The First Anniversary
Just one short year ago SONG was formally established. Now in the Fall of 1973 we can review a year filled with interesting discoveries, meetings attended, new friendships made, several places visited and informative sources of information tapped.
In The Name of Conservation
Nowadays we often are asked to rally to the causes of "progress". However, sometimes it's a significant accomplishment if we can keep up to the pace which already exists. A few examples from the current "energy crisis" would prove this point, however I would rather refer to instances in nut growing.
It was on October 4, 1973, scarcely a year after the establishment of SONG, that a youngster by the name of Dave Hill and myself set out for distant points in search of new species and varieties for Ontario soils. In a rather fanciful way I imagined ourselves as the John Audubon, the Peter Lawson, the Franz von Siebold, setting out on botanical expeditions. However, in the latter cases I will admit that those individuals travelled around the world and back looking for new and interesting botanical species--look up their biographies in the local libraries--you'11 find them very interesting.
We travelled fast and furiously Dave and I, because in this modern, instant generation, botanical expeditions have to be telescoped into something not more than a long weekend. (How times have changed!) The first target point was that fertile, south-eastern corner of Pennsylvania, that eastern Garden of Eden, and home of many improved nut tree varieties. Doubtless to say we filled our pockets with many samples--nuts of novel shape and size. And then it was discovered, the Persimmon, something unique and entirely new to the Canadian explorers. (See the separate article further on in this newsletter.) However, haste was of the essence and after too few hours it was necessary to tear ourselves away from that earthly paradise and travel via the states of West Virginia and Ohio to points in Indiana. It was in that broad valley area created by the confluence of the Ohio River and other Mississippi tributaries that we discovered yet another horticultural paradise. There the lowered elevations conspire against the continental influences to produce a sheltered climate suited to pecans and also again, those delightful persimmons.
Beyond the many exciting discoveries there was one observation which stood out¨bold and clear. In all cases the keepers of these marvellous private orchards were entirely gracious, informative--and somewhat beyond the middle age of life. It seems that some years back, there may have been a greater concern for some of the slower, more peaceful activities in life--activities which may take ten or twenty years to realize a successful goal. What a debt we owe to these determined individuals who decided that they would create better things for future generations to enjoy!
In many cases the owners of these unique orchard collections are retired from the business world and are looking forward to years of enjoyment with the plantings which they had the providence to create. Furthermore it is unreasonable to expect that these hardy but elderly pioneers in nut growing will be able to supply an expanding market for nursery trees. Therefore, it seems a bit frustrating that just when some of the extraordinary horticultural creations are becoming known that the supply of nursery trees is dwindling.
The explanation of the dwindling supply of nursery trees is that there has been a lost generation of nurserymen--and women. The production of nursery items--particularly nut trees is a time consuming process. Some nut trees are 5-7 years old before they are marketed--a prospect which has not been attractive to date for those of the instant generation.
But times change and I see ahead of us a quieter, less frantic pace (possibly a benefit of the energy crisis) when people will be more disposed to taking on projects which extend over a few years. I would hope that a number of the young optimists within the SONG ranks will consider the nursery production of nut trees on whatever scale, hobby etc. I might add for the benefit of those who are thinking of establishing a retirement orchard of nut trees of their own, and also are concerned about an extended energy crisis--nut shells make a rattlin' good fire in a fireplace!
R.B.G. Becomes SONG Repository
The Royal Botanical Gradens at Hamilton, Ontario, has offered SONG its services as a library and repository. In other words any library material SONG supplies to the R.B.G. will be incorporated into its library and will be available to SONG members. In addition any R.B.G. holdings on the topic of "nuts" will be accessible to SONG members as well. As a further service, R.B.G. will act as custodian for all archival materials, such as minutes of meetings, reports and schedules of shows, manuscripts for published papers and bulletins, correspondence, back issues of SONG publications etc.
Freek Vrugtman, Curator of Collections at the R.B.G., goes on to explain: "In return for this service we expect you, the members of SONG to assist us, the R.B.G. library in accumulating printed materials of all kinds concerning the topics of your interest. This material includes books, pamphlets, periodicals, nursery catalogues, reprints, whatever may be acquired through gift, exchange (for SONG publications) and purchase. Continued co-operation between the members of SONG and the R.B.G. library could result ultimately in the accumulation of a working collection of pertinent literature of interest to the nut growing amateur, professional and researcher."
Here is an excellent opportunity for SONG members to participate. What can you offer to the project?
First Annual Meeting of SONG, July 28, 1973
SONG held its first annual meeting at a most appropriate place, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton. It was a fine meeting with about 40 members in attendnace. Discussion centred on our position as host for the Northern Nut Grower's Convention being held in Ontario for 1974 at Brock University. It was suggested that we hold the SONG annual meeting on Saturday, August 17, 1974, to coincide with the N.N.G.A. meeting dates of August 18 - 21, 1974.
Those assembled voted to retain the same slate of executive officers for 1974 as were elected for the year 1973.
An interesting slide presentation on the search for better hickory trees was presented by Doug Campbell. John Gordon presented a report on his activities in the search for blight resistant American Chestnut Trees and Ernie Grimo talked about the "canned" nut trees that he has children growing in the classroom. He also offered free teacher's guides to all who might put them to use.
At the end of the indoor session, "canned" persian walnut trees were distributed to members in attendance as door prizes. Our meeting concluded with a tour of the Gardens. Special attention was given to the nut nursery, which will be the beginning of a nut tree arboretum at the Gardens.
Spring Grafting Session, May 12, 1973
A meeting was held at the farm of Horace Troup to demonstrate methods of grafting to new members of SONG. A great deal of scientific guess-work was employed in advance to predict that precise moment in the spring when conditions are just right for grafting. Unfortunately the day turned out to be somewhat cool and cloudy. However, those in attendance proceeded with enthusiasm in spite of the unfavourable elements Horace Troup and Ernie Grimo demonstrated several grafting techniques. The members in attendance then attempted to duplicate the methods shown.
By mid summer it was rumoured that (to borrow a medical expression) although the operations were a success, the patients died!
Fall Harvest Meeting - October 13, 1973
A special fall meeting was held at the Horticultural Research Institute of Ontario at Vineland. Interesting samples were viewed on display. A short business meeting was held followed by a tour of the walnut and chestnut orchards at the Station. Good crops of chestnuts were viewed, however, few walnuts were left as the squirrels were particularly active this year and captured most of the crop that was developing. The meeting was well attended.
Let's Start at The Beginning
More often than not the experienced nut growers who have been in the business for a while will center their discussions around the following points: (a) how do I achieve effective pollination? (b) how can I eliminate insects and fungi? (c) and how can I keep those bloomin'squirrels and birds away from my crops?
I've even heard it rumoured that some avid nut growers have taken certain birds off their "song-bird list" when it was discovered that they had a considerable apetite for a precious nut crop. However, the concern of the beginning nut grower is quite different. In fact it was at the fall meeting of 1973 that I overheard a plaintive comment--"! have a good idea of what can be produced from nut trees¨BUT how do you plant nut trees and first get them established?" At that point I decided to take up the challenge of describing how it is done. No doubt there will be some eyebrows raised concerning some of my recommendations but here they are:
More often than not a properly dug nut tree from a nursery will be "tap rooted"--although not always. I have seen nut trees with four feet of top above the ground and they have had tap roots four feet long going straight down into the ground--like carrots. Also, the tap roots are much softer than the top wood so don't bruise the roots. Dig the hole appropriately for the length of the tap root and also the spread of the roots whatever that may be. Often I will position the tree in the hole so that it initially "leans into the prevailing winds". Replace the earth in the hole more or less in the order that the earth was removed. Pack the earth firmly around the roots several times while you are filling up the hole but be careful not to bruise the roots.
Different soils require different treatments. A sandier soil would require smaller but more frequent applications to get the same result. It is very important not to fertilize a transplanted tree too late in the season (after July 1) the first year because there is a very considerable risk that the tree will not harden off properly for winter. Also this point is more critical for some species than others. (To be honest I would have to admit that I've fertilized almond trees heavily as late as mid August and they have survived the winter beautifully! However, this is a story onto itself which I will describe later in the "almond article".)
I have used various types of organic fertilizers on nut trees at this location and have found such treatments generally unsatisfactory.
Furthermore, after you have followed a few transplanted trees through the full cycle, you will develop an intuition for tree care so that you can determine watering needs by the appearance or "feel" of the soil. Also, you will be able to guesstimate the need for fertilization of the trees by the "colour" of the leaves, rate of growth etc.
The Magnificent Persimmon
As I mentioned in a previous article Dave Hill and I did some travelling in the fall of 1973 in order to discover new sources of nut tree seed. We were amply rewarded by the discovery of trees yielding nuts of many, various shapes, sizes, tastes and textures. However, we also observed something which we hadn't quite anticipated¨the PERSIMMON! It was one of those marvellous fall days when the sun was shining forth from an entirely clear, blue sky and the wind was quieted to a whisper. The persimmon trees first appeared to our eyes as somewhat "untrained" pear trees of about 25 years of age. The trees are straight leader types with rather short horizontal branches and the bark on the trunks is very deeply and uniformly checkered. But then we noticed the rather ample quantities of fruit on the trees. The yellow, orange and red oval fruits stood out gleaming with brightness against the azure blue sky. On some trees the leaves had already turned their vivid autumn colours and in some cases the leaves were already starting to fall¨one by one spiralling their way gently to the ground. The persimmon trees which had lost many of their leaves but were still carrying a full crop of fruit were especially appealing to the eye. After we had feasted our eyes to their capacity, we then hastened with caution to sample the fruit which hung with such abundance on the trees. First slowly and with halting bites we sampled the fruit with that curiosity _ which arises from an entirely new experience. Then the realization became clear¨we had (within our own experience) discovered an entirely marvellous horticultural delight. The flesh of the fruit was sugary sweet with a delicate aromatic tang which quickened the tastebuds. Each successive sampling of fruit tasted "like another one" and we hastened from tree to tree through the orchard experiencing the subtle shades of flavours possessed by the different varieties. While we were satisfying our runaway appetites beyond their respective capacities, I remembered back to the account of Ulysses' difficulties in the land of the lotus eaters. We were wondering how we would ever tear ourselves away from that earthly paradise (while at the same time we were casting anxious glances over our shoulders to see whether "angels with flashing swords" were coming our way to forcefully evict us!).
When our curiosity finally was satisfied, we retired from the persimmon orchard. It was late in the afternoon and the fall sun was beginning to sink below the horizon. However, we resolved to return to the orchard the next morning to obtain pictures of what we had seen because we feared that the folks back home would never believe our story. The next day was just as fine as the previous one and we succeeded in obtaining some excellent pictures. (Slides of same will be shown at next year's SONG meeting, August 17, 1974)
When I returned home I took the time to do some research on the background of persimmons. The source information for the following comes largely from the Quarterly Bulletins of the National Fruit Explorers (NAFEX), and also the annual reports of the Northern Nut Growers Association.
An early botanist (Carl Linnaeus, 1707-1778, often referred to as the father of Botany as a Science) described the persimmon quite boldly as "fruit of the Gods" (Diospyros virginiana in the case of the American Persimmon). The name Persimmon itself seems to have an hypnotic ring. I have known individuals who have purchased persimmon trees without any idea of what they produce--just because the name sounds so intriguing. The fruit is often described as ranging in shape between that of a tangerine to that of an acorn. The size of the fruit from the wild trees can be as small as a kidney bean to as large as a medium sized tomato. The skin of the fruit is smooth and glossy--much like that of a plum--but the texture of the interior is described as similar to that of refrigerated or "tacky" honey. The flavour when ripe is sweet and aromatic and like many of the semi-tropical fruits, it has no trace of the acidity characteristic of most apples, plums, cherries etc. However, the unripe fruit has a "pucker-power" beyond description. Nature has apparently protected the unripe persimmon from disturbance in just as emphatic a way as the ripe fruit has been made tempting and attractive. The unripe fruit has in many cases been the innocent pawn of many a practical joker who has used such fruit to foul the mouths of the unwary. The persimmon is rated as having a highly nutritious value--second only to that of the date. Some animals--part icula-rly the southern opposum--are able to exist for considerable periods of time solely on persimmon fruit. I have read some accounts (can't lay my hands on them just at the moment) which claim that persimmons even have a protein content¨an unusual property for fruit.
The american persimmon does have a seed core at its centre and has the potential to mature up to eight seeds per fruit. The mature seeds are usually about the size of watermelon seeds. Some varieties of persimmon will yield fruit which is almost seedless. All persimmons have a rather attractive calyx on top of the fruit which resembles the cap of a strawberry.
The trees seem to be well suited to the environment of Ontario. The blossoms usually come forth well after danger of frost is over. The leaves, wood and fruit of the trees are relatively free of disease and insect problems. For several years persimmons have indicated total hardiness at my Queenston location. There have been several past winters which have been quite testy for tender fruits. I think that persimmons will be considerably more hardy than peaches.
Also it is interesting to note that persimmons will ripen on the trees in "short seasons"--even after hard fall frosts which have ruined the fruit on other species of trees. The fruit simply continues to mature on the warm days between frosts!
I heard a very interesting true story about nature when in Pennsylvania. It appears that the local deer have perfected a method of selecting persimmons to eat without falling victim to the puckery immature fruit. The deer will simply approach the persimmon trees and tap some of the lower branches very lightly with their tongues. Persimmons which fall from the tapped branch are mature and perfect for eating!
Some of the selected varieties of persimmon are as listed below and are arranged approximately
in the expected order in which the grafted trees may be able to mature fruit. It is anticipated that
in the Queenston area the first fruits may ripen about the last week of September in an average
year and some of the later varieties may require additional days trailing on into November.
Early Golden, Killen, John Rick, Bolten, Beavers, Runkwitz, Woolbright, Golden Gem, Morris Burton, Miller, Craggs, Josephine
I had the chance to bring home several boxes of persimmon fruit from my travels in the fall of 1973. While extracting seeds for the nursery production of seedlings, I noticed the following concerning the average number of fully developed seeds per fruit. I think this report may be somewhat unique and tells a great deal about the "seedless" tendancy of persimmons. Quantities are rounded to the nearest whole numbers.
Size of seeds
|(3)||John Rick||5||Med. Lrg.||Average|
Imagine the conversation value of some of the varietal names. How would you like to announce to your visitors "Would anyone like to come out into the back yard and view my little Runkwitz!"
Persimmon seed has been set out for seedling production at my Queenston location for the last three years. Seedlings have proven quite hardy. I might mention that persimmons have the peculiar habit of having the male and female flowers on different trees! Therefore, it is necessary to have several trees to insure proper pollination. To a certain extent the fruit which contains the larger number of seeds will tend to have better size and therefore a larger edible portion.
It is one of my major ambitions to have "the fruit of the Gods" become the fruit of the people in
Ontario. There will be seedlings available in the spring of 1974 from varietal sources: Beavers,
Bolten, Craggs, Early Golden, John Rick, Killen, Miller, Woolbright. I cannot guarantee that
these seedling trees will give fruit which is larger, smaller; more colourful, less colourful, tastier
or less tasty than the varietal sources from which the seedlings orginated. However,
I can guarantee that watching each seedling tree developing will be interesting--each one unique
and a discovery onto itself. Seedling trees of varietal sources described will be available on a
"row-run" basis, sizes 6 inches to 1 foot in height, at $1.00 per tree f.o.b. the garage of the author
stated below. I should add that it is another of my major ambitions to "line out" 200 seedling
trees of persimmon at the Queenston location and by observing same, select some superior
cultivars(varieties) for Ontario conditions.
R. D. Campbell R.R.#1 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario LOS 1JO
Almonds in Ontario
Some years ago I first noticed listings for some of the paper-shelled almond trees in several of the nursery catalogues which originate in the State of Maryland. Rather cautiously I asked some of my associates of the time whether they thought that almonds had a chance in Ontario. They scoffed at me then--which wasn't an entirely new experience. Quite a few years later I noticed that several people had some experience with Hall's Hardy almond in the Niagara Peninsula and they found that it grew quite well but did not produce very tasty morsels for eating. About that same time I had the opportunity to place an order for some nursery stock in California (Fremont) and among other things I received some California redwoods (Sequoia) and a few paper-shelled varieties of almonds: Non Pareil, Ne Plus Ultra and Davey. These latter varieties have also done quite well in the Niagara Peninsula. Their hardiness has been very satisfactory so far. They have shown a slight reluctance to flower to date. The first year two of the five trees started to show symptoms similar to that caused by verticillium wilt. A soil treatment with Benlate coupled with a substantial fertilizing applied about mid-August chased the (verticillium?) away. Would you believe that those two trees survived the first winter perfectly? There is also a slight problem with brown rot killing back a few of the twigs in late fall but the problem is of little consequence. I'm hoping that this winter is not too terrible and that the trees have a good display of flowers next spring--in order to determine whether the season is long enough and hot enough to mature the kernels. It is too early to make any recommendation for trial planting of almonds throughout Southern Ontario but it has provided a very interesting experiment to watch.
The Shopper's Point of View
Sometimes it may appear that SONG News tends to spend all of its energies serving the growers. Well the other day I was trailing along behind the wife in the supermarket with my usual cart full of tiny tots when my eyes should spy the most beautiful looking barrel full of pecans in the shell which I have ever seen. They were huge, blocky, well shined and painted with that appealing mahogany red. The marketeers had me dead to rights and they knew it. I hastened to gather together a bag full of these wondrous looking nuts to take home for my very own. When I arrived home I could hardly wait to dig out my reference books (Handbook of North American Nut Trees, R. A. Jaynes, Editor, and Published by the Northern Nut Growers Association) to see what variety the pecans may be. Eagerly I flipped through the various pictures of the pecan nuts (in the shell) and I narrowed the possibilities down to two: Stuart or Barton. At that moment I realized the truth of Mr. Barnum's claim that "there is a sucker born every minute"--without even cracking one of the nuts. Barton would be an excellent purchase but it is a relatively new and scarce variety. Chances were almost 99% that I had a sample of Stuart. It's an interesting but typical case that this variety is well known; has been around for a long time; consitutes about 70% of the trees*in the eastern (Georgia etc.) commercial orchards however it is relatively of low quality compared to the newer varieties.
To confirm my guesstimate I got out the cracking equipment and proceeded to make the usual analyses of the nuts. Here are the results:
|* Stuart||40 - 55||44-50|
|* Western Schley||45 - 65||54 - 59|
Yes, my suspicions were confirmed. It was a sample of Stuart. Now here is where the crunch comes for the consumer. There are two most common varieties of pecans (in the shell) exported from the United States to Canada--Stuart approx. 60%; Western Schley (pronounced Shly) approx. 30%; all other varieties about 10% including wild seedling sources. Suppose that the market price for pecans (in the shell) is uniformly 990 per pound as it was in this case. Since nobody eats the shells, it is more proper to compare the price-value of the two varieties on the basis of the cost per pound of kernels as follows:
|Variety||Cost Per Pound|
in the Shell
|% Kernel||Cost Per Pound|
Now you ask the question, "How does the consumer tell the difference?" It's relatively easy! Both varieties are about the same size, but different shapes. Stuart pecans have blocky, squared off ends whereas the Western Schley pecans have relatively pointed ends. If you have ever travelled in the United States you will probably have noticed the ever-present "Stuckey's". I've often seen pecans marketed in these establishments in three pound bags and labelled by variety. At the same price per pound, in the shell, Western Schley is the better buy. Note that the "ready-shelled" pecans sell in the range of approximately $4.00 per pound of kernels.
There was a similar comparison when I bought several samples of almonds--as follows:
Letters to the Editor
I have been trying to grow nut trees for the last 25 years--English walnuts, Japanese heartnuts, a
hybrid heartnut and butternut, filberts and black walnuts. I've had some nice crops of English
walnuts, but the squirrels start taking them before they are mature. Also, I've been growing
peanuts for over thirty years.
Angus J. Oke, Strathroy, Ontario
My son took my copy of SONG news to the Annadale High School. His agriculture teacher Mr.
Grosse was a former student (Mathematics) of Mr. L. K. Devitt (refer to SONG #1). They had a
good talk about nut gathering from many years ago.
T. M. Sandham, Tilsonburg, Ontario
I have recently returned from a trip to the Kitchener area. I found some old English Walnut trees
with trunk diameters 12 - 15 inches. There is one in particular which is prolific and has large
nuts. The shells are not very heavy.
What time in the spring could I graft English Walnut onto black walnut?
J. D. Tinline, Thamesville, Ontario
I regret to have to inform you that the big tree (Totten's Seedling - Refer to SONG #2) had only about 15 nuts this year. The frosts were late and severe this spring. There were a few other big nuts in the river bottom but not very many. We have been assured that this tree will not be disturbed as long as we need it. Let's hope that it will bear a good large crop next year. It is about due for good weather. -
I understand that Mr. Holmes and others may want some of the seedling trees. There are about a
hundred left which could be transplanted. Also, do you remember the young hickory along the
south line--referred to as the "calico tree"? It had its third crop this year of about forty nuts. One
nut in the hull measured 8.5 inches in girth and weighs 5.5 ounces. Perhaps we could mail you a
few of these nuts for your examination.
Bill & Sherman Totten, Alexis, Illinois
I must report that this year's nut crop was a near total failure due to the cold rainy period during
pollination although the summer was ideal for filling the nuts¨especially black walnut. The
Persian Walnuts received through the kindness of R. A. Fleming, Vineland Experiment Station,
still suffer winter-tip-die-back but they grow wildly in the summer and soon will bear nuts. I have
been training the trees to grow "straight" but this treatment seems to promote late season growth
which kills back in winter. I think it is best to let them grow with "all sails out" initially and then
trim them in future years.
Fr. E. Potvin, Abbaye Cistercienne Oka, P. Quebec
I have just been made aware of the existence of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers. I am
extremely interested in contacting you because I would like to find a source for fresh Ontario
nuts. My husband and I consume approximately 85 pounds of shelled nuts per year. We would be
thrilled to buy what we can from Ontario growers.
Donna Appleby, Scarborough, Ontario
I would like to give a membership to my brother
George A. Savage as a birthday gift. My brother is interested in trees ¨ especially nut trees and
has several varieties of chestnut, hazel, heartnut, black walnut and butternut. He would appreciate
any literature on the subject.
Doris Cohrs, Waterford, Ontario
I am particularly interested in planting black walnut trees at our summer residence in the Rideau
Lakes area but have not had any luck in locating sources of supply. Would you have any
Shirley Aitkens, Ottawa, Ontario
Years ago my Dad planted on his farm many black walnuts, butternuts, English type walnuts and half a dozen Japanese heartnuts all of which were delicious. There was also another rather odd one, very good eating, which was almost smooth and like a butternut in size and shape¨but flattened. We also had sweet and bitter hickories, beechnuts and at one time there were the sweet American chestnuts. A few clumps of hazel nuts were scattered around if you knew where and when to get them before the squirrels did.
The home farm was located in the south half of Chiuquacousy Township of Peel County. The
English walnuts were in a sheltered location. The heartnuts appeared to be fairly hardy. The
original English walnuts came from Mr. George Corsan of Islington, Ontario, back in the 1930's.
Mrs. Mary Maxwell, Hornby, Ontario
It is possible that Mrs. M. Maxwell's information may be the missing link leading to the
rediscovery of the mysterious Hutzulian Pointies referred to in Mr. R. Kreider Jr.'s letter
published in SONG #2.
Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.