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.
It yet appears doubtful whether the wars of the adherents of the "extension" and "restriction" systems are ended. Probably neither of the combatants are to be "convinced against their will," and will consequently hold to the determination of being "of the same opinion still." Before settling which is "to be or not to be," it would be well to define what extension or restriction means.
I presume every Vine is being extended under cultivation until it fills the number of feet of glass allotted to it, be that space great or small. Then restriction begins. The half of the natural life of a Vine embraces a great number of years - it may be assumed to be 500; that is, we know the Vine to be a very long-lived plant as compared to an Elm, or as the life of an elephant compared to a Newfoundland dog. Now it appears to me, that if either extension or restriction has very much to do with the life of a Vine, it matters little whether the extension system goes on for five or fifty years; both terms are but a fraction of the life of a Vine, and this consideration is practically of very little value as bearing on the health of Vines, every other circumstance being favourable. I find Vines, in the hands of some gardeners, restricted to one rafter for a given term of years, producing much finer Grapes and more of them than one Vine filling a whole house in the hands of others. The Cumberland Lodge Vine is by far the largest in this country. It has been extended as no other Vine has ever before been, and yet for very many years it has been subjected to a course of restriction such as no other Vine has ever been submitted to.
The whole aspect of the Vine shows it is neither more nor less healthy than scores of Vines I know which are twenty years old, and restricted to one rafter. The whole thing seems to me to be merely a matter of culture. Even the old veteran of Cumberland Lodge quickly responded last year to the stimulus of forty loads of fresh loam, and the same of rotten cow-dung, as a top-dressing to the roots, by the production of 400 lb. of extra Grapes, and this year promises to be even more bountiful. All culture is artificial. Extension is a good thing for all fruit-trees whatever, until they fill their prescribed space, after which restriction is found to be an equally good thing, and productive of the most beneficial results under the hands of the skilful cultivator. We are accustomed to lift, replant, manure, and top-dress our hardy fruit-trees, and find the fruit increased in quantity and improved in quality to an immense degree. The very same treatment is applicable to Vines, and the same effects are observable.
I have been led into these remarks by a recent visit to Frogmore, where everything in relation to gardening is done on a grand scale, and necessarily on sure and safe principles. Never before has root-pruning and branch-pruning been carried out to the same extent on full-grown trees, and with such uniform success, as has been done at Frogmore during the last two years, simply because the same could not be possible at any other place in the kingdom; and no ordinary amount of decision and energy was necessary to undertake and discharge such a task. Where a few years ago could have been seen only sheets of leafy twigs shutting in every brick in the walls, there are, as I saw them on the occasion of this visit, sheets of blossom or blossom-buds. All sorts of fruit-trees have been served alike, and almost every tree in the gardens, including old standards and the fancy trained espaliers. The low-lying position of these gardens - but little above the bed of the Thames - on a consequently moist subsoil, inducing an overgrowth of timber, compelled this wholesale root-pruning and thinning of the wood.
While this process was in progress, the different varieties of fruits have been ranged together on sections of walls and borders, as the case might be, so far as cultural considerations would permit of its being done. Whole acres of Gooseberry and Currant tree3 have been lifted and replanted after the green fruit of the former and ripe of the latter were gathered in July, to admit of the trenching of the ground, the only precautions necessary being a little shading and syringing at certain times.
What do your readers think of 300 bushels of Onions being required for the royal tables yearly, 40,000 heads of Celery, an acre and a half of Horse-radish, and everything in the Brassica way counting by scores of thousands ! Mr Rose, the head-gardener at Frogmore, adheres to but few varieties of vegetables, knowing, as most really practical men do, that three or four varieties of Cabbages or Onions are amply sufficient. Whilst among figures, let me mention a few things grown by the hundred or thousand for cut flowers, or for the decoration of Windsor Castle. By the thousand, such things as Pinks, bushy plants in 6-inch pots, Mignonette, Chinese Primulas; Iberis, of kinds; Cinerarias, very fine; Cyclamens, one year from the seed, fine, in 6-inch pots; show and fancy Pelargoniums, etc. By the hundred are seen Hydrangeas, Euphorbia Jacquiniflora, Fuchsias, Coleus in variety, Achimenes in 4 and 6 inch pots, already in full bloom in the middle of April; Poinsettias, Azaleas, Roses, Spirea japonica, etc. But in truth I should mention the whole list of popular flowers for all times and seasons.
Marechal Niel and Gloire de Dijon Roses are trained to the rafters of a span-roofed house, and nothing can excel them for cut flowers in spring.
About 8000 pots of Strawberries are forced, Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred being favourite sorts. For earliest supply, a variety is grown, raised by Mr Rose at Floors, named Perfection, something after Black Prince, but which might be called "Scarlet Prince," being greener in the foliage, and bears brighter-coloured fruit, and is excessively prolific. Strawberries were of course abundant, daily supplies being sent to Osborne. Not a plant seemed to have missed.