The California Culturist 1: 181-182 (1859)

Thomas Rivers

WITH very many who have made the attempt to raise seedling pears, or even pear stalks, from the seed, a great deal of disappointment has occurred. The failure, in many instances, without doubt, is in consequence of the imperfect or poor seed, as the fact is well established that much of the seed of the pear that, upon inspection appears perfect, never germinates. But probably the more general cause of failure is in the imperfect mode adopted by gardeners of starting their seeds.

The pear seems peculiar in one respect, for whilst apple seeds will germinate at almost any depth, from a half an inch to six inches, if the ground be warm and moist; the pear will not, and probably fifty per cent, of all the pear seeds sown, are lost by being covered too deeply. To the amateur, as well as the nursery grower of pear stalks, we commend the following for its reliability, emanating from one whose long and successful experience entitles it to the highest consideration:

Planting pear pips for the purpose of raising new varieties is a very interesting employment. Some eight-inch pots should be kept at hand filled to within an inch of their rims with tolerably fine mold, and when a fine pear is eaten or one decays the pips should immediately be planted in the pots about half an inch deep. A piece of perforated zinc or woven wire should then be placed over the pot, to keep out the mice and birds, and allow the rain to enter. The pots may remain out of doors all the winter. In March or April the young plants will make their appearance, the wire cover may then be removed, and as soon as the young plants have made six leaves they may either be potted into single pots and planted out in a rich border in May, or at once transplanted from the seed pot to the border. They will, if the soil be rich, each make a shoot from one to two feet in length the following season; this will make a graft or grafts, which should be grafted on strong stocks on the branches of bearing trees, and in a few years fruit may be expected.

The raising of pears from seed may be made much more interesting if the sorts from which they are raised be known; for this purpose only one kind should be sown in a pot and its name placed with it. In a very few years they show their origin in their leaves and shoots, and seem to go in races. I have at this moment a number of seedlings raised from Ne plus Meuris, they nearly all look alike, some of them have borne fruit exactly like their parent; one or two, however, much larger, but unfortunately they ripened in October, and were not remarkably good. I have also a batch of seedlings from Beurré d'Aremberg,  these with one or two exceptions, are apparently of the same race; one of them bore some fine fruit the past season, exactly like the Beurré d'Aremberg,  but they ripened on the tree the first week in September, and were of the most delicious flavor, so that if an early pear of the same flavor were wanted it would be an acquisition. Seedlings from Passe Colmar and Glout Morceau retain their family likeness in their habits very remarkably, and this will account for many of the new pears being so much like our older varieties; there are some eight or ten new pears of the Passe Colmar race, among our new sorts ripening at different periods, and nearly as many of the Glout Morceau tribe, among which Beurré Bachelier seems hardier than its parent; Victoria later, and so on. To me, a lover of pears, it is most interesting to watch the development of character in seedlings, and I beg earnestly to recommend the raising of them, in the manner I have directed, to those of your readers who have leisure—a garden, and are gardening lovers. Disappointment must be expected, for a fine looking seedling pear will often prove anything but fine in flavor. When young trees give their first fruit the best method is to ask your friends to the first tasting, and then if they prove very bad indeed it gives occasion for a hearty laugh. I once had a seedling raised from Hacon's Incomparable, which was as large as a Catillac pear, or say a moderate-sized garden turnip, and of a bright orange color. I watched it with intense interest, and when it ripened invited my neighbors to the tasting; in doing so I think we all burst into a roar, for it was a horrid compound, in which acid and bitter and sweet struggled hard for the ascendancy. I have had other laughable adventures with seedling pears, but hope, in gardening matters, never flags.—T. Rivers.