Pruning, in gardening and the culture of forests, denotes the lopping off exuberant or diseased branches, with a view to render trees more fruitful; to make them grow higher, and with greater re-gularity ; or to produce larger and better-tasted fruit.
The greatest care is requisite in the management of wall-fruit-trees, especially during the spring, when their growth is most rapid : all superfluous branches must be closely cut off with a sharp bill, in order that the wound may speedily heal. Those, however, which are intended to bear fruit in the succeeding year, ought on no account to be shortened during their growth ; for such operation would cause two lateral shoots to spring from the eyes beneath the part where they were cut off; and the course of the sap would be divererted : hence it becomes necessary to remove these shoots; as they will otherwise prove highly detrimental to the tree.
Farther, Mr. Bucknall directs all useless buds to be rubbed off, immediately after they appear, and not to be extirpated by the knife; because new buds will shoot forth with increased vigour : others must be pinched, where new shoots are required to supply the vacancies of the wall. By this treatment, fruit-trees may be so managed, as to render the operation of pruning unnecessary during the winter. With respect to standards, it will be advisable to shorten their branches only,where they are either; too luxuriant, or, by growing irregularly, divert the current of the sap, and consequently weaken the whole. In such case, the more vigorous sprouts ought to be closely cut down, in order to strengthen the other parts : but these amputations should not be performed on stone-fruit trees ; which are very liable to become afFected with the Gum, and thus, in a short time, to perish. It will, therefore, be necessary in the latter instance, to pinch the straggling shoots early in the spring.—But all decaying or apparently dead branches, whether beloug:ng to wall, or other fruit-trees, ought to be pruned closely to the stem; because, by attracting noxious particles from the air, and admitting too great a degree of moisture into the tree. such useless parts contaminate the balsamic virtues of the sap, and thus eventually cause the destruction of the tree, by affording a nest in which insects will deposit, their eggs.—Lastly, all branches that intersect each other, and thus. occasion a confusion in the crown of the tree, ought likewise to be carefully removed ; and, as vigorous young shoots often spring from old arms near the trunk, and grow up into the head, they must be annually exterminated; lest they should fill the tree with too much wood.
In regard to the proper period for commencing this operation on fruit-trees, especially in orchards, Mr. Bucknall is of opinion, that pruning should be first practised in the nursery, and regularly continued to the " extremity of old age." Thus, it will be advisable to take off only a small quantity of wood at one time; and, by employing his medication (See Canker), the wounds will heal without causing any more blemishes in the tree than those to which it was subject, at the time when the branch was separated. If such tree, however, be very old, and much incumbered with useless wood, it will be proper to cut off all decayed, rotten, or blighted branches, previously to the operation; and to rub them with the preparation above alluded to, with a view to exclude the cold winds : — lastly, Mr. B. observes, that the rest may be left " to the discretion of each person, who will soon see how much is necessary ; self-conviction being the best school for improvement."
If forest-trees have attained a large size, it will be most advisable not to prune them, unless it be absolutely requisite; and, even in such case, very few large branches ought to be taken off. Small shoots must be lopped closely, smoothly, and in an oblique direction; but extensive arms should be cut off at the distance of three or four inches from the stem. The branches of crooked trees must be separated at the curve, sloping upwards; and one of the most vigorous branches trained, for the purpose of raising a new stem : if, on the contrary, the tree be top-heavy, it will be neces-sary to thin the boughs that proceed from the main branches.—And, if the former continue to grow out of the sides, and the top be unable to support its own weight, such boughs as have appeared in the spring, ought to be closely pruned immediately after Midsummer.
Pruning. - Of this important point of horticulture, we have formerly given an outline which, together with the directions interspersed in the accounts of individual trees, was deemed sufficient for the information of readers, in general. Nevertheless we have, at the request of several correspondents, been induced to add a few supplementary hints, which are chiefly derived from our own experience; because the practical suggestions obtained from the works of Mr. Bucknall, and Mr. Forsyth, have already been communicated in the progress of this work, under a variety of articles, connected either with particular trees, or with different subjects relative to orcharding.
The proper age, and season, for pruning fruit-trees, is of the first consequence; as we seldom meet with an orchard which, in this re-spect, has been judiciously managed. To ensure success, there is required not only the eye of an accurate observer, but also a complete knowledge of the various kinds of fruit-bearing trees, their peculiar nature, and habits; because almost every sort must be treated in a different manner. Many of these commonly produce their fruit on the shoots of the preceding year, such as peaches, nectarines, etc; others again, on branches which have attained the age of 3, 5, 15, or 20 years ; for instance, pears, plums, cherries, etc. - For the proper nursing and training of all these trees, it will be indispensably requisite to attend to this circumstance, that a sufficient portion of fertile wood be left in every part: at the same time, it would be prejudicial to the growth and health of a tree, to leave too many useless brandies, which only tend to exhaust their nutritive powers, and eventually to accelerate their decay.
On the whole, it deserves to be noticed, that peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, and plums, will thrive more vigorously, when they are pruned with a sparing hand ; as, otherwise, they are apt to bleed profusely, or to part with such a quantity of gum, as will often prove fatal : hence, the safest method is, to remove only the superfluous sprigs as soon as they appear, and not to cut off those new shoots, which may be required to fill up vacant spaces on the wall. By such management, the trees above alluded to, may be preserved in a prosperous condition ; and they will grow with greater regularity, and less trouble, than by the common method of clipping them promiscuously.
Apple and pear-trees ought to be treated, during the summer, in a slimilar manner ; but, in the winter, they require a different pro-cess. For, as peaches and nectarines bear their fruits mostly on the annual branches, these must be lopped according to the degree of strength observed in the individual tree ; so that they may be left in a state sufficiently vigorous to produce new shoots in the succeeding year: on the contrary, pear, apple, plum, and cherry-trees, yielding their fruits on the young sprigs that proceed from boughs of several years growth, they should not be pruned; because branches which naturally abound with these sprouts, would thus increase the wood, but never afford a proportionate addition of fruit. - And, as it frequently happens, that the flower-buds appear first on the extremity of the last year's sprig, such cutting of the branches would deprive the tree of its future blossoms.
With respect to the pruning of high or lofty trees, we shall briefly observe, that their branches ought not to be curtailed or removed, unless they grow too luxuriantly and irregularly on one side of the stem, so as to deprive the collateral boughs of the necessary supply of sap ; on account of which, other parts of the tree would remain deficient ; or its roots might be too much weakened: in this case, it will be advisable to lop a branch to such extent, as may be deemed requisite for the production of lateral boughs, in order to supply the open or naked sides. These observations, however, apply only to apple and pear-trees, which shoot forth their blossoms from the branchy wood, after it has attained the age of several years : on the contrary, most kinds of stone fruit would, after such pruning, part with their gum, and speedily perish.