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.
In perusing the American journals, I hare repeatedly noticed inquiries relative to summer pruning the vine. In the August number of the Horticulturist a correspondent remarks: "I am getting a great quantity of foliage; shall I cut it away, or shall I let it run ?" It seems to me that this mooted question requires ventilating; and as it has not received from authors the attention its importance demands, I propose breaking the ice; and trust that some more competent person will discuss the question in extenso.
Now, Mr. Editor, some of your readers will exclaim that that fellow, Al Fresco, has a fresh attack of "Vito mania." I shall plead guilty to the charge, and in extenuation simply remark, that to your humble servant, a vine, like a beautiful woman, is a "thing of beauty and a joy forever." I am not alone in my weakness, for from the most remote periods of antiquity the vine has been viewed as the type of plenty and the symbol of happiness. As the dog, in the animal kingdom, is the friend and companion of man, so may the vine among vegetable productions be said to be his associate and solace ; for wherever the Caucasian race finds a home, there also will be found the vine with its welcome shade and tempting clusters. Like man himself, the vine seems designed for cultivation and improvement; it is culture alone which develops the latent powers and qualities which in its wilding habitat are never called forth. Like a weak, dependent thing, we find it in its native woods clinging for support to its fellow-denizens of the forest, festooning their trunks and branches with its beautiful foliage, or hanging in long tangled masses from the lofty boughs.
It is this dependence upon extraneous support, and the capability of improvement by care and culture, that calls forth in the true student of nature a more than usual interest, - I may say affection, - for the vine. From no other of the productions of the vegetable kingdom will his care and attention receive a more grateful return than from this, his in-teresting and pliant nursling. If the cultivation of Flora's gems has an ameliorating influence on the heart of man, removing his thoughts from the cankering cares of the world, the cultivation of the vine is pre-eminently fitted to solace and soothe his wearied spirits.
"When the farmer resolves upon the destruction of a hedge - row or nest of brambles, he resorts to summer pruning, - for experience has taught him, that if bushes, vines, or brambles are cut during July or August, that the succeeding year's growth will be less luxuriant; and that if the same treatment is adopted for several successive years, the bushes and brambles will be non est The laws of vegetable physiology which apply to the bushes and brambles, equally apply to the vine. There are no specific set of laws applying to brambles and another to the cultivated grapevine, - on the contrary, a beneficent Creator has made his laws comprehensive.
Every act of the vine pruner should be governed by and based upon the laws of vegetable physiology; yet how often do we see these simple and admirable laws violated! Judicious summer pruning is absolutely necessary if we wish to obtain perfect fruit; but the disgraceful mutilation of the vine, and the wholesale destruction of the foliage we so often witness, is, to say the least, horticultural barbarism. That acute observer and accomplished vegetable physiologist, Dr. Lindley, remarked, "That he who would remove from a plant in full bearing a portion of its leaves, with the view of hastening the maturity of its fruit, would be acting with about as much reason as one who should take out part of the lungs and bowels of an animal by way of improving its digestion." But some of your readers will exclaim, "What nonsense! for my vines have grown so long, and the branches and leaves are so thick, that neither sun nor air can reach the fruit; and without sun or air the fruit can not attain perfection." All very true; and persons who allow their vines to arrive at this condition must do so through ignorance or sheer neglect.
If the former, they should at once seek information regarding the true principles of pruning and training ; but if the latter, they are unworthy to be the possessor of such a plant as the vine.
That acute observer, Cavoleau, correctly remarks: "It is with reason that the leaves are called aerial roots, for they inhale from the atmosphere much more nourishment than the roots do from the soil; they not only fulfill in vegetables all the functions of lungs in animals, - they are also the stomach of the plant, and the aliments which are elaborated in them are decomposed and recomposed. like those in the stomach and intestines in animals. Brought to this state of perfection, these alimentary juices descend toward the roots, and in their passage they deposit all the materials necessary to form wood, bark, oil, resins, mucilage, and all the other vegetable principles. In short, it is this descending sap which furnishes to the fruit its juice, perfume, and all that makes it valuable. These effects can not be produced if the leaves are suppressed; and the plant will be weakened in proportion to the extent to which they are removed".
Every leaf is supplied with mouths (termed stomata) upon their under surface; that these mouths perform an important function is beautifully illustrated by the effects of mildew. Mildew usually attacks the under surface of the leaves; the functions of the stomata arc arrested, the fruit, if any, fails to color, and usually shrivels and dies; and if the disease is extensive, the vine will be seriously and permanently injured, if not destroyed. Of this I have recently had a practical as well as costly experiment. Owing to the puffing of vito - gasometers, I was induced, in the spring of '67, to plant about 100 "Extra No. 1, two-year-old," "hardy as an oak," vines, called Delaware and Iona. In August, '67, they were attacked by mildew; and not deeming them worthy of the expenditure necessary for the purchase of sulphur, I left them, exclaiming "Mars omnibus communis" They were allowed to "go it" on principle of - "Man wants but little here below, Nor wants that little long".