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.
Single specimens of shrubs on a lawn are frequently allowed to grow tall and unsightly, to the extent of requiring supporting stakes, detracting much from their beauty of form and foliage during summer. As they flower most profusely on the young shoots of the previous year's growth, pruning in winter of course deprives us of the flowers. The time to prune is immediately after the bloom fades in early summer. Spirea prunifolia for instance, may be formed into a compact plant by attention to cutting out and shortening back misplaced branches. The Golden Bell, (Forsythia), which is now so beautiful, is naturally a spreading plant, having a tendency to send out strong shoots from the base; all plants of this habit should be frequently looked at during growth, and the points of such strong growths pinched off, when about a foot or so in length; by this means they can be formed into fine, massive plants. Deut-gia Scabra is much improved in beauty of both foliage and flowers, by thinning out most of the old wood, leaving the young growths more space to develop. Weigelea Rosea, Spirea Reevsii, the box-leaved Privet, Mist Bush, etc, are vastly improved by a yearly pruning.
The beauty of these plants depends upon their form; the lower branches should spread and meet the grass, so as to hide the stems, and present an appearance of a rounded tuft of vigorous foliage.
In shrubbery borders, where a variety of forms and general massiveness of growth is desired, this care is not so necessary, although a judicious pruning will increase the size and beauty of foliage, and keep the plants in healthful growth.
The vines are planted about 2 1/2 feet apart. The object in planting so closely is to cut down each alternate plant yearly, so that while one half only are fruiting, the others are producing a shoot for fruiting the following season. The advantages of this method are various. In the first place, it is well known that the best fruit is produced from young, healthy growths, both with native and foreign grapes; then the fruiting plant can be treated so as to concentrate its vigor into the crop, and the wood managed without reference to its future arrangement seeing that it will all be removed in the winter pruning. Another important consideration is its adaptation to this system of training; - the lower portion of the central rows is a considerable distance from the glass; the consequence would be that in a few years the top portion only would fruit; but this is obviated by taking up young canes annually, and if properly managed during growth, they will fruit equally over any portion of their length.
The plantation should be gone over several times during the summer, and the tops of the young canes, as they appear above the bearing bushes, should be shortened in, so as to keep them at a uniform height of about three to five feet, according to their strength. This will cause the side branches to grow vigorously and develop fruit buds near the ground, and interlocking with each other, the bushes will support themselves, and avoid the necessity of stakes and wires to prevent high winds from injuring them. The side branches should be shortened in the following winter or spring.
Plants thus trimmed will yield more fruit and of better quality, than if left to grow tall and slender, as by nature they are inclined to do.
I have sometimes left a few rows without pruning, and others pruned but little, which fully illustrated the great importance of shortening in the branches. The unpruned bushes would bear more fruit than could be ripened on them; it would remain red a long time, and finally dry up, being of no value. The best and earliest fruit would be on the bushes well pruned so as to throw the whole strength of the roots into fewer berries.
During the first years the trees should be trained to assume the form of a wine glass, with open head. He then cuts back two opposite sides of the trees - removing all the bearing wood, and is enabled to plow close to the trees in the direction of the cutting. The orchard is thus plowed for two years, turning the furrows towards the trees. After two years the uncut sides of the trees are trimmed as before, and the plowing follows, turning the furrows towards the trees at right angles with the two previous years. This system of cutting back and plowing is alternated every two years.
The trees ordinarily present the appearance of being planted on mounds, whereas really, on level with surface soil. By following this system of mulching with manure and the use of ashes around the trees - the feeding roots do not extend beyond a few feet from the tree; the system of plowing also brings the top soil to the tree, and roots which extend into the poor soil beyond have always been observed to turn back to the manured circle around the trees. This is on the principle of manuring in the hill - instead of enriching the whole ground, which is virtually impracticable in this State.
Keeping Back the Buds - In the fall, remove the earth with a spade from around the trees, but do not expose the roots, and cut a drain from the basin thus formed around each tree into the dead furrow beyond. This basin is filled up in the spring and the mulch applied, which tends to further retard the flow of sap as the season advances.
The buds on the peach tree, is an excrescence - put forth to anticipate the season, and is not necessary, and does not exist in the longer season of its native country, Persia.
But here the germ is projected beyond the bark and enclosed in its wrappings of vegetable tissue in order the more speedily to respond to the advance of the season.
The less the projection, and the thicker the tissue envelopes, the less the danger from late frosts and climate irregularities. It can hardly be said that when the temperature is below zero, any bud is safe; but, even then, the possibility of maintaining a higher temperature of the germ, under the protection or the bud, depends on its size and thickness, and this upon the vigor of the tree in its efforts to mature, even during winter months. In proportion as a tree is vigorous, it. like an animal, has a higher temperature than the air in winter; but when weak from insufficient nutrition it has less ability to resist cold - and not only the germ in the bud, but the whole fruit spur is frequently destroyed.
A small deficiency in the element of nutrition will turn the scale, precisely, as the death of a dozen old persons in a hospital is determined by a few degrees reduction of temperature in the night, while fifty in same ward survive, being more vigorous.
It has been demonstrated by the successful fruiting of an orchard during the past seven years, without a single failure, that the foregoing system offers every inducement, of certainty of crop, to those who choose to adopt it.
This system is based more upon the peculiar physiology of the peach in our climate, than on any specific to insure the fruit, and depends for its success* upon the application of proper nutritious elements, and the judicious use of the knife, mulch and plow.