The fruit of the Apricot is next in esteem to the Peach, and as it ripens three or four weeks earlier, should be more generally cultivated. The flowers appear in April, on the shoots of the preceding year, and on spurs of two or more years growth, and the fruit ripens in July and August. The London Horticultural Society's catalogue describes fifty-four sorts, and Messrs. Prince have eighteen in their catalogue; besides these, is the Peach Apricot, a large fruit, supposed to be a hybrid between a Peach and an Apricot.
Our enterprising fellow citizen, Mr. William Shaw, has succeeded for many years in maturing large quantities of this excellent fruit on standards; but they ripen best when trained against close fences. In England some of the varieties are cultivated as standards and espaliers; but they seldom bear much fruit under ten or twelve years, and then the fruit is abundant and of the finest flavour. They are commonly cultivated as wall trees, in an east or west aspect; for if they are planted to face the south, the great heat causes them to be mealy before they are eatable. New varieties are procured from seed, as in the Peach, and approved sorts are perpetuated by budding on plum stocks, etc.
The varieties of the Apricot, in general, bear chiefly upon the young shoots of last year, and casually upon small spurs rising on the two or three years' old fruit branches. The Moor Park bears chiefly on the last year's shoots, and on close spurs formed on the two year old wood. The bearing shoots emit the blossom buds immediately from the eyes along the sides, and the bud3 have a round and swelling appearance.
Apricot trees may be planted at any time after the head is formed: some head them down in the nursery bed, and remove them to their destined places when five or six years old.
Standards will require only occasional pruning, to regulate such branches as may be too numerous, too extended, or cross formed, and to remove any casually unfruitful parts and dead wood; but the regular branches, forming the head of the tree, should not be shortened unless necessary.
The general culture of the wall Apricots comprehends a summer and winter course of regulation, by pruning and training. The fan method is generally adopted, but some prefer training horizontally. With young trees some contrive to fill the wall by heading down twice a year.
The winter, or early spring management, comprehends a general regulation both of the last year's shoots and the older branches. A general supply of the most regularly situated young shoots must be every where retained, for suc-cessional bearers the ensuing year. Cut out such branches as are not furnished with competent supplies of young wood, or with fruit spurs, to make room for training the most promising branches retained. Generally, observe in this pruning-to retain one leading shoot at the end of each branch; either a naturally placed terminal, or one formed by cutting (where a vacancy is to be furnished) into a proper leader. Let the shoots retained for bearers be moderately shortened; reduce strong shoots in the least proportion - cutting off one fourth or less of their length; from weak shoots take away a third, and sometimes a half. This shortening will conduce to the production of a good supply of lateral shoots the ensuing summer, from the lower and middle placed eyes; whereas without it, the new shoots would proceed mostly from the top, and leave the under part of the principal branches naked, and the lower and middle parts of the tree unfurnished with proper supplies of bearing wood. Never prune below all the blossom buds, except to provide wood, in which case cut nearer to the origin of the branch. As, in these trees, small fruit spurs, an inch or two long, often appear on some of. the two or three years branches furnished with blossom buds, these spurs should generally be retained for bearing. As each tree is pruned, lay in the branches and shoots from three to six inches distance, and nail them straight or close to the fence or wall.
The summer pruning is principally to regulate the young shoots of the same year. In the first place, take off close all the irregular foremost shoots, taking care to retain a competent supply of close side shoots, with a good leader to each parent branch. Continue these mostly at full length all the summer, regularly trained in, to procure a sufficiency to choose from in the general winter pruning, for new bearers the next year.
If the summer regulation commences early, while the shoots are quite young, and, as it were, herbaceous, those improper to retain may be detached with the finger and thumb; but when of firmer growth, they must be removed with the knife. If any very strong shoots rise in any part where the wood is deficient, they may be topped in June, which will cause them to produce several laterals the same year, eligible for training in, to supply the vacancy.
Sometimes the fruit is much too numerous, if not destroyed by insects, often growing in clusters; in which case thin them while in a young, green state, leaving the most prominent fruit singly, at three or four inches distance, or from about two to six on the respective shoots, according to their strength. The Apricots so thinned off, and the first princi pal green fruit, are very fine for tarts.