Pears are one of the very oldest of all cultivated fruits and were grown in the late Stone Age around the Swiss lake dwellings. The longevity of the pear is well known. Individual trees persist for more years than any other fruit except the mulberry. They usually crop less heavily than apples and therefore demand less thinning. Cultivation is by no means difficult and this crop should be grown more widely by amateurs, if only because insect pests and fungus diseases are generally less serious than on apples, although pear scab can be very troublesome after a wet spring.

Stock. Quince is the most widely used stock, quince A being comparable to Mailing II for apples. Certain varieties, including the well-known Williams’s Bon Chrdtien, do not make a good union on quince and such kinds are ‘double-worked’, that is, a strong growing variety such as Beurre Hardy is used as an intermediate direct on to the stock. Quince C can be compared to Mailing IX. Pears generally take longer to come into bearing than apples.

Shapes. Pears do well as bushes or pyramids. They are of more upright growth than apples. Pears are excellent as cordons, espaliers and fan-shaped trees, since they spur readily and are easier to train than apples. Tip-bearing varieties such as Jargonelle and Josephine de Malines are not suitable for cordons or espaliers. The best flavoured pears are usually those grown alongside sunny walls, due to the radiation of heat finishing the fruits. Grown in this way, they are also less susceptible to pear scab.

Cultivation. Pears are happy on most soils, save cold, wet clays, but prefer warmer soil than apples. Late varieties such as Doyenne du Cornice, Josephine de Malines and Winter Nelis are best grown against walls.

Plant about 5 ft. apart, as for apples. Great care must be taken to avoid covering the graft or union by planting too deeply, otherwise there is a serious risk of scion rooting, resulting in unmanageable growth and a reluctance to fruit. (The scion is the portion of the grafted plant which provides all the growth above soil level.)

Pears require less potash than apples, but enjoy rather more nitrogen.

A dressing of sulphate of ammonia or ‘Nitro-Chalk’ may be given in February or March. Bulky manures such as farmyard manure or compost definitely encourage regular cropping.

Pears will generally tolerate fairly severe pruning. In early winter laterals may be cut back to 4 or 5 buds and leaders reduced by one-third. In late July pears may be summer pruned, and this is particularly necessary with cordons and espaliers. Laterals can be reduced to the fifth op sixth leaf from the base — leaders must only be pruned in winter. Tip-bearing varieties, such as Jargonelle and Josephine de Malines, should be pruned. as for tip-bearing apples like Bramley’s Seedling and Worcester Pearmain.

How to Pick Pears:

Unlike apples, pears must not be ripened on the tree or they will turn ‘sleepy’. Early and mid-season varieties should be gathered before the green turns to yellow. Late dessert varieties are usually left to hang on the trees as long as possible. Care is needed to avoid any bruising, as once pears are bruised, decay sets in. Ripe fruits must be eaten at once or they will deteriorate. Since pears ripen unevenly, they need to be watched very closely. Pears are fit to eat when the flesh round the stem yields to slight pressure of the thumb or finger.

Choice of Varieties:

The division between dessert and culinary pears is less rigid than with dessert and cooking apples. Most pears, if picked when green, cook satisfactorily. Doyenne du Cornice, the aristocrat of dessert varieties, is excellent when cooked.

If there is room for only one pear, Conference should be chosen, as it is not only of good flavour but easy to grow, and resistant to the effects of late spring frosts. Conference should be picked in late September and may be eaten from early October to the end of November. In addition to being self-fertile, it is a good pollinator for other varieties. Beurre d’Amanlis: should be picked at the end of August and is in season about mid-September. Excellent flavour and good cropper. Very hardy and does well in the north and Scotland. Self-sterile, needing two pollinators, e.g. Beurre Bedford, Durondcau, Williams’s Bon Chretien — Conference is unsuitable.

Beurre Hardy: should be picked in late September before it comes away easily from the stalk. In season from October to December. Excellent flavour. Inclined to make a large tree, but crops regularly when established. The scent of the fruits has been likened to rose water. Pollinators: Doyenne du Cornice, Laxton’s Superb. Beurre Super Jin: some people consider this equal in flavour to Doyenne du Cornice. Should be picked about mid-September before it comes away easily from the stalk. Liable to pear scab. Pollinators: Conference, Williams’s Bon Chretien.

Bristol Cross: a fine dessert variety which is ready to pick soon after Conference. Some consider the flavour superior. Pollinators: Laxton’s Superb, Marie Louise.

Doyenne du Cornice: the counterpart in pears of Cox’s Orange Pippin. Flavour outstanding. Excellent for bottling. Pick at the beginning of October and it will be ready to eat a few weeks later. The fruits should be wrapped in special oiled papers to ensure perfect specimens. Not an easy variety to grow, as it crops irregularly and is probably best against a wall. Successful on heavy soils. The relatively new Packham’s Triumph is claimed to be a later, more vigorous, Cornice.

Pollinators: Glou Morceau, Laxton’s Superb (the best pollinator), Winter Nelis.

Laxton’s Superb: a cross between Beurre Superfin and Williams’s Bon Chretien. This is probably the finest flavoured early pear and is a heavy cropper. Does well in Scotland. Ready to pick at the end of August— gather just before the fruits are fully ripe — but does not keep and must be eaten soon after picking. A good variety for bottling. Resistant to pear scab.

Pollinators: Beurre Hardy, Doyenne’ du Cornice.

Marie Louise: ready to pick about the end of September and remains good eating for another month. Pollinators: Beurre Hardy, Laxton’s Superb.

Williams’s Bon Chretien (the Bartlett Pear of the canners): a very popular old variety raised as far back as 1770 and of English origin. Should be gathered at the end of August while still green and allowed to ripen naturally. It is ready to eat a few weeks later but does not usually last into October. Though very sweet and juicy, it has a musky taste which does not appeal to everyone. Excellent for bottling. Needs double working. Very liable to pear scab and pear midge attacks. Pollinators: Beurrc Superfin, Conference.

Winter Nelis: a small pear of delicious flavour. Should be gathered about the middle of October. May be eaten from early November to late January, and sometimes later, as the fruits ripen rather slowly. Best against.a wall, save in sheltered districts. Does not usually succeed on cold soils. Pollinators: Beurrc Hardy, Doyenne du Cornice.

Insect Pests. Various aphids and winter moths attack pears in the same way as apples, control measures being identical. Pear Midge. Symptoms: Eggs are laid in mid-April inside the pear flowers. The maggot takes about 6 weeks to mature. Infested fruits grow abnormally large, start to decay and finally fall to the ground. In the blackened centres of the fruits will be found the white, legless maggots of the midge. When infested fruits drop to the ground, the maggots escape and pupate in the soil, remaining there over the winter. The following April they again emerge as midges.

Treatment: Infested fruits should be destroyed. One authority advises spraying the surface of the soil with a tar-oil or DNC petroleum wash between budburst and white-bud stage, at the rate of approximately 1 gallon to 4 square yards. It is essential to use a low pressure to avoid the spray drifting on to the trees themselves, or buds and foliage may be injured. BHC or Pyrethrin insecticides may be applied at the white-bud stage, I.e. when the flower buds are quite white and before any are open. Frequent cultivation round the trees from late June to the end of July helps to keep down the maggots.

Pear and Cherry Slugworm or Pear and Cherry Sawjly. Symptoms: The whitish-yellow caterpillars, which subsequently turn black, appear in late June and feed on the upper surface of the leaves, so that they are often partially skeletonised.

Treatment: Spray or dust with derris or nicotine directly the caterpillars are observed.

Fungus Diseases.

Brown Rot. The familiar brown rot fungus attacking apples and plums is also found on pears. For control measures see APPLE.

Pear Canker. Apple and pear canker are identical diseases, both caused by the same fungus. For control measures, see APPLE. The variety Marie Louise is very susceptible.

Pear Scab. This disease is very similar to apple scab. For symptoms and control, see APPLE. Canker attacks generally follow on pear scab if the latter is not checked. Doyenne du Cornice and Williams’s Bon Chretien are particularly liable to infection, while Conference is usually considered fairly resistant.

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