What varieties, to plant is one of the puzzling questions which every inexperienced cultivator desires to have answered. If he consults the catalogues of dealers, he is certain to find that the newest and highest-priced variety is the one above all others that he should select. But if he pursues his investigations a little farther in this direction, and examines the lists of a dozen different dealers in plants, he will probably find that no two agree, each having some special variety to offer, as the very best and most promising one known. But as society is now constituted it is considered as perfectly legitimate for a dealer to extol his wares, even far above what their merit would warrant if the actual truth about them was told; consequently, we are not surprised to be informed by the introducer of new varieties, that each and every one offered is far superior to anything of the kind heretofore known: "Yielding double the quantity of any other variety" has become a stereotyped phrase in advertising new varieties, and yet every experienced cultivator of Strawberries knows that the Wilson, introduced nearly thirty years ago, has never been excelled in productiveness. A variety, which, under the same conditions, would produce double the quantity of this old favorite, might certainly be considered something unique in the way of a Strawberry.
Strange as it may appear to the novice in fruit culture, varieties which are most highly praised at their introduction, are quite frequently the first to disappear from cultivation, while others gain a prominent position in spite of all opposition. The Wilson, when first exhibited, and for years afterwards, met with opposition and was denounced as unfit for cultivation or use by some of the most prominent pomologists in the country. Yet it continued to grow in favor until, within the past decade or less, it was more extensively cultivated than any other variety, and probably there were more acres planted with it than all the others put together, and even at this late day it is considered a standard and profitable berry.
This variety was said to be too acid and too dark colored for a market berry, and the late berries on the plant were too small, all of which is true, but the fruit is very firm, withstands long carriage and rough handling, and when it comes to filling the baskets and crates at gathering time the Wilson rarely disappointed the cultivator or consumer, who sought the markets for his supply of Strawberries.
The lesson to be learned from the erratic reputation of the Wilson is that first impressions are not always trustworthy, and a variety may prove better than it promises when first introduced, although it must be admitted that the chances are ten to one against the very best of new sorts.
In the following select list of varieties I propose mentioning only those which have gained a local or widespread reputation for excellence, without regard to the length of time they may have been in cultivation. Pistillate varieties are indicated by the letter P.
Agriculturist. — Very large, irregular, conical; with long neck, large specimens often flattened or coxcomb shape; color light red or reddish crimson. A large and valuable variety for garden culture, but when cultivated in beds the fruit is only of medium size, as shown in Fig. 10.
Fig. 10 — AMERICAN AGRICULTURALIST
Bidwell. — Large, irregular, conical; bright scarlet; flesh only moderately firm; quality excellent. A vigorous grower, and in heavy soils quite productive. Its reputation as a market variety is rather local.
Black Defiance. — Large, irregular in shape; dark glossy crimson; flesh moderately firm; high flavored. Color too dark and dull for market, but a good berry for home use.
Brooklyn Scarlet. — Medium to large, regular conical with neck, as shown in Fig. 11; color bright light scarlet; flesh rather soft, sweet and rich; quality best. An excellent variety for home use, but now rarely seen in cultivation.
Fig. 11 — Brooklyn Scarlet
Champion (Windsor Chief. — P.) — Large round; bright crimson; flesh rather soft and of a spicy acid flavor, only second best. Plants vigorous and exceedingly productive when planted in rich soils and near a variety yielding an abundance of pollen.
Charles Downing. — Medium to large, round obtuse conical; very regular in form; bright scarlet, becoming darker when fully ripe; flesh moderately firm, pink, juicy. with a rich, sprightly subacid flavor. One of the very best and most popular varieties in cultivation, and now extensively cultivated for market in all of our Northern States. The plants are very hardy and yield a heavy crop when cultivated in rows or matted beds.
Crescent. — Medium to large, somewhat irregular conical; bright scarlet; flesh rather soft for a market berry, but will carry well for a short distance; quality fair but not rich; the plants, however, are so productive that this variety has been called "The lazy man's berry."
Cumberland Triumph (Jumbo). — Very large obtuse conical, but under high culture, or when forced under glass, is somewhat irregular; light bright scarlet; flesh pale pink of excellent flavor. A vigorous grower and very productive in strong fertile soils. Very popular among amateur cultivators of the Strawberry.
Downer's Prolific. — Medium, globular, light scarlet; seed deeply imbedded; flesh rather soft, acid, not rich, but highly perfumed. This is an old variety, but so very hardy and prolific that it is still cultivated more or less extensively for market.
Durand. — Large, oblong or oblong conical (Fig. 12), sometimes flattened, seeds but slightly imbedded; color scarlet; flesh firm, solid; nearly white, of good flavor. This variety has only a moderate local reputation among amateurs.
Fig. 12 — DURAND
Forest Rose. — Large, irregular, obtuse conical; bright scarlet; flesh firm, of good flavor.; a superior market variety, but does not succeed well in all kinds of soils that are usually considered well adapted to the Strawberry. (Fig. 13).
Fig. 13 — FOREST ROSE
Glendale. — Large, regular, conical; dull scarlet; flesh firm, acid, not first quality, but a valuable late variety for market. Succeeds best on rather firm soils and poorly on sandy land.
Green Prolific. — Large round; pale crimson or deep scarlet; seeds slightly sunken, rather soft, acid, without richness, but highly perfumed. A wonderfully hardy and productive variety; extensively cultivated a few years since for market, as it succeeds on a great variety of soils, and when left to grow with little or no cultivation. Fig. 14 shows a berry about average size from matted rows and beds.
Fig. 14 —GREEN PROLIFIC
Hovey (P.). — Large conical; bright crimson; sub acid, sprightly and good. The oldest American variety of any note, and, although it has been in constant cultivation for nearly a half century, it is still popular in restricted localities, and especially in Massachusetts whore it originated. Three prizes are offered for the Hovey by the "Massachusetts Horticultural Society" at its forthcoming Strawberry Exhibition, June 21 and 22.
Jewell. — Very large, obtuse conical; bright crimson; very firm and of fine flavor. This variety was awarded a silver medal by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1880. Highly recommended for home use and market.
Jessie. — This new variety was raised in 1880 by Mr. F. W. Loudon, of Wisconsin; it is a seedling of the Sharpless, and partakes of all the most desirable qualities of its parent. The originator describes the plant as "a stout, luxuriant grower, with light-green, large and clean foliage, which bas never shown signs of rust; the berry very large, continuing of good size to the last picking; it is of beautiful red color, fine quality, good form, colors even with no white tips, and is firm enough for shipping great distances." From all that I can learn about this new variety it seems to be well worthy of trial.
Jucunda. — Large conical; bright crimson, excellent flower; a strong and vigorous grower on rich and heavy soils, but almost worthless on light or sandy soils. A foreign variety, first disseminated in this country under the name of Knox's 700. It is still cultivated about Boston bat rarely elsewhere. (Fig. 15).
Fig. 15 —JUCUNDA
Kentucky. — Medium to large, conical; bright scarlet; flesh white, moderately firm, excellent flavor; ripens late and continues in fruit a long time. Plants vigorous, hardy and very productive. Succeeds well on light soils.
Lennig's White. — Large obtuse conical; seed prominent and of a pink or light crimson color in the sun; fruit almost white, but with a delicate blush on the side exposed to the sun. This is evidently a seedling of the Chili species, and it is rather tender and unproductive, but withal an excellent variety.
Miner's Great Prolific. — Large to very large; somewhat irregular but inclining to a globular form; deep bright crimson; flesh pink, firm and of good flavor; plant vigorous, leaves largo, light green, quite glossy. A very popular variety among amateurs as well as those who cultivate Strawberries extensively for market.
President Wilder. — Medium, obtuse conical, very regular; seeds yellow; skin bright glossy scarlet; flesh firm, but juicy and very high flavored. One of the handsomest varieties in cultivation, but the plants are rather delicate and the leaves burn during the hot weather in summer. Said to succeed well in the New England States, but I have not learned of its success elsewhere.
Seth Boyden. — Very large, irregular, conical with long neck; dull crimson; flesh firm, rather dry, sweet and of excellent flavor; plant, extra vigorous and productive when cultivated in hills and in a rich soil. One of the very best and most valuable of all the extra large varieties.
Sharpless. — This is another of the mammoth varieties and the more remarkable because it has proved to be all that was claimed for it when first introduced. Uniformly large; often broadly wedge-form and wider at the top than at the calyx; light glossy red; flesh firm, juicy, rich and highly perfumed; plant vigorous and productive. One of the very best.
Triomphe de Gand. — One of the most popular and valuable varieties ever introduced. Very large irregular, conical, but often flattened or coxcomb shape as in Fig. 16, pale or bright; flesh very firm, crop not rich, but of a mild and pleasant flavor. This variety has probably been more extensively cultivated, and given better satisfaction than any foreign variety, and it has no superior to this day for size or production of the plants.
Fig. 16 — Triomphe de Gand
Wilson or Wilson's Albany. — An old and well-known variety. Large, irregular, conical; dark crimson when fully ripe; flesh crimson, very firm, acid, but good and bears transportation well. One of the most productive varieties known.
AND LESS KNOWN VARIETIES.
Henderson. — Said to be of the largest size, early and unusually productive, and of exquisite flavor.
Indiana. — Claimed to be an improvement on the Charles Downing, but similar in size, color and quality.
Lida (P). — One of Mr. Durand's seedlings, claimed to be of very large size; heart shaped; bright red color, excellent flavor, and the plants very productive.
May King. — Seedlings of the Crescent, and resembles its parent, but the flowers are perfect. Berries are not large but ripen early and are produced in great abundance.
Old Iron Clad or Phelps. — I obtained this variety under the last name, and have been much pleased with it. Fruit medium, conical; bright crimson; firm and rather acid but good. Plants very productive.
Parry. — Highly recommended for its large size, and has been awarded several prizes at various Strawberry shows in New York and elsewhere. Plants said to withstand droughts better than any other variety.
HAUTBOIS AND ALPINE STRAWBERRIES.
All of the varieties of the Hautbois Strawberry (Fragaria elatior) have a rather strong musky odor, which is rather disagreeable to most persons, and the fruit is usually of a dull red or greenish color and not very attractive in appearance. They are altogether inferior to the varieties of other species, and for this reason are rarely cultivated except in the gardens of botanists.
The Alpine Strawberry (F. vesca), on the contrary, is of a very mild flavor with a delicious perfume. There are quite a large number of varieties in cultivation in Europe, and, while none yield very large berries, they are mostly quite prolific and will thrive in cold exposed positions where those of other species would perish.
In the catalogues of European nurserymen and those who make Strawberry growing a specialty, we may find thirty or more varieties of the Alpine Strawberry described, but the larger proportion of the names used in these catalogues are mere synonyms, and it would probably be difficult to find a dozen really distinct varieties of this species in all Europe. There are, however, four really distinct varieties, all long known in this country, and now generally cultivated in European countries although under various names. These are:
Red-Bush Alpine. — Fruit medium size, conical; bright red; seeds prominent, not sunken as usual in the common Strawberry; flavor mild, not highly but delicately perfumed. Plants continue bearing from June till checked by frosts in autumn. In rich soils the plants will yield well throughout the entire season. As they produce no runners they must be propagated by divisions.
White-Bush Alpine. — In every respect the same as last except the fruit is pure white.
Red-Monthly Alpine. — Fruit very similar but usually a little larger than that of the Bush-Alpines, but plants produce runners freely, and the new plants on the runners bloom and bear fruit the first season, thereby keeping up a succession of berries from June to the close of the season.
White-Monthly Alpine. — This is a variety of the last, but with pure white fruit. The Monthly Alpines with runners are elegant conservatory plants, or they may be used for trailing over wire screens and for hanging baskets in window gardening.
OF STRAWBERRY CULTURE.
Persons who have had no experience in raising Strawberries, but are considering the subject of cultivating them for market, are usually very desirous of ascertaining in advance what the prospects are for deriving a profit on their proposed investment. Unfortunately, however, for the would-be investor in such an enterprise, results depend greatly upon circumstances, such as available markets within a reasonable distance; . plenty of labor at a moderate price and at a season when needed most; cheap lands and fertilizers, and last, but not least, favorable seasons. If a man must depend upon hired labor to gather his fruit he is never certain, in these days of "Strikes," what it is going to cost him to gather and prepare it for market. The most clear profit made in the cultivation of the Strawberry for market is by the small farmers and gardeners in the suburbs or within a moderate distance of our large cities, who have children to assist in gathering the fruit or can always depend upon those of their neighbors to lend a hand when needed. An acre of Strawberries under high cultivation, with the fruit gathered and marketed in the very best condition, will often yield more clear profit to the grower than ten acres under opposite conditions.
Circumstances have changed since the first edition of this little treatise was written, for at that time our large cities and villages were wholly supplied with small fruit by the farmers and gardeners in their immediate vicinity, and, if the seasons were unfavorable, the price of fruit advanced in proportion, and the grower was sure of obtaining a fair remuneration for his labor whether he had a large or limited crop of fruit. But all this is now changed, for railroads have practically annihilated distance in the transportation of perishable commodities of all kinds, and the Strawberry growers of no one locality or region of the country are masters of their own local markets. for those residing a hundred or even five-hundred miles away may become their most persistent and successful competitors. If a market is not fully supplied, and prices go up in consequence, the telegraph conveys the information to those who may be able to supply the deficiency; hence local monopolies are no longer possible. The Strawberry season in our Northern cities opens with fruit from Florida, and continues until the last crate comes in from Maine or Canada, and yet, fresh, choice, large fruit usually commands a fairly remunerative price in all of our large cities and villages throughout the entire country.
While the profits of Strawberry culture are not so large as they were twenty or thirty years ago, still, they are sufficient to induce those who have longest made the cultivation of this berry a specialty, to continue in the business. On good land, with the best and most productive varieties, one to three hundred dollars per acre profit are usually realized, which is a far greater sum than is generally obtained from any of the leading farm crops.