Pears are a little more difficult than apples and if neglected, deteriorate more quickly but they repay good cultivation. Many varieties are self-sterile, so it is necessary to vow two or more different varieties for pollinating purposes—not always easy in a small garden.
Pears are not simply sweet. Edward Bunyard said the following:
“The pear flavor must stand as a basis upon which may be laid the various overtones of flavor and acidity. Acid gives pears a zest and raises them to a higher plane.
The next addition is musk . . . it requires great discretion in its disposal. Some pears seem to have an almond flavor, others a vinous quality while in some, it is possible to detect a perfume not unlike that of the rose or of honey.”
“If, says Bunyard, “the duty of an apple is to be crisp and crunchable, a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption.”
Soil plays a great part in determining whether or not pears are going to be successful. Very light ground is unsuitable, and it is not worthwhile growing pears on thin soil that retains little moisture.
Good medium or heavyish soil is best, so long as it has been deeply cultivated and contains plenty of organic matter.
Generally speaking, pears need more nitrogen than apples and perhaps less potash. Top dressings of compost or decayed manure are beneficial, while in the spring, 85—113g per m2 (2½ oz. per square yard) of sulfate of ammonia stimulates sturdy growth.
Pears usually bloom fairly early so avoid planting in exposed areas and low lying frost pockets. Select varieties carefully. Comparatively few pears are self-fertile and two or more suitable varieties must be grown to ensure cross pollination and a good fruit set.
Pears can be planted in mild weather throughout the dormant season, although November is the best month. Having made sure that the soil has been well prepared by deep digging and manuring, dig out a hole about 20 cm (18 inches) deep and wide enough for the roots to be spread out fully. Trim back any damaged roots with a sharp knife or pruning shears.
Stake standards or half standards before the planting hole is filled in to avoid damaging the roots. Plant the young tree to the depth marked on the stem by the soil in which it was raised in the nursery.
Sprinkle a layer of soil over the roots and tread it down firmly, for good anchorage is important. Tin soil around the stein must be trodden down fairly frequently during the winter, since frost is liable to loosen the roots.
If you have ordered trees from a distance and they arrive and cannot be planted immediately, they will be alright in their bundle for a few days. If the trees cannot be planted for several weeks, unpack them and heel them in, in a trench in a sheltered part of the garden.
Pruning is as important for pears as for other fruit trees. Excepting for a few tip bearers (those which fruit at the tips of the shoots) such as ‘Jargonelle ‘. ‘Josephine de, Malines’ and Packham’s Triumph’, pears on quince root stocks produce plenty of fruit spurs and are pruned normally.
The strongest growing sorts such as Beurre Hardy’, ‘Bristol Cross’ and ‘Doyenne du Cornice’, are pruned more lightly for very hard pruning usually results in excessively vigorous growth.
Remove dead, crowded or badly placed branches from all trees. If standards produce extra long, upright branches, they should be shortened to a suitable length.
Prune hard the leaders of young trained trees during the winter for the first few years, to build a sturdy framework. Some summer pruning may also be necessary according to growth made.
This usually consists of pruning the side shoots to four leaves and to one leaf in the winter. Although there is usually a natural fall of fruit (the June drop), some thinning is advisable if there are signs of a very heavy crop developing. This will prevent many small second quality fruits.
Having grown and harvested the fruit, it is disappointing to discover that the flesh is dry and mealy (sleepy) instead of rich and juicy.
Externally, the pears look perfectly sound, but it is a different matter when you cut them open. The trouble in many cases is related to the time of gathering the fruit.
This seems especially so with late keepers such as ‘Winter Nelis’ and ‘Glou Morceau. If gathered too soon, and especially if stored under very dry conditions, they are liable to become ‘sleepy’ before they are edible.
Similarly, if ‘Pitmaston Duchess’ and ‘William’s Bon Chretien’, are harvested a little too early, perhaps to avoid wasp damage, they may quickly become overripe and then sleepy, all within a few days.
So rapidly can pears ripen that fruits should be examined every few days. It is often difficult to tell when a pear is ripe.
Many varieties are more or less covered with russet markings, so appearances do not always help. A good plan is to cut one or two fruits at short intervals when they are beginning to ripen. This will show up any tendency to sleepiness.
Many of the older varieties are no longer grown but the following is a list, given in order of maturing dates, of first class pears which are still available from fruit specialists:
‘Clapp’s Favourite’, early September, medium-sized, thin smooth skin, pale yellow with bright scarlet flush, very fertile.
‘William’s Bon Chretien’. September, golden-yellow, russet dots, red stripes: fairly large, excellent flavor, juicy and sweet; good for bottling or canning. Known in the
USA and Australia as ‘Bartlett’ ‘Beurre Hardy’, October, large, very fertile and good flavor.
‘Louise Bonne of Jersey’, October, medium, yellowish-green, red flush, red dots, sweet and delicious. Cross-pollinates with Conference’ and ‘Williams’ Bon Chretien’
‘Emile D’Heyst’. October- November, medium, pale yellow, marbled russet, sub-acid, pleasantly perfumed.
Durondeau’, October-November, fairly large, long pyramidal, skin rough, golden-yellow, very fertile. Good for small gardens.
‘Conference’, October-November. large, long, pear-shaped, very juicy, good for bottling, or canning: sweet, regular bearer, the best mid-season to late variety.
Beurre Superfin’. medium-sized fruits, yellow with russet patches, juicy and sweet, deliciously aromatic.
‘Pitmaston Duchess’, October-November, very large, yellow marbled russet, very juicy and pleasantly flavored. Plant with Conference’.
‘Packham’s Triumph’, November, medium-sized, greenish-yellow, pleasant flavor sweet, very juicy.
‘Doyenne du Comice’, November, large, pale yellow with fine russet, the best flavored pear, crop is improved with Conference’. ‘Glou Morceau’ and ‘Williams” as pollinators.
Winter Nelis’, November-January, small, lich melting flavor, good cropper.
‘Clou Morceau’, December-January, smooth pea green skin ripening to pale yellow, good flavor, planted as the most reliable pollinator of ‘Doyenne du Cornice’.
‘Catillac’, in season until April, the best culinary pear; large, cooks deep red, no other stewing pear is necessary.