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Catalogs today versus 1870

Posted by Drew51 6a SE MI (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 8, 14 at 1:42

I was listening to "Gardeners' Questioning Time" from the BBC. A podcast. They were discussing gardening in the past. Anyway a catalog from a nursery called Scott's in Summerset, their 2nd edition catalog published in 1870 listed
1500 apple varieties
61 Apricot varieties
105 Cherries varieties
150 gooseberries varieties
2000 pear varieties

I guess the discussion of chemical or organic pesticides was often discussed in the 1870's.
Seems like as far as choice, we have gone downhill since the 1870's. Who would have thought that!? OK, maybe we do have that many cultivars around, but in one catalog? No, certainly not! This is only one catalog, out of many!
Also, I doubt we have 150 gooseberries, wow!
My guess are many are gone forever.
They used the term variety, and not cultivar, but either way, still impressive.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 8, 14 at 14:13

Those could have been seedlings. I doubt they had 2000 named, grafted, varieties of pears. If so that would be truly impressive.


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

A lot of them had to be very similar, or so i would imagine. I wonder what a tree cost back then? Were they grafted? Did they deliver?


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

I didn't see the catalog, just listening to the gardeners from this radio show talk about it. And no they did not mean seedlings, they used the term "varieties" No mention of rootstock.
I guess at the time War And Peace was just written, Grant was our President. That was mentioned also.

You can listen yourself here:

Here is a link that might be useful: Gardeners' Question time 1870's episode


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

Perhaps all known varieties of the times were listed by name in columns, just a novelty of that catalog edition, rather than descriptive paragraphs/pricing for each variety. Otherwise, catalogs that thick would have made their way to outhouses of the 1870s.


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

For a documentary on apples check out Apples: British to the Core on youtube. Goes into early apple breeding as well as rootstock development (especially the m-series rootstocks). It is a bit nationalistic at times but is a great watch.


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

That sounds really interesting. I'm pretty sure I found what you were talking about. "Scott's Orchardist, or Catalogue of Fruits Cultivated at Merriott, Somerset." by John Scott. Second edition was published mid 1870s. I'm linking to a digital copy of it.

It looks like you can also buy reprints online. The table of contents says it is over 600 pages. There are all sorts of fruits and nuts covered. The section on pears is over 250 pages. I'm really looking forward to checking this out.

Here is a link that might be useful: Digital version of catalogue


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

I'll hazard a guess that there was minimal to no discussion of 'chemical vs. organic' pest control in 1870.
If something worked - or someone thought it did - they probably used it, and cared not one whit if it was 'organic' or not.
I'm sure they used some pretty nasty stuff in that day - and some of it was quite 'natural'.


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

"I'll hazard a guess that there was minimal to no discussion of 'chemical vs. organic' pest control in 1870. "

The host said otherwise, that it already was an issue. I suspect the terms were different. I wish they were different now. Organic will always mean organic to me. So most all the synthetic chemicals are organic. No doubt about it. It was drilled into my head at college!


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

A couple things on varieties. At that time there were probably many that were duplicates, just renamed by different sellers. there was no DNA testing to prove otherwise, so you could name your favorite apple something else and act like you came up with it.

The other thing about lost varieties. Remember they are not a species, just an individual tree cloned repeatedly. Therefore a creation of man, not nature. Many of them were probably good, but if awesome, (Barlett Pear for example) they would probably still be around.

But having said all of that I am fascinated by the heritage varieties and would build a collection of them if I had the land, and would seek out weird and ugly ones


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

I'm not so sure I agree that if good still around. Old Mixon free which makes Scott's list, is sold at two nurseries only. Old Mixon Cling is gone. Well not sold. Here is a bit from the Monticello website

"In 1807 Timothy Matlack sent Jefferson cuttings of both the "much boasted" Oldmixon Cling peach and Oldmixon Free, "a fine peach." They differ in the way the flesh adheres to the stone. The Oldmixon Cling ranked second only to the Heath Cling in the praise it received from pomologists. The tree's origin is attributed to John Oldmixon, author of The British Empire in America, 1741, and it rivals the Heath as the oldest named American peach. The Free variety originated
very early in the nineteenth century from a seedling of the cling, and by 1811 it was list by the Landreth nursery of Philadelphia. The juice of the Oldmixon peaches is uncommonly candy-sweet."

I kinda disagree about the species comments in a couple ways. If human influenced or not, to me that doesn't matter. Plus sweet bell peppers and hot peppers are the same species, yet the difference in taste, shape and color are tremendous. Many pepper species I know but the degree of difference is striking within species. New species come from old. Just a matter of time.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Sun, Feb 9, 14 at 21:35


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

Some interesting things I came across--
There is a section on "Manures" broken up into sections for organic and inorganic. Apparently manure is used to mean any soil additive including compost or chemicals. Organic includes sawdust, night-soil (human waste), blood, hooves, leaf litter, etc. The inorganic manures are mostly different types of ash, ammonia, lime, etc; and also includes gas byproducts.

There is also an advertisement near the end of the book for "Scott's Wasp Destroyer"... seems like some kind of mixture to kill wasps.

Prices for peach trees ranged from about 2-10 shillings (a shilling is 1/20 pound) some of the pears ran all the way up to a pound.

cckw, regarding duplicate varieties it does seem like the author was aware of issue. He seems pretty thorough. Here is a quote from the book:

"The following is from "Lindley's Guide to the Orchard and Kitchen Garden," and was written nearly half a century ago... "In Apples a greater confusion exists in this respect than in any other description of fruit. This arises not so much from the great number of varieties which are grown, as from the number of growers, many of whom seek to profit by their crops alone, regarding but little their nomenclature. Nurserymen who are more anxious to grow a large stock for sale, than to be careful as to its character, are let into error by taking it for granted that the name of a fruit they propagate is its correct name, an no other; hence arises the frequency of so many of our fruits being sold under wrong names." Such was Lindley's experience, and such is mine. I now never trust the correctness of a name, until I have proved it in the way stated previously, i.e., by getting duplicates of any doubtful sort from various growers, and planting them side by side; if two or three of them prove to be alike, I then conclude these to be the true ones. I have now examined about 1,100 sorts of Apple, and consider that I have got them pretty correct. Pears and other fruits there is little difficulty with; out of nearly 1,800 sorts of Pears cultivated by me, I do not think I have fifty wrongly named in my collections."


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

So it appears they did have that many cultivars, wow!


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RE: Catalogs today versus 1870

Using an online calculator I come up with this for 5 shillings (peach tree):

In 2012, £0 5s 0d from 1875 is worth:

£19.90 using the retail price index

£113.00 using average earnings

Just a quick GOogle for British nursery sent me to Keepers where a peach i clicked on had a price of £22 ...

At least from this, prices have remained very flat over the years.


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