This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Under the heading of " Editorial Notes," in the March number of the Monthly, page 79, I see "the God of nature," man, has something to say against slitting the bark of trees. With equal propriety, the pseudo-philosopher might have insisted the trees would properly prune themselves, if it was necessary, as men sometimes think it is. Early initiated, as the writer was when a boy, into the practical order of the prun-ing-knife and spade, he has since worked out many a problem "the God of nature," seemingly, left him to solve. And what in the course of time I have physically or mechanically done for the benefit of horticulture and arboriculture, which nature left undone, are visible facts which no-body can deny. That Divine Providence intended the members of the gardening fraternity to do for trees what they could not do for themselves, is evident, from His having put the first made man in a garden to look after them. And thus, from ante-figleafian times until now, the pruning-hook has never ceased from cutting and trimming trees.
The conditions, Mr. Coleman mentions, have often come under my notice, and, as he sensibly advises doing, have many times done with marked advantage.
I remember some time ago another wiseacre gave his opinion about the same subject. His remarks, if not exactly foolish, were at least somewhat funny. The sceptical gentleman I allude to thought it would be as sensible an act to make longitudinal incisions in his leg, as it would be in the bark of a tree. Whether he had a timber leg, or a wooden head, or both, he made no mention. But I strongly suspect there was something ligneous about the superstructure or he would have known it was the trunk, instead of the limbs, which were to be bark-slit.
In Japan, we are informed, it was no unusual thing for a man to slit up his trunk. But they had another designation for the operation - Hari-Kari is the name. That the effects of slitting would vary much on the trunks of trees and man, even Mr. Skeptical is well aware. But as neither he nor any one else in this country is likely to try the experiment, life being too short and business too pressing, let us turn to Shaks-peare, and learn what they did in his day.
See King Richard II., Act 3, and hear what the honest and old gardener said when lamenting the fate of his fallen king:
" And Bolingbrooke Hath seized the wasteful king:- Oh ! what a pity it is, That he had not trim'd and dress'd his land, As we this garden. We at this time of year Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit trees; Lest being over-proud with sap and blood, With too much riches it confound itself: Had he done so to great and growing men, They might have lived to bear, and taste Their fruits of duty. All superfluous branches We lop away, that bearing boughs may live:
Had he done so, himself had borne the crown, Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down".
As the philosophical horticulturist is supposed to have " wound the bark, the skin of our forest trees," sometime between June, 1377, and September, 1399, it must be admitted he was wise after his generation. Even from so long ago as Shaks-peare's time, between 1564 and 1616, the operation was performed by practical men, just as it is by skillful orchardists now. It seems to me that while I continue to admire the wisdom of King Richard's ancient bark-slitter, it would be proper to exclaim, " Bravo! Old Gardener.'"