This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", 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.
I have these two under the same treatment in newly-prepared borders, Madres-field Court having the best chance, as it is planted in two houses, the one a Muscat house, the other a Lady Downes. All the Vines have done well, and Madresfield Court is in strength equal to the best cane in the house. I formed a good opinion of this Grape last year, only it did not keep to my expectations. Thinking then that I saw the cause of it not keeping, I did not alter my good opinion of it, but propagated it so as to plant a house of it, thinking it would come in well after Hamburgs and before Lady Downes. In planting it, I used the precaution to plant alternately with Black Hamburg. After another year's experience of it, I find it does not keep so well as Black Hamburg, but has kept even worse than it did last year: not only so, but it rotted in the bunch before it was properly ripe, or sweetened to the height of its flavour. Mr Thomson from the Tweed Vineyard, saw it in August, examined it minutely, and said he never before saw it so fine. In selecting the best bunches for the eight varieties for Glasgow show, I found it was going as Mr Cramb described in the ' Chronicle,' where he has been held in error by many for giving a true description of it under his care.
After returning from Glasgow, in the short space of eight days, I found the best bunches of Madresfield Court a perfect wreck, unpresentable at a table of the meanest character. I can safely say, had these bunches been shown in August, they might have been considered very tine. As regards the spotty character that it assumes in its unripe state, it was worse with me than any other Grape grown here. These houses were started in the early part of February. Expecting the Vines to grow grossly and strong as they indicated the previous year, and with the intention of having the wood well ripened, they were watered sparingly. As soon as the Grapes were thinned, a little front air was given during mild nights, which was increased until the first sign of colour was perceptible, when full air was put on the house night and day, and moisture withheld. Under the same treatment all the other varieties are keeping well.
Golden Champion with me is growing in a Hamburg house, with a mixed lot of Vines at one end, that require heat longer in the season to finish them as well as they should be. To modify this I start soon, and leave a little front air on during the night at the end where the Hamburgs and Golden Champions are growing. I have it worked on the Hamburg and also on its own roots. It was ripe in July, and some of the bunches were cut in October slightly shrivelled, of excellent flavour and without a spot. J. Hunter.
I was glad to see in the ' Gardener' for last month that Mr Hutchinson and his friends had been successful in fruiting the two new Grapes - Madrestield Court and Golden Champion. The former I have fruited here this season, early in pots, and also inarched on the Black Alicant (one of its parents), and in neither case did it prove worthy of cultivation. When under pot-culture the berries began to crack with the first signs of colouring. Subsequently a great many of the berries were attacked with a spotty gangrene which made sad work with the bunches. The inarched Vine showed some nice bunches of fruit, with good-sized berries, very promising indeed until about ripe, when the shrivelled spot made its appearance on the berries, and, on slight pressure with the finger, the skin would burst, in fact sloughing away. Golden Champion I have fruited in pots only. Nice bunches were produced which set well, but some of the berries when about changing colour showed the spot, and were cut away, and the bunches afterwards finished a fine sulphur-yellow, with the flavour all that could be desired. I have a fine cane of this Vine on the Muscat Hamburg, and next spring I intend to inarch it on the Duchess of Buccleuch, which I believe will prove the best of all stocks for it.
My opinion with regard to this fine Grape is, that we ought not to thin the bunches too much, so that, should any of the berries become diseased, they might be cut away without materially disfiguring the bunches. Isaac Watson.
Mr Hutchinson's assertion is correct. I did assist to judge last August at the Cardiff show; and we did agree to give it the prize in preference to the Hamburg, solely on the condition that the bunches were larger and better coloured - not, certainly, owing to superiority of flavour. The Madrestield possesses the property of producing a high colour for a month or more before it reaches maturity. This was a vigorous attempt to gain a prize, as the two bunches of the Hamburg and Madrestield Court were the produce of the same garden. I cannot help noticing that it is unjust on the part of the managing committee to allow a competitor to stage two varieties of Grapes, or any other kind of fruit, for the same prize, which in my opinion is tantamount to saying, " If I lose by one dish, I may gain by the other." Such a practice presses heavily upon gardeners of less accommodation than that at Cyfarthfa Castle, where the means are very extensive, and where every appliance for the production of first-class fruit that ingenuity can suggest has been used.
I have known Mr Cox personally for many years past, and have the highest opinion of his integrity, and believe him to be incapable of attempting to deceive the public by his new Grape, so that my strictures have no personal relation; they are not tares sown by an enemy. Our opinions on the quality of this Grape, however much they may differ at present, will some day be more united. It is merely a question of time: the truth or falsity of what I have said will, sooner or later, be recognised. In all our discussions, what we really do want, and should by legitimate means strive to obtain, are facts - positive facts, rather than speculative guesses.
I have, as well as many other gardeners, produced fruit of the Madresfield Grape equal in every respect to the specimen shown at Cardiff, which Mr Hutchinson sets up as an example, and otherwise lauds so highly. Still withal it will not keep, for so soon as ever it reaches an eatable condition it rots out of existence. No matter how carefully aridity, night and day ventilation, are managed, the infection spreads from berry to berry, till nothing remains but the skeleton, however promptly the diseased ones are removed. If Mr Hutchinson identifies the dry coriaceous spots sometimes observed on the White Muscat, and very frequently on Lady Downes seedling, he labours under a mistake, as they are in every respect distinct from that on the Madresfield Court. These spots arise from various causes, and none are so fertile as an over-heated atmosphere and deficiency of foliage. Many of us ventilate too scantily, and that particularly during the early part of the day, and so keep a potent .invisible enemy in confinement, while he is of himself making a strong effort to escape.
At last, when probably too late, we discover his depredations, and then begin to chant, "Oh dear, what can the matter be?"
If true, as Mr Hutchinson has alleged, that the principal cause of failure is an undue amount of water at the time of stoning - a statement that has certainly taken me by surprise - will he then have the kindness to explain how a little more or a little less water at that period exerts an influence over perfect maturation? There is no one, I hope, possessing even the simplest rudiments of Grape-culture, who would administer so large a dose of aqueous food as to paralyse vitality - a necessary event if Mr Hutchinson's dictum is correct. Where is our refuge, may I ask, when the roots are growing in an outside border, and more particularly during the past summer, as the rainfall has everywhere been excessive? In my case the roots were confined to the inside of the house, so that no damage from wet could possibly occur. Alexander Cramb.