"Not 150 Years ago, when Mons. De la Quintinye, the director of the French King's Gardens, published his book, he could, he says, but enumerate 7 good sorts of Apples, then cultivated in France. Now it is a generally received opinion, that all our good Apples come from thence ; this must without doubt be an error ; for, even at this day, when we have so many fine varieties, it would be difficult to find 12 good sorts on the. Continent. This important fruit , for more than a century, has had great attention paid to raising new kinds, in almost every County in Britain ; and each district has its favorites. Unfortunately, within a few years, a most destructive insect has attacked root and branch this valuable tree ; and 'tis to be feared, unless some effectual remedy is discovered to destroy it, bids fair, at no great distance, to extirpate the whole race of Apple Trees. A gentleman, in this neighbourhood, (Southampton ) has adopted a method of ousting them in his small garden ; but, I fear, it cannot be employed upon a large scale. With a mixture, composed of 1 oz. of corrosive sublimate, to 3 qts.of common tar, he paints over the parts affected. The sublimate must be, first, mixt in some sort of spirits, and then put to the tar. It is the only remedy I have yet seen applied ; for any flowing mixture, with oil , brimstone, soot, &c . &c . answers no good purpose, as the first heavy rain destroys the application altogether : this remains, and is certainly efficient where used. "This remedy is much commended by Thomas Skip Dyott, Esq. in his work entitled The Orchardist, as having been tried with success."
William Bridgewater Page, Page’s Prodromus; as a General Nomenclature of all the Plants Cultivated in the Southampton Botanic Gardens (1818)
You’ll have to excuse Mr. Page’s somewhat anti-French sentiment in the first section of this quote. It was written just a few years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, so it’s no wonder he’s crowing a bit.
The information of interest from a pomology perspective is the bit about the “most destructive insect” that has attacked apple trees “root and branch” – although I suspect this may be a turn of phrase rather than an accurate description of symptoms – and was apparently threatening to “extirpate the whole race of Apple Trees”.
Thankfully the situation didn’t come to that, as the pomological literature of the following century or two attests. But it would be interesting to know which injurious insect Mr Page was referring to – codling moth or winter moth, perhaps? – and whether or not the mixture of “corrosive sublimate” and tar caught on. I rather hope not. It doesn’t sound very Organic.
|⇧1||Full title: The Orchardist: or, A System of Close Pruning and Medication, for Establishing the Science of Orcharding (1805). They didn't do their titles by halves, these early C19th authors.|
|⇧2||Good word, extirpate, about due for a comeback. I can think of a cabinet of government ministers that could do with a bit of figurative extirpation round about now.|