Would you learn how his ground has been prepared, for prepared it has been this many a day—even for six months in advance. During the previous spring, it was deeply stirred, manured, and cropped with potatoes and other culinary vegetables; but not sowed grain, for right well is he aware that this is the orchardist's bane. When planting time arrives, early in the autumn, his soil is again deeply stirred, and the tree rows marked out the required distance apart, each way. As the entire area has been so deeply stirred that it may be considered one vast hole, the question as to the size of each excavation is of little moment. The diameter and depth must depend upon the extent of the roots, and very little extra space need be allowed in digging.
Before the trees are set, he heads back the previous season's growth, at least one half their length, and when the roots have been badly injured, the cutting is still more severe. Our planter, not being a member in good standing of the kid glove gardeners, believes that there is no utensil so beneficial as the hands for working the mellow soil among the small rootlets, and this he attends to with a pertinacity worthy of success, and the result proves that he gains his point. Not a tree is set deeper than when it originally stood in the nursery row. Aware of the fact that trees like animals may be smothered to death, he gives the roots a chance to be near the surface of the soil, erring if at all, on the sballow side of the question, and contrary to all the old-time doctrines, he tramps the soil as firmly as he possibly can. His theory is this : that every rootlet should be in contact with the surrounding soil, and not the least vestige of space capable of containing air should be left in their vicinity.
Staking, which is of the greatest importance, he would not think of omitting, and to prevent the bark from being injured, he drives the support horizontally, and uses a strong straw band for tying it fast to the body of the tree, after having given it a turn around the latter to prevent rubbing.
He finishes his work by mulching the surface of the soil around each of his trees, and then carefully maps out the whole plot in his memorandum book for future reference. This perforined, he removes the wired labels before they have an opportunity of cutting through the limbs.
So much for the two extremes of orchard planting, and although many of you may differ with some of my progressive tree planter's ideas, still there can be no doubt that his practice is true to nature in the main, and so I leave him for the present, and pass to the more ornamental features of our country homes.
Taking for a text the positive declaration, that there is no one so poor but that he can plant a tree to shelter the spot he may call his home, I wish to invite your attention to a few essential facts that play a very important part in the operation. I am not here to propose any startling theories, neither have I made any remarkable discoveries in the practical system of ornamental planting, but my desire is to disseminate information among those who have in the past paid but little attention to this refining pursuit.
The soʻl and climate of Pennsylvania is well adapted to the growth of certain species of trees; but, unfurtunately, not at all suited to others. This knowledge may not be learned from buiks; it is a question of close ob ervation and experience. Whilst the foliage of the European Horse Chestnut, with us, will present an unsightly, scorched appearance during the latter part of summer, at the same season, further north, it will be deep green, and healthy to a remarkable degree. The graceful laciniated form of the White Birch, notably so beautiful around Rochester, New York, becomes, with us, an open straggling specimen in a very few years. Who has not noted with pleasure the gorgeous appearance of the Mountain Ash, when loaded with their brilliant masses of fruit, further north? And yet, the terrible “ borers' will destroy our trees before they are old enough to bear.
They, too, rejoice in numerous varieties of the Hawthorne, made famous by the old English poets almost from time immemorial, and yet, the frequent visitations of numerous species of fungoid parasites cause the branches to blight, and so disfigure the trees. Such are among the many adverse circumstances of our location, and yet we should not complain, for bave we not many others equally as beautiful as they? We have the Magnolia, the queen among flowering trees, of indisputable hardiness here. Beeches, with foliage not uolike elegant ferns, or as if dyed a brilliant blood-re i color, or crisped like the ringlet willow, or with branches drooping gracefully to the ground, the perfection of a "weeper.” Then again we may enjoy the Maples to our hea't's content. Commencing with the Norway, which I consider t!ie standard by which all other trees are to be classed, we have, also, the Sugar, one of the best of street and lawn trees; the Silver, for immediate effect, (and beautiful, too, when constantly pruned for a few year-,) is elegant new variety called the “ Wier's cutleaved;” not forgetting the charms of our Swamp or Red Maple, especially when clothed in the autumn with its brilliantly tinted dress. We have the stately Oaks for our grounds of large area ; but how very few of uz use them to any extent; and yet, without a defect, the members of this genus combine all the requisites of a first class ornamental tree. whether for shade, or shelter, or timber, or picturesque beauty, they are equally reliable, and of the greatest value. Nor must we forget the Lindens, with their umbrageous shade and fragrant flowers ; nor the European Larch, with its grace of form and regularity of outline; nor the Bald Cypress, with its wealth of feathery foliage, and formal habit of growth ; nor the unique Salisburia, with fan-shaped leaves, and smooth, clean bark; nor the rapid growing Paulownia, resplendent with purple odorous bloom; nor the Sweet Gum, odd, yet attractive, golden in the autumn, yet beautiful always; nor the Sour Gum, glossy in summer, and dazzlingly brilliant later in the season.
Especially are the Evergreens the Coniferæ of the botanist, entirely at home in our midst; and here I am always tempted to wander from my text, as from my boyhood days, their study has been my duty and delight. It has grown with my being, and in my later years has shed its happy influence upon my daily path in life. During my travels, at home or abroad, the old sense of companionship constantly steals over me wherever I chance to meet a familiar species, something akin to that experienced when grasping the outstretched palm of a near and dear friend. They seem gifted with almost human perception, the nearer I penetrate into their inner life, and, as if thanking me for my friendship, show forth from their hidden recesses many a curious tale of nature's choicest work.
Experience has taught us that our own good Commonwealth is the adopted
home of the evergreen family, at least. Situated as we are in the range of
Situated as we are in the range of or country that divides the flora of the north from that of the south, our sittcess with many doubtful species should not cause surprise. Whilst a few miles further south, the Cryptomeria, the Deodar Cedar, the Libocedrus, and other tender evergreens will succeed quite satisfactorily, on the other hand our section of country is really the southern limit of the strictly northern species. Of the class of conifers termed half-hardy or doubtful, we may, by a judiciously selected location, grow them well for at least á few years, and occasionally for a long time.
English horticulturist have frequently remarked the richness of foilage and perfect freedom from disease that so universally accompanies this order of trees in the Middle States, and although the native species of our Pacific coast succeed well in Europe, yet, to use the expression of a promi. nent English arboriculturist, we would gladly exchange with you, could such a transaction be possible.
I want to caution all of our planters against setting first-class trees in third-class yards. No greater mistake is made by our people than this very error of judgment. The Norway Spruce and Norway Maple are exceedingly handsome, and I cannot blame any one for wishing to possess them, but the extent of ground must decide the question of appropriateness. If you err at all, do so on the side of too few trees rather than too many, as a small yard crowded with trees and shrubs shows to greater disadvantage than if it contained but one or two fine specimens.
Treat them with as much consideration as you would your garden vegetables, and not foolishly think that your trees require nothing more than the simple act of planting. Well formed trees, dense and perfect in outline, are by no means invariably the rule. Many species are difficult to train properly, and only grow luxuriantly when treated with great care. A limb tied down here, another removed there, and a third pinched back, will in time cause the most unruly specimen to develop into a beautiful tree; but should it be "severely let alone" for a number of years, cut and train it as you may, it can never be converted into an attractive object. What must be remembered in this connection is the sage old truism, “Just as the twig is bent the tree is inclined."
Should your trees not grow satisfactorily, do not forget to feed them; they can no more brook neglect than your Alderney cow and Southdown sheep. Give them wholesome, nutritious foorl, in small but frequent applications. Rich, stimulating manure, in unlimited quantity, will lay the foundation of some devastating disease; but pliosphates, bone dust, thoroughly decayed compost, &c., will intensify the color of the foliage, and induce a strong, healthy growth. Before closing my remarks upon trees, perhaps I may be pardoned for making a few remarks upon the now popular subject of
Forestry. I invariably approach this department of arboriculture with extreme caution, somewhat on the principle of the proverbial Englishman, who gave the land tortoise a wide berth upon first acquaintance. “He may not harm me,” said he, “ but as I cannot see that he will do me any particular good, we will just take different paths."
I own that I am in the minority on this subject, and possibly a very small minority, too, but I have never yet been able to appreciate the virtue and efficacy of the prevalent belief in indiscriminate tree-planting for timber.
I admit there are many sections of country where land can be purchased very cheaply, on account of its unfitness for agricultural pursuits,