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.
In "Hints for Amateurs" last month, "M. T." says: "Horizontal training answers capitally for every kind of fruit we know. Pears, Plums, Peaches, and Apricots we have trained in this form with the view of reducing labour." As I am interested in such matters, I shall regard it as a favour if " M. T." will furnish me with the address of any garden where good examples of Peach-trees of mature age (say from ten to thirty years) trained on the horizontal system are to be seen. Youthful examples are of no value. I never yet have seen a good horizontally trained Peach-tree in this country, nor a Plum either; and those which I have seen in French gardens had been raised with much labour and difficulty, and were not of a kind to encourage any one to attempt the plan whose object was fine trees and good crops of fruit. The labour and time spent over them were out of all proportion to the results obtained. J. S.
[We sent "J. S's" question to "M. T.," who replies : - ] "I have for a number of years trained trees as described in 'Hints,' but I do not know of any good examples of Peaches trained in any form at the maximum age named by your correspondent 'J. S.' Neither do I know why horizontally trained trees should not remain in healthy condition as long as when trained into any other form. Those I train as fans are treated the same as the horizontals - the bearing wood all on one side, current year's shoots taken from base of that of the previous year : the latter is cut out, and its successor takes its place. To keep the trees vigorous and free from disfigurement, a system of introducing young leaders is practised, so that the substance of the tree never really becomes old. I believe in this practice with every kind of fruit-tree with which I am acquainted. I would not object to send branches of horizontal training to your correspondent. M. T".
I shall be much pleased to show "J. S." a Peach and Nectarine tree horizontally trained in a lean-to house. It is 46 feet long by 14 wide, the two trees filling it. Every gentleman, gardener, or novice exclaims, on entering the house, "What beautiful trees!" I have gathered eight hundred fruit off the two trees. They are now twelve years old. In my experience they are less trouble in training, disbudding, &c; and when they attain their full size, or "fill the house," any one once shown can do all that is required to them. I have a Royal George Peach in another house sixteen years old, and a number of specimens in other houses from last season's maidens to five-year-olds. I find I have a better set of fruit on my horizontal trees than on those fan-trained, owing, I think, the last dull season or two, to the young wood being more exposed to the light and air.
If "J. S." will pay a visit to Rangemore, the seat of M. T. Bass, Esq., near Burton-on-Trent, I have no doubt Mr Bennett will have great pleasure in showing him horizontally trained Peach-trees above fourteen years old which will please him; and by the time he has gone through the Peach ranges and seen several trees of various ages trained on the same system, all laden with fruit and clothed with spurs, and bearing wood from main stem to tip of branch, the opinion which he formed of the system when visiting the French gardens may be changed a little. I have visited Rangemore Gardens annually for nine seasons, and I have always found the trees mentioned carrying a full crop of fruit. Like "J. S.," I was prejudiced against the system, having seen it tried by a good gardener for a few seasons, and then discontinued because it did not answer. Now I am convinced it was through mismanagement. R. Prince.