In some respects the Apple is the most difficult of all trees to prune. Not only are the varieties very numerous, but they differ greatly in habit of growth and method of fruiting. Sorts like Bramley's Seedling and Blenheim Orange make strong, upright growth, and hard pruning is bad for them, as it leads to a great mass of shoots being formed. They should be lifted two years after planting to check root action, and the heads kept open by cutting shoots that crowd the head clean out. They will then grow into large trees and bear heavy crops, although it will be a long time before they yield much. This type of Apple tree should not be shortened severely when young; the tips of the shoots should be removed and the flowers picked off the first season after planting to give them a start.
A second class of tree is that which has a tendency to form a great many fruit buds when young, to fruit freely when quite small, and thus to grow slowly. Stirling Castle, Bismarck, Potts's Seedling, and Manks's Codlin may be named as examples. If small trees are wanted, well and good; but if the trees are required to grow into a good size, do not let them bear any fruit the first season, and a maximum of 7 lb. each the second; then they will make growth.
The majority of Apples do best in the open under the following treatment: Secure in each bush or standard, by the means indicated in my last chapter, from six to twelve main branches, growing upwards and outwards, so that at 1 yard from its base each shoot is at least 9 inches from its neighbours, and at 2 yards 18 inches. After the second year of possession, do not head these shoots hard back; merely remove a few inches of the tips. About the middle of August go over the trees and shorten the side shoots ("breastwood") on the main branches to five or six good leaves, and in the winter cut them back to two or three buds. A large crop of fine fruit is a certainty on this system, if ether things are right (Fig. 15). Some of the finest Apple trees I have ever seen are those growing at Hatfield, and Lord Salisbury's head gardener summed them up well as "twelve cordons on each tree." Every main branch is roped with splendid fruit like a trained cordon on a wall.
There are a few Apples, of which Lady Sudeley may be quoted as an example, which bear on the tips of the young wood; with these it good supply of breastwood should be allowed.
[A great deal of the work of pruning may be done in summer with great advantage; therefore in this and some other cases the shoots figured are shown in leaf.]
A, growth from a side branch: a, continuation or ex tension shoot: b, side shoots; c, stubby side shoot; d, spurs. Points of stopping: e, leader to six leaves, not counting small basal ones; f, side shoots to three good leaves above small basal leaves.
B, spur: g, previous year's wood; h, leaves disposed on a short stubby growth in a corona; i, prominent bud in centre, probably a blossom bud, and representative of mode of bearing in the Apple generally.
C, shoot intermediate between a spur and a wood shoot: j, leaves closely set on the short, stubby shoot; k, conspicuous terminal bud, representing a blossom bud.
D, side shoot pinched: l, basal leaves; m, good leaves: n, point of stopping; o, laterals pinched at first leaf; p, sublaterals pinched at first joint; g, continuation growths, also sublaterals; r, points of stopping if the shoots are disposed to grow beyond two leaves. Note. - The earlier summer pruning is done the more trouble there is from sublaterals. The difficulty can be overcome to a great extent by pruning in August.