Friday, July 02, 2010

Fine old NYTimes story on Amigo Bob Cantisano, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply founder; and Felix Gillet

Amigo Cantisano's Organic Dream, by Verlyn Klinkenborg, from March 1996.
"... So I became a test plot," Amigo says -- a metaphor that describes his working life almost perfectly. ...

I ran across the NYTimes article while searching for info on Nevada City nurseryman Felix Gillet,
a Frenchman who arrived [in Nevada City] 1859, when he was 24. There Gillet, who came from a family of nurserymen, opened a barbershop and began importing plants.

"One of his visions," Amigo says, "was that the foothills" -- where gold was the ruling passion -- "could become productive orchard lands. He imported the first almonds, the first walnuts, the first plums, the first chestnuts. He got the Willamette Valley in Oregon started on filberts." Gillet, who died in 1908...[promoted] the planting of 170,000 mulberry Nevada and Placer Counties.

Gillet's nursery was on Nursery Street, behind this plaque:

Further reading -

Nevada City celebrates 'world renowned' horticulturist, a Jan. 2008 Union article on Gillet.

Some cultivars offered in his 1880 "Descriptive Catalogue and Price List of Plants and Trees"

But if you want to see the catalogs themselves, it seems you're in for a trip; they're at Cornell.

From U. P Hedrick's 1922 Cyclopedia of Hardy Fruits (link):
BLACK MULBERRY OF SPAIN. M. nigra. Noir of Spain.
Under the two names given, this mulberry is offered by nurserymen in the Pacific states. It is described in the catalogs as an everbearing mulberry of large size, the berry resembling the Lawton blackberry in shape and appearance. The fruits are black, with the piquancy of blackberries rather than the insipid sweetness of most mulberries. The tree is vigorous, a profuse bearer, hardy in the far West, and with drooping, almost weeping, branches. In California and Oregon it is considered the best of the mulberries for its fruit. The variety was probably introduced from the Old World by Felix Gillet, Nevada City, California, thirty or more years ago.

Where are the 170,000 mulberry trees? There aren't any on the 41-tree walking tour of Nevada City brochure by Nevada City's Friends of Trees (avail. at the Chamber of Commerce, IMO it should also be a Google Map - and now it is.). I have found a couple (var.?) between Pine & Gethsemane, but that doesn't account for the other 169,998.

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