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: - In your February number, Mr. Eaton, of Buffalo, has an article on "Facts in Grape Culture," in which occurs the following paragraph:
"My practice is, to ventilate freely throughout the season (except, of course, when the outside temperature is too low); and in this respect I differ from Borne of my neighbors, who implicitly follow Chorlton's directions (which doubtless answer perfectly well for his latitude), and keep their grapes upon a short allowance of air until late in the season. The consequence is, that their vines grow late, fail to mature their wood perfectly, and are in no condition to withstand the intense cold to which they are occasionally subjected. Indeed, in some houses the vines have been killed to the ground. My vines ripen their wood early, and are apparently not injured by the cold in the slightest degree, although my vinery is not one of the warmest, being far from air-tight".
Now, without any disrespect towards the above-named gentleman, I would like to know how he arrives at such a conclusion as the believing that I ever advocated "a short allowance of air until late in the season." If he will examine my routine of practice more closely, it is more than probable he will find there is a slight mistake in his present understanding of the subject, for no person admits air more freely than myself; but I do most positively protest against introducing every meteorological state of the atmosphere in the form of an under-current, and for reasons the knowledge of which has been gained by practical experience, without the necessity of any scientific observance, which will, however, bear me out. Mr. Eaton admits an exception in his own mode, "when the outside temperature is too low," which, it may be presumed, very often occurs at the beginning of the season. He may differ from some of his neighbors for aught I know, but I am somewhat sure that some of them are not far below his excellence, who have implicitly followed "Chorlton's directions;" for those directions are founded upon the requirements of the constitutional habits of the Exotic grape vine, and are moreover established general principles, suited, with very slight modification, to any part of the country.
There is plenty of testimony in existence at the present time, if wanted, to prove such assertion; and examples, to show that what he gives us to understand is the right method was certainly wrong, and which have been a grand success when those "directions" were forced upon the operator, and carried out; yes, where canes of last summer averaging from one inch and a half to one inch and three quarters in diameter have been perfectly ripened, - not simply brown in the bark, but thoroughly indurated. If Mr. Eaton had stated details instead of assertion, we might have gained some knowledge; as it is, we are not apprised what are the peculiarities of his position as to shelter, whether or not he used any covering for the last three winters, what is the relative vigor of his vines compared with his neighbors, and if theirs are or are not in a healthy state as to roots, etc.: all these explanations would be of much importance at the present time, and would tend to give the uninitiated some useful information.
Before closing this notice, allow me to state a physiological fact. All plants have, as it were, two stages of vital action during the revolution of the four seasons, viz. Development, and Concentration. The first is simply an expansion of the previous year's fulfilment of the latter; while the present in its turn does the quota of duty for the future. It matters not whether the subject be indigenous to the hottest tropical valley, or the loftiest mountain of cooler latitudes, the circumstances are comparatively the same, and exist in a more or less varied degree of intensity according to the peculiarities of organized structure. When these two stages of periodical growth are permitted to progress unmolested by any injurious interference until the turn point for another commencement, it is obvious to reason that nature's intentions are accomplished; and so long as the circumstances are maintained, the same result will follow to the end of matured lifetime, and so on, from generation to generation.
To insure this desideratum, I have advised, and am continually advising, to beware of bottom drafts and under-currents of cold air, in graperies and plant-houses, and also recommending shelter around orchards and vegetable plots, in order to avoid these destructive companions of our daily toil. The geographical formation of our northern continent renders us liable to all kinds of sudden differences in the atmosphere: no sooner is a current started in one direction, than we are expecting it to change to the opposite point, - hot, dry, moist, cold, and all in the condition of surface drafts, unless intercepted by lofty trees, or other protection. What is the consequence? a frequent stagnation of the circulating fluids, and tendency to those circumstances by which fungoid vegetation can luxuriate. Hence our mildew on the goose-berry, grape, pear, pea, and hosts of other plants, familiar to all observers, the accompanying checks against the healthy progress of many plants, and our common expression, Blight.
Nature generally disposes her organized beings in suitable regions according to structure, but man often desires, in his peregrinations, to have his old associates; also the luxuries which other climes afford, and all these centered in one spot; and, as it is impossible for him to alter what the Great Designer has formed, he has no alternative but to coincide with what is, and adapt his action to nature's demands or expect to be defeated in his wishes. In our particular case the vitis vinifera is so constituted as to require a long, steady, and warm temperature to produce maturity, and all Mr. Eaton or any other cultivator may say to the contrary, it will have it. Let us have all the details of practice, - how, and by what temperature, what is the growth of the vines, size and quality of fruit, and all other explanations, by which he obtained his well-ripened wood, and made the vines more than usually hardy, without reference to any man's advice or method; and we shall, perhaps, receive a useful hint, and another evidence of what is required to arrive at the best success.