As I have been writing the book, “The Greening Nursery Company: Born in 1850 and An American Success Story”, I’ve learned a lot about tree development and landscape processes.
One of the most interesting processes – tree budding and propagation – was one of the Greening Nursery Company’s greatest successes.
The Greening Nursery Company developed the Research Department of the Greening Nursery Company in the 1910’s. Greening employee Roy E. Sperry developed the Greening System of Bud Selection.
As profiled in the publication, “The Voice of the Orchids”, Sperry tells the story of bud selection that began on July 19, 1917 at the Friday Brothers Orchard, located in Coloma, Michigan. The concept of propagating buds from limbs or trees that are known to possess commercially-desirable characteristics (in the case of fruit – color, size, taste, durability, etc.) was not new.
Defined as “chimera” – the development of plants with two or more genetically different tissues growing separately but adjacent to each other – created opportunities to produce high-quality, disease-resistant fruit, vegetables and flowers. Thus, chimera, in the context of hybridization, became the foundation of the Greening System of Bud Selection with the inclusion of the following characteristics: color, taste (when applicable), preservation and origins (disease resistance, structural integrity, etc.).
Results of the early experiments with bud selection by Sperry and his Greening Research Department team began to “bear fruit”, so to speak, in the mid-1930’s. For example, the Montmorency-Fernwood strain of cherries – developed by cross-pollinating cherry buds from the Fernwood Farm of Amos Tucker (located between South Haven and Fennville, Michigan, first planted in 1921) with buds from the Montmorency cherry trees grown by WW Farnsworth of Waterville, Ohio – were then planted at the Skinner Orchard in Fennville, Michigan and the Jonathan Woodman Orchard in Paw Paw, Michigan (in addition to other test orchards located at various farms in Hartford, Michigan).
Results of the test showed the Reber cherry tree ripens its fruit seven days earlier than normal and is equal in production and size of fruit in comparison to other Montmorency cherry strains. Later tests throughout the 1940s indicated the Montmorency-Fernwood cherries were free from what is known as the cherry yellow virus years after propagation.
This enabled the Botany Department of the Michigan State College to cross bud into peach seedlings in an attempt to yield a tree in the same genus as the cherry also free of the yellow protoplasma bacteria. The virus is known as “peach yellows” when found on peach tree leaves. Other fruits in the genus shared by cherries and peaches are plums and almonds – both wild and domestic varieties.
It was at this time that the Greening Nursery Company provided jobs and housing for the first wave of the War Relocation Authority’s Japanese Evacuation and Resettlement initiatives during World War II.
Work on the peach tree budding allowed Japanese Americans to escape the barracks life that existed at the Jerome War Relocation Center located in southeastern Arkansas along the Arkansas Delta and the Poston War Relocation Center located in southwestern Yuma County Arizona.
In Monroe, the new Greening Nursery Company employees were encouraged to develop skills in peach bud selection and propagation, among other tasks. Budding work required a keen eye and the ability to perform the work both in the field and in other locations on the Greening Nursery property.
Spear later pursued how the Montmorency-Fernwood cherry experiments also included foundation planting exercises – where “scion” or “bud wood” orchards were established by planting trees comparatively close together and grown by the Greening Nursery Company to furnish not fruit but propagation buds. These buds would also be developed into virus-free seedlings.
Tom Adamich is President – Visiting Librarian Service, a firm he has operated since 1993. He also is Project Archivist for the Greening Nursery Company and Family Archives.