This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The old adage "that there is nothing new under the sun," I suppose will hold good in this case also, although I am not aware of ever having seen this point in late Grape-culture mentioned in any of the many and able "treatises" that have of late been written on ne cultivation of the Vine. I would recommend the growing all late Grapes in higher temperature than they are generally grown in, and also that they should be started earlier than is usual, so that they may get the benefit of the sun before its power begins to wane in autumn, so as to bring up all the properties which constitute high flavour, and which is not to be effected without plenty of bright sun. And now that it is proved beyond a doubt that Grapes cut and bottled will keep for a long time without any detriment to the flavour, they can all be cut by the second week in January, the Vines pruned, and got ready to start by the first week in March, so that the ripening process may be completed before the end of August, when the sun has still great power; and, in my opinion, the last two months' treatment goes a long way towards the high finish of Grapes, if all other things have been going on right through the early part of the season.
Some may object to ripening Grapes so early that have to hang so long; but they will keep as long, if not longer, than those ripened six weeks later. What has caused the complaint this winter of Grapes not keeping well? The want of sun and heat to finish them properly the past cold, wet, sunless autumn. All the fire-heat that could be given did not make up for the rays of the sun. Our late house was quite ripe by the beginning of September, and I have scarcely lost a berry; and they are as fresh and plump now - the middle of January - as need be. All those sorts that have been subjected to a high temperature are also high in quality, even Muscats and Frontignac, &c; and what can be worse than green Muscats 1 How often do we see at exhibitions early in the season Muscats quite green, which have perhaps been grown along with Hamburgs for this special object, but which, if the framers of many of the schedules of ilower-shows were to adhere to their rules, would be discarded as unfit for exhibition, far less competition, and rightly so ! Even the Hamburg is not so high in flavour when grown in what is termed a cool house.
What has more particularly led me to call attention to this is, that I have Bar-barossa and Trebbiana in a Muscat-house, which is generally started about the middle of February and ripens in August. The Muscats have that fine amber colour which invariably proves that high flavour is not want-ing. Trebbiana was this last season even higher coloured than usual, and the flavour much appreciated by some. This variety we cut earlier than Barbarossa. The latter was allowed to hang until December, although, as far as ripening is concerned, it could have been cut in September. When sent to table, there being a large party, one of the gentlemen, being a great connoisseur of Grapes, could not make out what Grape it was. When told the treatment it had received, his answer was, "From the quality and flavour of the fruit, I can uphold every word you say." Having sent a few to the Editor of the 'Gardener' from the same Vine, his verdict was the same. If Lady Downes, Alicant, Seacliffe Black, Madresfield Court, and Mrs Pince, were all, say, started in March, and treated with a Muscat-house temperature all through the season, I feel perfectly satisfied that the flavour would be higher; also there would not he the so common complaints against their thick skins.
Mrs Pince, treated thus, will rise higher in estimation than it stands at present, for it has then a decided smack of the Muscat, but not when newly ripened. Then there is Eaisin de Calabria, often seen in late houses.similar to the green Muscat spoken of. This I have at present as fine in colour as the finest finished Muscat, and at this season it is most useful when a quantity of dishes are required. There is another point that I think well worthy of consideration - namely, allowing the fruit to hang so long on the Vines. I believe it to be as injurious to them, if not more so, as early forcing; for a large crop hanging up to the month of February and March must, to a certain extent, always be drawing nourishment at a time when everything should be dormant. The above simple statements I do not propound as new, but having proved them by the superior quality of the fruit grown, I am so convinced of the good results of this mode of treatment that I shall follow it up more closely in the coming season.
A late house of Barbarossa and Gros Colman, grown and treated in this way, will be little inferior to a house of Hamburgs. I have little hesitation in saying that they would be better than the latter at the time they are required, which would be after New Year's Day. I also feel convinced that there are varieties of Barbarossa, and one of them more free in fruiting than the other.
A. Henderson. Thoresby Gardens.