This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Few fruit trees give more satisfaction in the orchard house than a choice selection of peaches and nectarines: when in blossom, in early spring, the trees are so fresh and beautiful; they are so exceedingly prolific; and in autumn, what fruit can vie in beauty with a ripe peach or nectarine? and what to the lover of fruit trees can be more gratifying than to see his sideboard or dining-table decorated with peach-bushes in pots, studded with their lovely and perfectly ripened fruit?
If bushes of only a mod-crate size are required, 11-inch pots, as recommended for apricots, may be used. It is surprising to see what vigorous growth, and what fine fruit, peach trees in 11-inch pots give; for, owing to the compost being rammed down, a large quantity of nutriment is given in a small space. I may as well, however, state, once tor all, and tor all descriptions of fruits, that, if fewer and larger trees are required, larger pots may be employed; thus 13, 15, or 18-inch pots may be used with equal success, by having numerous apertures at the bottom, allowing the emission of roots during the summer, root pruning, and putting the tree to rest during the winter. A peach or nectarine tree may thus, in two or three years, be made capable of bearing many dozens of fruit; but I must confess that my taste inclines to small prolific trees only because one can have greater variety in a small space; and small trees are pretty, are easily looked over, so that each leaf and bud, each blossom and fruit is known.
If peach trees, already in pots, and in a bearing state, can be purchased, so much the better, for then a year is saved; but as such are more expen-sive than either "maiden" or "cut-down" trees, the cost of which is generally about 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. each, these had better be purchased. I may here state that "cut down" trees are two years old, and if nice healthy trees of this description, with fully ripened shoots, can be found, they are better than "maiden" trees. But as they are not often to be met with, I will first give the treatment required by one-year-old, or "maiden" trees.
These have one shoot, more or less vigorous, which should be well furnished with buds towards its base. This shoot must be cut clean off with a sharp knife, at the seventy bud from its base, and the tree then potted in the same compost recommended for apricots, in the same sized pots, and at the same season, being towards the end of October, or early in November.* The following summer every bud will, or ought to, produce a shoot. If there are seven shoots, the tree is formed for the season: they need not have their tops pinched off, but will merely require the laterals (small side shoots) pinched off to within two buds of their bases as soon as they are four inches long. This will induce the ripening of the shoots, so that by the end of the summer they will be full of blossom buds. At the end of August the point of each shoot should be pinched off, and they will then only require the annual pruning, either in autumn or spring, for which directions are given below. If the tree puts forth a fewer number of shoots than seven, the tops of all should be pinched off early in June; each shoot will then put forth three or more young shoots; all that are not required to form the tree must be pinched off in the same way as laterals, leaving seven, or, if the tree be vigorous, nine shoots to each tree.
These trifling manipulations are easy to do, but difficult to describe: so to make the matter as clear as possible, let us place a young tree before us early in June, with five branches, each twelve inches in length; then let us, with a sharp penknife, shorten each branch to nine inches; then, at the end of June, let us take the same tree in hand, and we shall find that each short-' ened branch has put forth two or three young shoots; we must pinch them so as to leave on four branches two, and on one only one, making nine shoots, which as they grow should have their laterals pinched off regularly; they will then make vigorous trees in one summer, and form abundance of blossom-buds: no other pruning is necessary the first season; and if abundant ventilation and syringing daily, as recommended for apricots, have been attended to, the fruit buds will, towards the end of August, begin to be fully developed. The experienced gardener can at once distinguish them: such a person may prune his trees early in October. Let me endeavor to tell how to distinguish a fruit-bud, which, by the way, is the only bud to prune down to.
Well, then, generally, or "general always," as a foreign friend expresses it, when he wishes to say anything that invariably takes place, towards the base of each of your seven or nine shoots, you will find four or five pointed single buds, covered with their brown coat; these are leaf-buds; next to these, and higher up the shoots, are triple buds, a plump silver-coated one on each side, and a thin one in the centre. These plump silvery buds are blossom-buds, and the central one a leaf-bud, which produces a shoot, so necessary to the well-being of the blossom-buds, that without it they would be Abortive. Be sure to have on each shoot, if possible, nine to twelve of these triple buds, and cut off the shoot close to one of them; if this cannot be found at the proper place, so as to be able to form the foundation of a nice, regularly-shaped, bush-like tree, cut off the shoot at a leaf-bud. If the trees are pruned in autumn, the buds are difficult to distinguish; it will, therefore, be better for the beginner not to prune his peach and nectarine trees till February or early in March, when every bud will plainly show its character, - the blossom-buds by that time will have opened their silvery coat, and the bright pink will be peeping out.
If the shoot be cut off at a single blossom-bud, it will die down to the next leaf-bud; this must therefore be carefully avoided.
* This season is recommended, but it may be departed from; for my peaches and nectarines are sometimes not potted till March, yet they make fine growth.