Budding and Peaches

I recently found an interesting book entitled "The Inquisitive Gardener" by E. Ransom Myers, published by John Gifford, London, 1948. So far as I know it has never been reprinted. Here's what the author has to say about peaches, paraphrased by me where necessary:

.....I decided to have one apple tree and one peach tree. About the same time as starting the apple on its training as a horizantal cordon, I also started a two-year peach on its career. This was to give me some budding experience because it is the usual practice to bud on peaches rather than to graft, because of the tendency to gumming which peach trees show.

With little space to spare I put up a frame about 8ft high and 10ft wide, and it was my intention to train the tree to the fan shape. The idea came to me from reading "Quick Fruit Culture" by J. Simpson (1900). The author I found to be at variance with accepted methods of pruning, and he set out to explain his method of training.

The point to be kept in mind when pruning peach trees is that the fruit is carried on the previous year's shoots. Although it is easy to get shoots to grow from the outer ends of the branches, the real problem is to keep up a stock of young bearing wood all over the tree.

I cannot condense into a few words what Mr. Simpson has required a book to expound, and I am not writing a book on pruning. The principal thing is that Mr. Simpson's method is adaptable to a flat branching system after the style of a fan, and the diagrams make it look easy. Unfortunately it appears that fruit trees do not know about these diagrams, and we must be content if they meet us about half-way in our efforts to get a symmetrical effect.

And so it happened that on a certain midsummer's day I had a visit from Cliff, whose father used to do budding. We concluded there was no better time to make the experiment. I did not know of a handy peach tree but I knew of a nectarine not far off and away we went to select some buds. We came away with a sizeable branch and on the way home I was instructed not to wave it about too much as it would dry out. I do not know whether this forethought was derived from acquaintance with greek authorities, but it appears that Pliny wrote about grafting, and his instructions "that the graft must not be sharpened or pointed while the wind is blowing; that the graft should be inserted during the moon's increase", I include the second clause because it is the sort of thing that makes the scientist raise an eyebrow; so you must be careful about mentioning it in discriminating company. Privately I would not be surprised if there is something in the idea, but I cannot say whether the theory is that the moon affects the flow of sap as it does the tides, or whether the production of growth hormone is accelerated during the waxing of the moon. Two guesses mark the limit I allow myself on this occasion.

Well then, home again, and now to the ceremony of selecting the fattest buds in the axils of the leaves. These were taken and inserted at separate places on the branches of the peach tree. One of them survived. There is very little that can be said about the operation of budding in addition to what is said in any book on propagation, but I must say that instead of using rafia, Cliff used strips of rag to bind the buds in place, and furthermore, after he had prepared the buds ready for insertion he had kept them in his mouth to prevent drying. This seemed a sensible thing to do, as his father had done before him, and I must confess that ever since that time I have added my saliva to every union by bud or graft that I have attempted.

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