in War by E. J. KING, M.A., F.R.H.S.
THOSE who give advice on pruning seem to fall into two classes: the mystery-mongers and the rule-ofthumb practitioners. It's hard to preserve the happy mean. Yet with a little patience any reader should succeed if he follows the simple directions which follow. I am really offering you
my experience, for it is only, experience which makes it possible to go out into the garden and prune everything satisfactorily by merely looking at the trees and seeing what is to be done. You prune in order to hasten or maintain fruiting, and the beginner oftea benefits from having an old-stager with him just to show what bears fruit and what doesn't. For if you try and follow one scheme with differenr fruits, or even with different varieties of the same fruit, you
may go sadly astray. Even some professional gardeners are quite irresponsible when it comes to pruning, so if you have a " man " in to " do " your trees, see that he does it properly.
Pruning can be done at any time after the trees become dormant: that is, from now until about the beginning of March. Except for gooseberries and plums, the sooner it is done, the better. If gooseberries and plums arc pruned too early, the birds sometimes eat the few buds you leave. It makes no difference even if there is frost when you are pruning.
EYES OF EXPERIENCE If you have had fruit trees for a long time, you'll have seen for yourself what
to do. Beginners can walk through the garden with me now, and see how rasp
berries, blackberries, loganberries and the Ire rambler roses each year flower and set fruit on young cane-like growth which Sprang from near the bottom of the plant during the previous summer. Obviously, then, pruning consists in removing each autumn any growth which has flowered and fruited, and in saving and carefully tying up the new shoots of the current season. These should come from as close to the ground as possible.
Black currants are very similar to the above except that they haven't got cane-like growth. Note the less, nearly all the fruit, and certainly the best, is benne on young shoots made the previous season. So each autumn cut out any wood which has borne fruit, and do it quite drastically, to ensure a perpetual fountain of young .wood from below. Keep only those shoots which grew during this summer, unless these are very few indeed. In this case some of the newer parts of the old wood can be kept. Gooseberries are also similar, though here we are faced with a greater supply of those clustered buds which black currants also show sometimes, and which are called " spurs." They are ustia;ly at the base of this year's shoots, and at intervals along the older wood. These should certainly be preserved, for they arc fruit buds; and yet the largest fruit of all is on wood made only the previous summer So as much strong growth as possible should be encouraged by judicious cutting away of old or weak stuff. Try and keep the centre of the bush open like a basin. too, to admit light and air.
Morello cherries (the dark, late cookers) and peaches bear fruit in a very similar way to gooseberries, and, except for being more shy of the knife or aecateurs, require the same treatment in a general way. Every effort should be made to get young wood and get it nicely spaced, especially with Morellos; for here the bulk of the crop is on one-year-old wood.
THESE ARE SPURRED Pears, apples, quinces, and red and white currants all bear fruit on spurs. These are somewhat gnarled or warty bianchlets growing close to the sides of older wood and also at the base of side shoots one or two years old. Every effort should be made to cut mere greenery-branchlets back to about two inches from the main branches. Main branches which are allowed to continue in growth are called leaders, and the side branches thus rigorously treated are called laterals. Laterals then are usually cut back fairly close to encourage the formation and swelling of fruit-spurs on their bases; the leaders afe often shortened by half in order to strengthen their growth also.
Now here let me say that there are some apples (like Irish Peach, Gladstone, Bramley, Worcester Pearl-nein) which have their spurs at the ends of laterals. With these apples, the laterals should therefore be left, unless they are so vigorous that they criss-cross. Then you must cut them. Other apples have quite long spurs (like Beauty of Bath, Annie Elizabeth. Laxton's Superb); in this case, don't cut the laterals in too close to the leader; leave them about four inches long. or even Six. inches.
When a standard tree becomes established, it wants a little pruning beyond thinning of badly placed branches. This is especially true of plums and sweet cherries. These 1eally fruit on spurs exactly like the vast majority of apples and 'pears, only they form the spurs naturally without much or
any pruning. Stone fruits generally don't like the knife, and apart from thinning out can be left to their own devices.