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.
Mr. Editor: The Gardener's Monthly has in its December number an extract from the London Gardener's Chronicle on "pruning the grape." The deductions from that extract, and inference suggested with its kindred subject, is what we wish here to speak of. "Vines pruned in September, while the leaves are on, will have the succeeding crop ripen fifteen to twenty days earlier than other vines pruned in November, all other circumstances being equal. The experiment has been tried for years on vines that yield a supply of fruit from June to January." How vines are pruned in September and still retain their crop of fruit till January, the Gardener's Monthly does not show, and we own we can not well understand. "Fifteen to twenty days earlier than other vines pruned in November, all other circumstances "being equal." What are the "all other circumstances" that should be equal ? English practice for England and American practice for America. What would be the result of pruning in September here ? Bursting of the buds and going on with a vigorous growth. Why would this "occur here, and not in England ? Because of the great difference here in the intensity of heat and light.
How is it known that vines under glass in this country would burst their buds by being pruned in September? From experience, knowing that vines have been pruned (with leaves on and off) in July, August, September, October, November, and December. "All other circumstances being equal" can not be applied to vines whose fruit is ripened in different months. For instance, fruit ripened in April or May can not possibly be in a corresponding condition with vines whose fruit is ripe in August and September? Why not? Owing principally to the condition of the organism of the vines at the different periods of the specified times of fruit ripening. Vines in this country that produce fruit in April and May, generally, and we may say invariably, commence ripening their wood for two or three weeks before the fruit begins to color, which is not the case with vines ripening their fruit in August and September. Here, then, we see that there is no corresponding conditions on which the pruning in September can be effected; the latter, in fact, is anything but equal. Vines that are fruited in April or May for several years would be highly benefited by being pruned in July with their leaves on. Why? it may be asked.
Because such vines will commence a second growth about that time; and as this second growth is generally maltreated, the organism of the plant never becomes properly solidified, and may be known after the leaves have fallen, by an examination of the alburnum exhibiting an open spongy character, which ultimately dies; and if the external bark be removed, this imperfected alburnum may be blown out from its position like snuff from a box; the consequent effect seen the following season is weakness of growth, imperfect sexuality, and general debility, which effects are igno-rantly supposed to arise from early forcing, but which, in truth, arises from a lack of knowledge of the physioiogy of the plant's nature and organism, which, if properly understood and treated on the ground of that knowledge, vastly different results would consequently follow, much to the satisfaction of the cultivator, and with an uninjured organism to the vine. Vines of this class and condition, pruned as here suggested, in July, would become wholly resuscitated; and if its condition be watched and understood through -the different changes the plant experiences in being passed round the natural seasons into the artificial, natural, and back again, as time passes on, the "wearing out" by crops of fruit will never occur.
Pruned in July, and the succeeding crop will not only ripen fifteen days earlier, but a month earlier, if by early be meant the time from bursting buds till the fruit be ripe. Here, then, it will be said that we admit that by early pruning the vine it facilitates the earliness of the crop. By pruning in July the plant bursts into the new growth almost at once; but vines started into growth in winter or spring require a month or six weeks of artificial heat before the buds are seen to move. Reckon the time from the bursting of buds to the ripening of the fruit, and very little difference will be found as regards "early ripening," whether we prune in July or November. Is early pruning any benefit to the vine? Most assuredly; but it requires the operator to have a perfect knowledge of the condition of the plant, to be successful. It will not do to prune a vine back in September whose fruit is then just ripened; such, for instance, as vines in a cold grapery.
In England, all their vineries are heated by some means, either by hot water or flues. In cold graperies, here, in September, it is pretty well known that such vines then are growing pretty freely, and we think it would be hard to find an intelligent gardener in the whole Union that would be silly enough to prune such vines back at that time; still, some persons may be induced to ruin their vines by following an English practice imported here - a practice far ahead of science. "Early pruning"should always be performed on the vines if perfection of fruit be an object. The sap should never cease flowing entirely before pruning is commenced, and then it should be effected by degrees. For instance, we notice the vine has ripened its wood, but still there is some young growth going on at the end of all the laterals, but not with force enough in the vine to burst the principal eyes or buds. In this condition prune back the laterals and leave the spurs or branches which have borne the fruit stand bare, with the exception of the proper leaves; now watch the vine for five or six days, and if there be no indications of bursting the top buds on the spurs, then take the knife and cut out all the buds on the spurs, except about three or four from the base.
The sap in motion will then swell up these base buds round and plump. In a few days more the whole of the wood or spur with leaves on may be cut back to the point desired without fear of damage. This requires much experience, however, and is to be practiced successfully only when much interest is taken in the vine, and by a person of a very observing mind. Such operations, indeed, can not be explained in writing; it requires practical examples.
Vines "early pruned" will never bleed at the return of the growing season; this bleeding, however, the Gardener's Monthly contends, is no harm to the plant; we would ask, is it any good? Do we ever find vines bleeding in a state of nature, unless by accident? It may be said that bleeding is nothing more than the running out of so much water, and that it is not sap. We don't believe any such logic. It evidently was sap the season before, and became solidified through all the ramifications of the plant structure; and when heat became applied to it the next spring, its gummy particles became liquidized, and of course expansion takes place in the pores of the wood; and if it does not, or can not, run out at cuts at the end of its branches, it will run out at the points where nature intended it should run out, and that is at the buds. What is the motive power of growth? Sap expanding by heat. The very force of this expansion is the sole cause of the bud moving. Now, let this water or sap run out at the ends of the shoots for a week or two, and does any intelligent person mean to say it is no harm? The harm is a weakening of the system with a later bursting of the buds.
Weakening, because the moment the bud is pushed out, a return of the fluid to the roots is effected, which puts the roots into action, absorbing crude fluids from the earth. We know some are of opinion that there is no such thing as circulation of the sap in the plant structure; but we are not of that philosophy, for we well know that in the animal creation there is; and we also know that when and where a law is established, it holds good, analogically, throughout the whole ramifications of God's creations; consequently there is circulation of sap in the vegetable creation. No circulation! Why, the clouds circulate, the rains circulate, the tides circulate, the earth, moon, and stars circulate, together with all the vast canopy, and sing in circulating praises to the great Author of so wondrous a circulating system. We have penned these remarks, not to prevent experiment or throw a straw in the path of scientific research, but to suggest caution in experimenting. We know that many of our large and extensive horticultural pursuits are conducted with an amateur's experience, persons in the business from a real love of it, and wanting that experience that can be obtained only through a long period of toil and observation; should such a one in a state of ecstasy rush into his vineyard in the month of September and prune all his vines, under the dreamy hope of bringing his crop of grapes - which formerly but half ripened - some fifteen or twenty days earlier into market, or with the thought of being able to ripen his much loved Maxatawney, the result may cost him more than if he had worked on in accordance with the general order of things.
Our advice to the readers of the Horticulturist is, think twice before acting once. John Ellis.