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.
A general overhauling of the whole stock may now be made. Many are the systems adopted with pruning and trimming in the autumn, which come to much the same thing in the end. Some enthusiastic friends go over all their pyramids and bush-fruits, breaking over their outer shoots to stop growth. The broken twigs, dangling and hanging among the healthy leaves, are certainly not pretty. Others go over all and nip off the tops according to length of shoots, and towards leaf-falling cut all to their proper length. A third system, and one we think good, is to go over the trees, cutting moderately in, say, the upper portion; in two or three weeks cut back the middle portion; and, lastly, after a week or two, cut in the lower portion, according as the shape of tree and its vigour may dictate. The checking of growth by partly lifting, so that the tree gets ready for next year's work, is a practice we consider safe; and we hope, before this appears in print, to have served some scores in this manner. We dislike extremes in every form when working on fruit-trees. Wall-trees should now be in good trim : the fruit well exposed, and all wood for next season close in its proper quarters, so that sun and air may reach every part.
Notwithstanding what we say about the success of some who leave Nature to take its own course, to slash out or twist a shoot into space, as circumstances may suggest, is all that some attempt. These would certainly be none the worse if they used a little skill in training and making their walls (gables of houses, sheds, outhouses, etc, as often are the only walls of amateurs, look more creditable.
Having lately been called to visit large market-grounds (one garden from 70 to 100 acres), we found the difference of results obtained within a range of only a few score of yards to be most striking. We noticed large breadths of Plum-trees, many of them the " fruit of the district," Pershore eggs, and not a fruit on them - the cause not being far to seek, and well known to the manager and his able assistants. Skill has been expended here, and success has been achieved too, in days gone by; but this year failure is complete. A neighbour who leaves his trees to the tender care of the elements has heavy crops of "Pershore eggs," he does not know why - but those who have made the matter a study know the cause; and by way of contrast, the Strawberry crop in the skilfully managed garden is magnificent, while the proprietor rich in Plums has none. The cause of this, too, is seen at a glance - worn-out old plants and absence of manure. The fruitful lot are on well-trenched land enriched with plenty of farmyard manure. Wall-trees, up to time of fruit ripening, may have frequent drenchings with hose (where such is in use). Cleanliness is a very important item in wall-tree management. Where fruit is abundant, they can be turned to good account by thinning before they begin to ripen.
While Plums are hard, they can be bottled on the French system, and stored for winter use. We have seen (by a Frenchman) extraordinary results from this practice : Green Gages bottled quite hard and sour, and the following winter and spring, or later, turned out for use, with the "Gage" flavour unmistakably distinct. The green-fruit preserving is by no means general; we, however, know more of the results of the manner of preserving. Strawberries should be planted without delay : ground well enriched and properly dug is the chief secret of success in raising this very desirable fruit.
The work of propagation must now have due attention; much of the success of next year will depend on the work being efficiently carried out this season. Tender kinds should be put in hand first. Clean pots, pans, or boxes, should be ready; also crocks and plenty of clean loam; sand, with a little peat or leaf-mould; sandy loam, with some clean sand over the top, and the whole deeply drained, will answer most purposes. Such plants as Alternantheras, Iresines, and Coleus should be taken first; then may follow Verbenas, Petunias, Ageratums, and similar kinds. Pelargoniums of all kinds do well in boxes, pans, or pots, placed in the full sun; or a border well broken, and the cuttings planted thickly in it, answers well when they are to be potted. The more delicate Tricolors and smaller-growing golden kinds may have first attention. They might be placed singly in the centres of small pots; and these pots, placed in the full sun, plunged in old tan, leaf-mould, or cocoa-nut fibre. Rare or valued kinds may be lifted, potted, and placed in frames or pits to get them to good size for increasing stock - an extra number should always be in hand to meet casualties.
The system of cramming structures with all kinds of plants brings many to grief, and often injures the whole stock: practical men are often obliged to do much of this, because of meeting demands for which they have inadequate means. The most successful amateurs we are acquainted with grow their specialities, and do not attempt to work beyond their means.
Among the beds and borders a quantity of decaying leaves may be seen when the cuttings are taken off. A general cleaning over should take place, and the necessary picking, trimming, and regulating must be persevered in wherever high keeping is desired - and a flower - garden without such is simply ridiculous. Each colour should be quite distinct from its fellow, and each form kept to what was intended. On the contrary, with herbaceous plants, like shrubs and trees, they form outlines of their own, and should not be trimmed into formality like bedding-plants. All borders of mixed plants must be kept free of decaying flowers and leaves. Stake those which require it. Hoeing and keeping weeds down are matters always requiring attention.
Hollyhocks, Dahlias, etc., require strong stakes and ties, which will stand the force of winds : exposed positions require this in particular. In the Rose-garden budding may be persevered with. A border for the stocks may be in a part not much frequented, where the work of budding will not be considered a nuisance, from the litter of tying, etc, which attends the operation. Standard Roses we never cared much for (except in pots for forcing), and this season we have seen so much destruction from last season's frosts that our objection to planting them is increased. Trim off decaying flowers. Look after suckers from stocks, and top-heavy shoots which are taking all the growth from the others. Rose hedges (beautiful objects) should be thinned and trimmed with the knife - no clipping should be tolerated. Always cut close to a bud, and then dead and dying wood will be in a measure avoided. Roses trained on walls or trellises should be cut within bounds, to prevent matting. Many kinds of the Hybrid Perpetuals and Bourbons do well as moderate climbers, and are very manageable. Gloire de Dijon, Souvenir de Malmaison, Mrs Bosanquet, Climbing Devoniensis, Marechal Niel, and some others of this class, do well for climbing from 12 to 20 feet.
But for growing wild and covering large spaces, one has to look for such kinds as Fortuneii, Dundee Rambler, and suchlike.