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.
FOR several seasons the best Isabella Grapes we have had, ripened thoroughly in a situation where they received no ray of sun till after twelve o'clock. In consequence of this absence of light for half the day, the vine is usually two weeks later in assuming its leaves than its fellows in the neighborhood, and yet the berries were larger, blacker, and more uniformly good and free from mildew. In their native places our wild grapes ascend trees, and there perfect themselves in much shade. Why should they not do so in gardens? etc. We submitted the question to two experienced persons and give their replies.
"J. Jay Smith, Esq. - Dear Sir - With regard to your inquiry concerning grapes ripening in shade, I have always found that grapes ripen well, only when the foliage continues healthy and luxuriant until the fruit is ripe. It oftentimes occurs, when grapes are growing in a sheltered spot, but under the full influence of sun, that the foliage is covered with thrip, and occasionally red spider. These soon work a dreadful havoc on the leaves. The leaves dry up, are blown off, and the grapes hanging on the vines are perfectly exposed, the leaves being all fallen off except a few growing points. This is a very common occurrence, and where it is so, the half of the berries will be green, never ripening. On the other hand, when the vine happens to be trained in a rather shady position, the leaves are seldom destroyed by insects; consequently, the fruit has the full benefit of them, and ripens. I think, and I speak from observation, that grapes will ripen better when the plants are fully exposed, provided the foliage is kept in healthy and vigorous action, and plenty of it I never practise close summer pruning on native grapes. I shorten the shoot about six eyes above the bunch, and allow all the lateral branches to remain, and cut out the branches when too thick.
There is no doubt that our wine growers in the West have not yet practised the proper system of growing the vines; they keep them too small; prune too much. They should be allowed to extend yearly, until one vine covered a large space and inherited a stem or trunk where the sap would be more thoroughly elaborated. It has been frequently remarked that the best grapes are always found at extreme points of shoots, no matter how long these shoots may be. I am of opinion that the native grape will never be improved by crossing with the foreign. Our native grapes are all more or less subject to mildew, and any tinge of foreign blood would only increase that tendency. We must endeavor by cross impregnation and cultivation to improve our native varieties, without any admixture of the foreign element. I would expect more from an improvement on the foreign, such as the B. Hamburg crossed with Isabella, so as to impart a leetle of the foxy flavor, to give character and taste to the incipient sweetness of the foreign sorts. No doubt they would be improved by it. I have often spoken against the common practice of training the foreign grape up rafters, as it allows the fruit to hang dear of the foliage.
In a grapery which I am now building, it is intended to form perpendicular trellises and keep the glass perfectly clear from foliage; the leaves shade and protect the fruit from the influences of the atmosphere. Those who have gathered strawberries, know that the finest flavored and best colored fruit is always hid among the foliage; but the foliage must have all the light and air that can be obtained.
"I would not expect to grow grapes to their greatest perfection by planting vines in shaded spots; but I would expect to find the best grapes where there is most foliage, just as you will find the largest potatoes where the haulm is strongest and healthiest.
" This is somewhat rambling - not so exact as an essay - but you will gather my views from it, on the subject you mentioned.
"Some years ago, when the grape crop was a total failure in this whole region, I discovered a framework loaded with the most perfect Isabella and Catawbas I almost ever saw. At the sides of the poor arbor there was no fruit, but the level top was covered and densely shaded by a thick crop of leaves, while underneath, as if to hide from the sun, hung in splendid clusters the grapes above alluded to. Scarcely a ray of sunshine fell upon them the whole day, except when the wind parted the leaves. These grapes were highly colored, and very finely flavored. Shade usually ripens the sweetest currants, raspberries and grapes in their native state, but when there is deep trenching and high manuring it may be different "Respectfully, Samuel Miller".