George Hebden Corsan
Part III

Corsan joined the Northern Nut Growers' Association in 1912 and was a member until his death on January 31, 1952, with the exception of the years 1930-35. He often attended the annual meetings and gave reports of his experiments at Echo Valley and later, his Florida property.

The following are excerpts from the NNGA annual-reports:

1912: Corsan says there is no chestnut blight in Canada. "We have a blight in Ontario that has attacked the Lombardy poplar and looks similar to the chestnut blight. I have been watching it for 10 years and the tree seems to have at last outlived it...We can grow chestnut trees but no one has brains enough to grow them ... farmers don't bother with chestnut trees."

He recommended planting nuts on roadsides, in fence corners, etc., advising people to take a handful of nuts and a cane when they go out walking and occasionally stick one in.

1914: "The following seedlings lived through the winter: Pecans; Pinus edulis; pinus Koraiensis; chestnuts, filberts; all the Juglans including California and Canadian seed of regia; pawpaws; persimmons. My Pomeroy walnuts are having a struggle to keep good form but I think I will have a few hardy ones selected from them."

"I am certain from my observations all over north-eastern North America that the pecan has far more possibilities than the English walnut or any other nut, unless we develop a blight proof chestnut."

"The north Chinese walnut has been doing wonderfully well in Toronto and those two trees 15 and 17 feet high have not a twig killed. They do not bear as early as the Japanese. Their leaves are much longer than the English walnut but the nut is fully as good as the best California Persian walnut that has ever reached the market. Their appearance is almost the same as the English but the tree is much hardier, growing at the extreme north of China. This is the tree that the nurserymen of Ontario have been selling as "English" walnuts ... as soon as we saw the leaf and the trunk we at once knew them for north Chinese walnuts and upon being told that, the men acknowledged that they were."

1915: He reported that he was experimenting with 13 varieties of pecans. The best were Major, Posey and Niblack.

1922: Corsan was introduced as the "Canadian Johnny Appleseed." He said "I first devoted 12 acres to the culture of nut trees...added four more. I just planted seedlings. In 1912 I planted 100 chestnut trees. When I found the blight was in them, I cut them all down but two. I have those two now and last year I gathered a peck of very large chestnuts from them which caused the Ontario government to take notice of what I was doing."

"I had a hard fight with Pomeroy's trees (walnuts)...but each year they increased a little in size and now they are over my head and are not dying down at all."

"I tried seedling English walnuts from St. Catharines. They did not freeze down at all, but whether they will throw as good a nut as Mr. Pomeroy's I don't know. They are certainly a different nut. I got a Chinese walnut at Black's Nursery, Highstown, N.J., and it is growing remarkably well."

In 1928 when the Northern Nut Growers' Association members visited Echo Valley, they saw Thomas and Ohio black walnuts; Siers, Fairbanks and Laney hickories; Chinese walnuts (rare); hybrid chestnuts, seedling heartnuts from Virginia sources, filberts, pecans and Turkish tree hazel (rare).

1937: "Echo Valley, 20 acres, has protection from north winds ... very rich soil, some pockets of humus 7 1/2 feet deep and grass grows up to my shoulder and weeds away up over my head ... I use the mulch system to cultivate my trees as advised by my good friend the late John F. Jones."

"Just after the war I planted many nuts which are now large trees. The hickories grew about a foot a year, the pecans two feet a year, the Chinese English walnut about four feet a year, the Japanese walnuts five feet a year, the Manchurian walnuts six feet a year and the Turkish tree hazel one foot a year. Thus my trees range from 20 - 50 feet high. On these trees I graft anywhere from one to nine named varieties of nuts."

"My European-American hybrid chestnuts have mostly succumbed to the blight, but three I got from the late Mr. Riehl refuse to die and each year yield an enormous crop of nuts ..."

In grafting I find that I secure 100% of black walnuts on black walnut and 40 to 60% for Circassian walnut on black walnut, from 25 to 40% of hickory on hickory and 60 to 100% of hickory on pecan."

"The Japanese walnut takes the Japanese heartnut if put on by side and plain splice graft, but not by cleft nor crown grafting. I have had very fair success budding filberts but have yet to find out about budding other nut trees."

1938: "Twenty years ago a gentleman at Beamsville sent me more than a peck of splendid-sized Japanese heartnuts (Juglans cordiformis). I planted these nuts here and there on my acres. They grew fast and are now large trees, though never cultivated, and most of the time quite neglected as I was away, even six years at a stretch...the six best bear a nut that is undoubtedly a cross between our native butternut and the mother tree, a Japanese heartnut. These six trees are exceedingly hardy. The nuts ripen three weeks before the black walnut and thus escape entirely any early October frost ... They are all regular annual bearers and never have an off year. The trees are decidedly healthier than our native butternut...all have much thinner shells than our native butternuts and larger meats. The trees themselves are indistinguishable from Japanese walnuts (J. sieboldiana) or Japanese heartnuts (J. cordiformis) but are stouter and wider than butternuts (J. cinerea) ... While the Japanese walnut will grow in clusters of 24, and Japanese heartnuts in clusters of 10, these hybrids grow only in clusters of six or seven ... Give me no credit for these six trees as they just happened."

"Regarding budding, I find that between the third week of July and the middle of August some nut trees accept buds 100% and this is far easier than grafting. But bud-sticks cannot be sent away ... this is a great disadvantage as grafts can be sent a considerable distance if sent in March or April."

"My system of budding I can teach anyone in five minutes. My procedure is thus: Procure a pound tin of pure Latex (liquid rubber) from the Viceroy Mfg. Co., West Toronto. They sell the milk-white kind and not the destructive amber fluid. The right kind smells strongly of ammonia and costs 90 cents per pound and will last you the entire three week's budding season, budding every day. Keep the top on the can and don't leave it out in the hot sun. I use a stick to put on the Latex and use a regular German budding knife, having a pointed brass end for opening the T-cut. I also use 2 1/2 inch, thin rubber bands; I prefer the red rubber, 40 cents a quarter-pound retail at most drugstores."

"When I cut the buds off I try not to leave too big a hole where the bud is attached to the wood base and cut this little tit off, leaving it not on the wood but in the bud--otherwise I have no wood attaching to the inside of the bud."

"English walnut buds on black walnut readily. My hybrid nuts bud on butternut, heartnut and Japanese walnuts. Hickory and hican bud on pecan. I bud green buds on green wood; and green wood buds on two or even three-year-old wood."

1940: "The past winter has been unique because of its severity and the absence of snow ... The result was that all my four varieties of eulalia froze dead. Some of my pawpaws and persimmons were killed. But, astounding to say, all my Chinese jujubes lived through and came out in the spring in most excellent shape. Nine varieties (of walnuts) froze back one inch, while the rest of my 80 varieties from Russia came out from the tip buds and are in perfect shape. My small Chinese sweet chestnuts froze back a few inches while my medium-sized and large trees did not freeze a bud."

"The hickory crop is large and for the first time I have quite a number of varieties of hicans in fruit."

1942: "Here, just west of Toronto and north of Lake Ontario, this first day of fall, 1942, the Thomas black walnuts are just ripe and the crop is very good. The Winkler hazelnuts are almost ripe and waiting for a frost to loosen them in their husks. The butternuts are bare of leaves and the nuts are still hanging on, though ripe some 10 days ago. All of some score or more varieties of the European filberts have been gathered. One variety was ripe and gathered on August 28. Hybrids between our native butternuts and the Japanese heartnuts, to the number of six varieties, are fully ripe but not all fallen. The Japanese heartnuts are ripe but not fallen. Stratford hickories are fully ripe and falling. The larger hickories will not be ripe until mid-October, and the same with the chestnuts, though some varieties may ripen in early October."

... to be continued

... taken from SONG NEWS No. 13, Fall 1998.

Kathryn Lamb
Kitchener, Ontario

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