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.
The propagation of Peaches and Nectarines being a process almost entirely confined to nursery-gardens, it is not my intention to enter very elaborately into the details connected with it, for very few growers or forcers of the Peach are ever called upon to propagate their own trees. For the following leading particulars connected with the subject I am indebted to Mr Pitman, who for half a century has been connected with the firm of Messrs Osborne & Sons, and who for the greater portion of that period has had the management of the fruit-tree department; and all who are acquainted with the quality of his productions will accept him as an authority of the highest order in the propagation of Peaches and Nectarines.
The stocks used for budding the Peach and Nectarine on are the Mussel plum, and the Brompton or Mignonne plum. The stocks are raised by layering in the ordinary way. In preparing them for budding, they are dressed and cut to a length of about 2 feet, and planted out in autumn or early winter in lines. The following autumn they are taken up. assorted, and again planted in lines, but wider apart than the previous or first year. The succeeding summer, generally from the middle of July to the middle of August, they are budded with the desired varieties of Peaches and Nectarines. The following summer the buds make their first growth, and the trees are termed "Dwarf Maidens." In the autumn of the same year they are taken up, root-pruned, and planted in lines 4 feet apart, and 2 feet from plant to plant. Their growth, which generally consists of one strong shoot, is allowed to remain intact till the following spring.
They are then cut back more or less closely, with the view of securing the production of one central and two lateral shoots right and left; consequently not less than three buds must be left in the process of pruning. The tree is thus with its three growths termed a one-year-trained tree. In the spring of the following year each of these three shoots is cut back to from three to four buds from the base, so as to secure a tree with from nine to ten shoots. The tree having perfected the growth of these shoots, it is, as far as its nursery career is concerned, a full-trained tree (fig. 11), and is ready for being transferred from the nursery-rows to the Peach-house trellis.
In the case of new varieties, the process of producing trained trees is hastened by pinching the top of the first year's growth from the bud after it attains a length of two or three inches. This forces the production of young laterals which are thinned out to a central growth, and two laterals, one on each side.
In producing standard trees, the treatment of the stocks is precisely the same as that pursued in the case of dwarfs up to the time for budding, when, instead of using the Peach or Nectarine bud, a well-developed vigorous top-bud of the stock is inserted at the base of the stock, which bud throws up an earlier and more vigorous shoot than the weakly buds generally formed at the base of the stock produces. This bud is inserted as close to the ground as practicable for the sake of neatness in the future stem. The following year the stock is cut back to the bud, and all growths are rubbed off, excepting the produce of the bud, which under favourable circumstances rapidly attains the desired height. The following year the stems are budded with the Peaches and Nectarines, and in due course transplanted on walls and fences. This double-budding produces a much finer and earlier growth for forming standards with stems from 4 to 5 feet high. Long observation and experience have taught Mr Pitman that certain varieties thrive and grow much better on one stock than on another.
The following varieties succeed best on the Mussel plum: -
Noblesse. Barrington. Royal George. Violette Hative. Late Admirable.
Violetfce Hative. Red Roman. Pitmaston Orange. Hunt's Tawny.
The Brompton or Mignonne is found the best stock for: -
Peaches. Gros Mignonne. Bellegarde. Stirling Castle. Royal Kensington. Royal Charlotte. Malta Nectarines.
Balgowan Imperatrice. Fairchild's Early. Due du Telliers.
The Almond bears a greater affinity to the Peach and Nectarine than the Plum, and doubtless if our climate were more genial it would, as in France, be the most suitable stock. As a proof of this Mr Pitman informs me that some Peach trees raised on the Almond stock that he had to do with succeeded admirably for a while till an unfavourable season caused them to succumb, while the same varieties on the Plum stock endured the ordeal unscathed. The French growers are also partial to the St Julien Plum as a stock for Peaches and Nectarines.
In selecting young trees, it is always most satisfactory, both to the nurseryman and the buyer, that the latter go to the nursery and choose for himself. Avoid trees that have stood long in the nursery rows, and that have been frequently cut hard back, and choose those having from eight to ten strong, well-ripened shoots. See that the union with the stock is perfect and free from gumming, and the stem healthy and growing-like, having no sign of being bark bound.
The border and trees being in readiness, the operation of planting is a very simple one. The first thing to decide is the distance at which the trees are to be planted. I am averse to thick planting for permanent trees. To restrict a Peach tree planted in a good Peach border is very unadvisable. They should have plenty of room to develop themselves. For a Peach-house wall 35 feet long two standard trees on the back are quite sufficient, thus planting them 9 feet from each end of the house. On the front trellis other two dwarfs are enough. Should it be an object to get as much fruit as possible in a short time a temporary tree may be planted, one between the two permanent ones and one at each end, to be removed as the two permanent trees require the space. In the case of the front trellis, the temporary trees should be standards so as to clothe the upper part of the trellis for the time being. Before planting them carefully examine the roots, and shorten back a little any that are gross and strong, and cut away all bruised or broken parts. Turn back the soil sufficiently to allow the roots to be stretched fully and regularly out on the surface.
Place the boles of the trees so that they will be three to four inches clear off the back wall and the front trellis work, so that they may have plenty of room to swell without pressing on the wall or trellis. Cover the roots carefully with the finer portion of the soil to the depth of 6 inches, making it rather firm. Fix the tree loosely to the wall, and water the roots through a rose.
The season I prefer for planting is autumn, say the beginning of November or end of October, when the leaves are dropping off the trees. Planting can, however, be performed, and often is successful, from October to April. In planting Peach-houses, where healthy trees exist. on the open walls, it is a good plan to lift some that are of considerable size, say planted five or six years, and transfer them to the Peach-house. I have done this and got a good crop the following season. Every fibre should be carefully saved in the process. By this means a Peach-house can be furnished with fruit without the loss of a season or a crop.
The many fine varieties of these in cultivation now are great acquisitions for room-decoration, and for grouping or standing singly outdoors. Their noble appearance, and light and graceful forms, and their great diversity of character, enhance their value. When large enough many of the varieties can be set out for the summer with good effect when judiciously placed. Where there is convenience for wintering them many more of the Palm tribe should be used in flower-gardens, especially when they are well sheltered, as high winds soon disfigure the majority of them. All are of easy growth, delighting in a rich loam, with a few bones to keep the soil porous. In the case of any plants that are getting too large for table work, this is a good time to give them a liberal shift, paying particular attention to the drainage, which should be carefully and well done. If they are put into 11 and 12 inch pots, large plants will be the reward. Scarcely any plant gets so large in the same sized pot and looks healthy for a long time, as Palms do.
After potting them let the plants be put into a vinery or peach-house at work, not overwatering them for some time until they have commenced to root freely, after which they must not be checked for want of it, allowing them to stand under glass all this season in a moist growing temperature. Although they will stand a large quantity of rough and cool treatment, still they enjoy liberal culture and soon make fine large plants for standing about in summer. Grown on as recommended the first year, and by gradually hardening them off as the autumn approaches, they will stand all the winter anywhere if the glass does not get below 40° and take no harm; and if there be large demand for room-decoration or where there are entrance-halls or staircases to be filled with plants, they are invaluable. In such positions there is not much light and little ventilation, and there is no other class of plants to equal Palms for such places. After having done duty in this way through the shortest of the days in winter, and if desirous to get them a little larger for placing out of doors in summer, if they have been potted the previous year, nothing will be needed but to put them in a vinery starting about March, where they can stand until the latter end of May, when hardening-off should commence, so that by the time all the heaviest of the bedding-out is done they will be ready to be placed in their allotted places.
When in small pots, and it is wanted to keep them so, if very much pot-bound, reduce the balls considerably; put them in clean pots with good drainage, making the compost pretty rich, and ramming it quite firm to get in as much soil as possible in the pots, as the pots will be small in proportion to the size of plants. Let them be placed in a close moist house for a short time, shading from bright sun until they have taken with the fresh soil, when more light and air should be given: they will then require copious waterings, with frequent syringings, until about the beginning of September, when the heat should be gradually withheld, and they may stand in a light airy house, or be placed in the greenhouse amongst Fuchsias and Geraniums, where they look well, and they can be withdrawn for room-decoration when necessary. Many of those that are considered tender when treated in this way stand house work very well, but I have not tried them out of doors. After having done duty for a short time in the house, let all have a good sponging and syringing with clean water; this will be found beneficial, as quantities of dust will have lodged on the leaves.
The following list are all good and stand this treatment admirably:
Areca Baueri. " lutescens. " sapida. Chamoeropes excelsa.
Corypha Australis. Cycas revoluta.
Lantania Borbonica. Phoenix sylvestris.
" tennis. Livistonia altissima. Dicksonia squarrosa. Seaforthia elegans. Livistonia subglobosa. Thrinax elegans, fine for house only.
A. H. T.