The Gardeners' Chronicle 42: 691 (Oct. 15, 1842)
A Practitioner

THE Briar is a plant that may be considered distinct in its habits from almost all others, and the difficulty in dealing with it (if such it may be called) arises from its inclination to form new leaders more vigorous than preceding ones. These—unlike most other shrubs which grow at the points of their shoots at particular seasons, and after adding to their extreme length first a spring and then an autumn shoot, throw their branches around them in symmetrical evenness—either proceed as suckers directly from the ground, or spring up from the sides of the original plant; the juices of which appearing to increase upon it faster than they can be expended by a mode of growth habitual to other shrubs, force their way through a fresh channel, and throw up the strong and thick shoot, whose formation as to time seems to have greater reference to the vigour of the individual plant than to the season.

It is the shoot and not the original stem which is desired by the gardener; and when it comes into his hands, he treats it in a very different manner to that which would be successful with trees in general, by cutting off every branch and shortening the roots. In this state it is re-planted as early in the season as possible, and down its sides and at its summit the rudiments of the future branches show themselves early in the spring. These, permitted to grow to the desired number only, are worked; in the succeeding spring the wild shoots are cut away, excepting a single eye (beyond the inserted bud), which is retained in order to keep the sap moving through the whole length of the shoot, and the entire vigour of the plant is eventually thrown into the inserted bud. When a free-growing variety has thus the vigour of a well-rooted stock devoted to it, the increase is prodigious; yet, notwithstanding this, if the shoots be permitted to grow unstopped, it will produce in many instances as fine if not finer flowers the first year as at any subsequent period. If, however, a head be desired, the shoot is nipped off the first year to perhaps half an inch—a process detrimental to the flower of that season.

The succeeding year the plant, in its utmost health and vigour, comes under the pruner's hand, and a degree of skill and consideration is then required much more than commensurate with the knowledge and habit of the common gardener; whose object in pruning is generally this, viz., to procure from the plant the best show of bloom at the cost of the least possible trouble. To do this he leaves on his trained plants a certain quantity of ripe wood frequently unshortened, from which he knows that flowers will be obtained. and he forces the sap into that particular channel by cutting out the other branches entirely.

The result of such treatment is this:—The tip of the branch left generally dies and becomes unsightly; a moderate quantity of very moderate bloom is produced upon the stock, whilst on the base of those which have been cut away, green and brittle branches are thrown out, different in hue from the rest of the plant, whose appearance they deform, while they rob the flowers of their nourishment. With standards a certain number of stocks are partially shortened; the remainder are cut away as above, and the plant is expected to form flower and fill itself with wood in some manner and shape, but exactly how, and precisely in what shape, does not come under consideration. Thus, the symmetry of the head is injured, the flowers are unevenly placed, and are, moreover, inferior both in quantity and quality; some dead wood deforms the plant, and unnecessary wounds are left on it.

In order to arrive at the most advantageous mode of pruning, it is desirable to examine, as far we are able, into the operations of nature, that we may follow her laws, and interfere as little as possible with the process going forward.

We are desirous to continue and confine the ascent of the sap to the head then in being, i. e., to that which has sprung from the inserted buds. To do this, we must not only destroy side-shoots and suckers, but find for the sap a free channel to flow in, and preserve the ripened wood to secure a future bloom; whilst the balance must be kept up by permitting no shoot to grow to the comparative stagnation of the rest, for if the sap travels too freely there will belittle flower, and if too slow, but little growth.

The calculation I have always acted upon, and I think with success, is this:—How many buds can the tree work with vigour? Suppose the answer to be two to every branch upon it, I cut away in the spring all the buds of last year's growth, except those I wish to work; thus starting the buds at the base instead of at the summit of the shoots, taking care, as far as I can, not to leave green and useless wood in one stock, and a hard and too woody base to another, but endeavouring to keep the sap in its accustomed channel and regularly distributed. Thus, a symmetrical head is obtained, and such shoots as do spring from the buds may occasionally be preserved, and so pruned from time to time as to keep the plant near home; it is surprising how successfully this careful mode of pruning will make a tree bloom, even under most disadvantageous circumstances.

I have at this moment two plants of the Bengal florida, the wood of which cannot be parted with, as it ornaments a verandah; upon each of these, respectively, I have placed a bud of Lamarque and Madame Desprez, and the shoots from them have been carried up the centre as leaders. Every spring the Bengal florida flowers freely, and when this bloom is over, the Lamarque and Desprez come into flower. Although the wood in the former is delicate, and requires management, it has never yet failed for several years, and is ornamental to the end of autumn. No comparison can be instituted between the flowering of this plant, and another in a similar situation, and in the same aspect; but which, pruned in the ordinary way, with a large quantity of wood left on it, produces but little bloom, and that little bad—A Practitioner.

(To be continued.)

The Gardeners' Chronicle 42: 708 (Oct. 22, 1842)
(Continued from page 691)
A Practitioner

THE practice I would insist upon is this:—That the system of the tree be not interfered with, excepting only so far as the situation is concerned, and then not to such an extent as to throw back the sap to two-year old wood; which operation, if the tree were vigorous, would injure the flower by producing weed in its stead; and, if weak, might destroy its health by removing buds useful in drawing up the sap:—That, with due regard to the symmetry of the plant, each shoot do its proportion of work, and be kept as nearly as possible of a regular size; be stopped when too vigorous, or cut out when too weak; and that shoots bearing matured or entirely-formed leaves he not cut away upon pretence of strengthening the rest:—That no more buds be left than are likely to start (and that with vigour from well-ripened wood); nor so many taken away as shall force the sap to find fresh channels of escape:—That the cultivator shall have a definite idea of what he means when he prunes, as to where the buds will start, and in what direction the branches from them will grow; leaving in standards (as far as he can do) his top buds outside, in order to expand the head; which by these means will be symmetrical, and not bare on one side from the death of a branch of half-dried wood, nor bushy on another from a cluster of eyes at the end of a two year old shoot. He will thus obtain a regular supply of flowers, well dispersed amongst the foliage, with large and healthy leaves; and, lastly, he will maintain both the vigour and shape of his plants. Their heads will be well thrown open to the air, and a very moderate attention to the remand of stickers and side shoots will plump up the buds for the succeeding year, and carry the sap through the accustomed channels with freedom.

The deviations from this mode of treatment will be dependent upon certain varieties which will not flower unless great length of shoot be left. Such plants as Brennus are fitter to stand alone than those whose growth is less rapid; and the cultivator must be content to consider their foliage as a part of their beauty (as it is indeed in all), and wait till age and a large supply of ripened wood shall modify the flow of sap in a manner that he cannot effect with the knife.

With reference to the action of the leaves upon the bulk and health of a plant, let the operator choose a Dog Rose which from some cause has partially died down after working, but which, recovering at the root and throwing out side shoots of small dimensions, is surrounded by a forest of dark green leaves. This plant will throw up a sucker. With a view of strengthening this sucker, let the shoot and leaves aforesaid be cut away. Great will be the disappointment when it is found that the growth of this stem has been checked instead of increased, and that if it does live it will be found to be green, pithy, and weak; whereas, had the leaves been left, this shoot would have hardened as autumn advanced.

For this cause, viz., to avoid deteriorating the quality of the wood, it is inexpedient to shorten the branches either before or after they have been worked, until the sap be down, as such operation is in fact a requirement of fresh action after exhaustion—a robbery upon the tree, defensible only as a matter of business to gain time, but in reality a loss of the hard quality of the wild wood as an overlaying stratum round the inserted bud.

That wood thus formed produces an important effect may be inferred from this fact, which has probably met the observation of many, viz., that some rapid growing Roses reduce their wood in such quantity down the sides of the stock, that if the coldness of the season should kill the tender head, the stock, closely wrapped in its new covering, does not possess the power to break at the sides, but though remaining green (under examination by the knife) during the summer, dies entirely in the succeeding winter. If, therefore, the operator desires to start his buds during the season in which they have been inserted, let him do it by depressing one end of the shoot that has been worked; endeavouring thus to throw the sap into the new bud by making the bend rather sudden about an inch beyond it. He will find that many buds will start in this way, and that the general health of his plant will not be in the least injured by it. When the sap is down, he may shorten the wild shoot to two eyes, and cut it back to one, or even close home in the spring; but it will be better to avoid transplanting the tree until another season has ripened the wood and strengthened the head, which in a lately removed plant should have its branches unpruned to the latest possible period. When out back it will then experience no check (the greatest trial a tree unrooted in its present position has to undergo), and will thus be preserved from the injuries of the little worm; whose point of attack consists chiefly of such buds as, being placed at the base of each shoot, have not been brought into action till the spring pruning has produced that effect, and when they are consequently in rather a defenceless state against frost.

That the inability to break at the sides does not arise from sickness in the plant, I infer from the following experiment:—Having frequently observed that if the weather destroyed some particular plants, it generally destroyed the stem also, and finding at the same time that this evil took place only where the stock had been much swollen by the deposition of new wood, I this year broke off the branches of a rapid-growing plant, thus preventing it from increasing at the head; and it has shown no inclination to break by side-shoots—the buds, from which those must spring, being probably too closely confined to possess the power of bursting forth. This death of the stock may frequently be observed in worked plants of Lamarque and Jaune Desprez, both rapid growers. I know not whether it would occur to the Rose fulgens, which with me appears, under all circumstances in which I have observed it, to produce fewer side-shoots than most others. Although its stem swells very much, it will yet transplant in the midst of the most rapid growth; taking, however, two seasons to recover itself when large. Rose-trees planted in the turf should always have a vacant space left round them the first season; their roots otherwise imbibing no nourishment from slight showers, nor indeed from the beams of the sun, both of which advantages are fully enjoyed by such plants as are placed in a good soil under gravel.—A Practitioner.