You may make a great mystery of pruning if you like; or you may make it as plain as the alphabet - it is all a question of character. There are students of chemistry, albeit of the elementary class, in whose eyes carbonic acid gas, most commonplace of compounds, becomes invested with a deep and inscrutable fascination when referred to as C02, and to those of a like order of mind the development of pruning into a great, weird mystery, only to be approached through a tangle of technicalities, is a satisfying and grateful business.
It is not for me to debar these gentlemen from the enjoyment of a whirl of phrases and formulae, but on the other hand I am not called upon to provide them with their special intellectual pabulum. The idea I have before me in the present notes is to reduce pruning to its simplest elements, in order that the most inexperienced person may read, instantly get to work, and in due season reap a full harvest of fruit.
A great help to a practical grasp of the A B C of pruning is a supply of shoots of the various kinds of fruit trees to be operated upon. By referring to these while printed instructions are being read, each point can be mastered. The differences between them are considerable. In an Apple tree the shoots are usually brown, relatively thick and plump, the fruit buds round and grey in colour. The latter are often found on the long shoots, as well as on the cluster of very short shoots and buds which is technically termed a spur. In a Pear the shoots are usually smaller and darker in colour; while the fruit buds, which are smaller and more pointed than those of Apples, are produced almost exclusively on spurs, very rarely on young wood. Plums and Damsons are also spur, not young wood, bearers. When Plum trees are young they often produce a great deal of strong wood, but when they have settled down and become well furnished with spurs the summer growths are usually much smaller even than those of Pears. They are very dark in colour, and the fruit buds small and pointed. Cherries, like Plums, are apt to be gross at first, and even when they have settled down to the serious business of life it is common for them to produce a good deal of breastwood. This is grey in colour, studded with bold brown buds, some of which are fruit buds. The spurs are simply clusters of fat, rounded brown buds. The popular "Heart" Cherries, indeed nearly all with the exception of the Morello, are principally spur bearers, but dislike much pruning. Peaches (with Nectarines) resemble their cousins the Plums in producing a good deal of strong wood when young. When they have been cured of this vicious habit by being lifted they assume a more modest habit of growth, and annually produce a crop of young shoots 15 to 18 inches long, on which the fruit is borne. Apricots bear for the most part on spurs.
A consideration of the foregoing brings the following facts into prominence:-
1. Established trees of Apples must not necessarily be denuded of their young wood, like Pears.
2. Pears must not become smothered with young wood.
3. Plums should be lifted to check over-vigorous root action when young and afterwards spurred.
4. Cherries which produce their fruit buds in clusters may be spurred by summer pruning, but Morellos should have the young wood trained in.
5. Peaches and Nectarines should be lifted when young to check the root action if the growths they produce in summer are upwards of 2 feet long and 1/3 inch thick or more.
6. Apricots should be spurred in the main, but a little young wood may be trained in if space permits.
7. All trees that are severely pruned to spurs should be allowed to extend a little at the head, unless they are growing on walls or fences where space is limited.
These rules may help us on the road, but details will be wanted before we can claim to have mastered the subject.