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.
Dr. Swasey, of the Southern Horticulturist, gives up the pyramidal system of training pear trees, and now advocates high training altogether. He explains the system as follows : "Lat spring we received from New York a lot of the finest pear trees, both standard and dwarf, that we ever saw. They were two and three years old, and had been cut back and pruned on the most approved pyramidal system, with low heads branching widely at bottom and tapering off beautifully to the leader at top. They were models of symmetry; and had we designed them for the garden, lawn or avenue, we would have gone into ecstasies over them. But we wanted them for the orchard, to replace other trees that had died or been removed, and so, with a sharp knife, a steady hand, and eyes closed to their pyramidal beauties, wo began a vigorous onslaught upon their nether branches; nor stayed this seemingly unwise warfare until every standard showed a clean unbranching stem of four feet, and every dwarf one of two feet. At these respective heights, we commence the formation of the "head," by leaving three or five - always an odd number - equally-distributed main branches, cutting out the "leader" immediately above them.
These branches were [cut back to about 6 to 12 inches, according to strength; and, in cutting, were careful to cut to an outside bud, or to one that should throw the future shoot from it into the widest unoccupied space.
"The object in the high training was to give free access under the head of the tree for light, air, whitewash brush and team - in cultivation - and the cutting out of the leader and confining the base on the head to three or five main branches, as well as the cutting to an outside bud, was designed to give us an open, round-headed tree that should give every leaf and fruit an equal chance to the vivifying influence of sunlight and air.
"Our only training through the season has been to rub off all shoots that have sprung from the roots or trunk below the main branches, and all that cross or crowd each other in the centre of the head, as well as all those that have a downward tendency on the outer side of the branches. This same treatment will be pursued a couple of years more, after which, if the trees continue to make a good growth, we never expect to touch them with either knife or pruning saw".
Mr. Swasey's theory of exposing all the branches to air and sunlight is certainly excellent, and undoubtedly, for a Southern country, high training would be most beneficial. Here in the Middle and Border States, fruit-growers are in such love with the pyramidal system, it is impossible to induce them to change. The system allows of closer planting, they are easier handled, easier pruned, and, if well pruned, the branches have all the sun and light they actually need, and yet the fruit is quite as abundant, more easily picked, or less injured in falling to the ground. Besides this, fine sturdy branches are developed, which will bear any weight of fruit without breaking down. We have not yet seen the first disadvantage from pyramidal training, and would be glad to have any one point it out.