Vitis - Crimson Glory Vine, Grape
DESCRIPTION: This group consists of about 60, mostly hardy, deciduous, woody vines, commonly known as the Grape. These popular natives of North America, China and Japan are mainly valued for their delicious fruits, which can be eaten fresh or dried, squeezed as juice or fermented as wine. However, not only are these vines valued for their fruit, but also for their large, lobed leaves, which turn gorgeous colors in autumn. Grapes bear inconspicuous, greenish flowers in the spring, which suffuse the breeze with a lovely fragrance. Grapes are suitable for growing over arbors, trellises, and fences. They can even be grown in large containers in sites with clayey soil. Grapes for the garden come from four different lines of parentage; American, European, American hybrids, and Muscadine. Which type you plant will depend on where you live.
American grapes, which include the bluish-black 'Concord', the white 'Niagara', and the coppery red 'Catawba', are cold-hardy types that will withstand humid summers and are more resistant to disease than European types. They are usually very aromatic and have an intense flavor, like bottled grape juice. Depending on the cultivar, they can be grown in zones 4 through 8. The pulp of the American varieties part from their skins easily giving them the name of "slipskin". American grapes include a large number of native species. However, the ones commonly grown in gardens are descendants of Vitis labrusca, the fox grape or skunk grape native to the eastern half of the country. The fruits of these descendants have a unique musky flavor, described as "foxy" in those days when people knew what a fox smelled like.
European grapes are descendants of Vitis vinifera. They aren't as cold hardy as the American or American-European hybrids, growing best in zones 7 through 9 depending on the variety. They are also subject to attack from several diseases and pests. Contact your local county extension agent to find out what to guard against in your area. They also require more attention to pruning than the American varieties to produce a good crop. The European species produce the standard wine and dessert grapes. The fruit is sweet and the flesh adheres to the skin. European grapes, which include the green 'Thompson Seedless', are suitable for regions with long, warm growing seasons and no harsh winter cold. They will suffer in humid summers and in winters where the temperatures fall near 5º F. European grapes are suitable for growing in California's Central Valley, in parts of Arizona and the Southwest and in parts of Washington and Oregon, where the season is warm and long and the winters aren't too severe.
American hybrids, also known as American-European hybrids, American-French hybrids and French hybrids, are crosses that combine the excellent fruit of the European species with the disease resistance and hardiness of the American species. These plants show a variety of traits, depending on how the genes work out. American hybrids have better disease resistance, cold hardiness, and tolerance to humidity than European grapes. Depending on the hybrid, they can be grown from zone 4 through 9; many being hardy down to at least -10º F. The flavor of the grapes can lean toward the grapey flavor of the American species or the winey flavor of the European species.
Muscadine grapes are natives of the South and Southeast United States. They are great for gardeners that live in zones 7 through 9. The woodsy, smoky taste of these grapes is a little different from the mild, sweet taste of the other types of grapes. Muscadine grapes are descendants of Vitis rotundifolia, which grows wild from Delaware to Florida and west to Kansas and Mexico. V. rotundifolia has mostly unlobed, rounded or oval-triangulate leaves, which is an unusual trait among grapes. Muscadine grapes, unlike the American and European grapes, which ordinarily ripen all at once or over a short period, ripen over an extended length of time.
It is very important to take care when choosing a variety that will suit your region's climate and conditions as well as its resistance to the pests and diseases prevalent in your area. Ask your nursery owner or contact your county extension agent before purchasing a plant to verify whether the variety that you like is one that will grow well in your area.
Here are the descriptions of a couple of very attractive species. V. coignetiae (Crimson Glory Vine) can reach a height of up to 50 feet. The leaves are heart-shaped at the base, with 3 to 5 shallow lobes. They usually grow to 1 foot across and have a rusty-colored felt beneath. The fruits are black with a purple bloom. In autumn, the leaves turn vivid shades of crimson and scarlet. The most spectacular color occurs where the soil is poor or the roots are restricted, as when planted on a wall. V. vinifera 'Purpurea' (Teintureir Grape) is a beautiful, medium-sized variety with red leaves at first, eventually turning a deep wine-purple. This plant looks especially lovely when grown among shrubs with silvery foliage.
Soil and location: Grapes grow best in loose, deep, well-drained soil that has a pH level of about 5.5 to 7.0. It is important that their soil be well-drained as they will not survive saturated ground. Choose a sunny location, sheltered from harsh winter winds. A south-facing slope is best. Don't plant them in low-lying areas where cold air accumulates. Unless your soil is severely lacking in nutrients, your grapes will almost never need a supplementary fertilizer. Test your soil the year before planting and, if necessary, correct the soil in a large area to allow the roots to spread widely. If your soil is really bad, whether lacking in nutrients or good drainage, consider growing your grapevine in a stationary container that is provided with support.
Support: Just as you consider where you will plant your grape, it is equally as important to think about the kind of sturdy support you want. The support will have to be strong enough to support the weight of a mature fruiting vine. A grapevine needs one strong stake, such as a 2 x 2 or metal fence post, to support the main stem. Horizontal wires strung between 4 x 4 wooden posts spaced 8 to 10 feet apart will support the fruiting branches. Some vines are trained to one wire, with a branch, called an arm or cordon, extending out from the trunk in each direction along the wire. However you choose to support your grapevines, always build the support before planting your vines; doing so afterwards will most likely damage the roots thus slowing the plant's progress. Bury the wire-support posts at least 2 feet into the ground. The height above the ground is determined by the number of wires you choose. You'll need at least 8 feet of support (4 ft. on each side of the main stem) for a single vine. Muscadine grapes, however, are extremely zealous growers and will need 12 to 20 feet on which to grow. Heavy galvanized wire (12-gauge) should be used and it should be wrapped tightly around each end post and stapled with heavy-duty fasteners to any posts in-between. When training against a wall, the wires should be 8 to 12 inches from the wall. The first wire on your support should be positioned about 3 or 4 feet above ground. This will be a suitable height to take care of the vine. The subsequent wires should be spaced at 2- to 3-foot intervals. The wide spacing allows sun and good air circulation to the plant and more room for you to work with the plant.
Planting your vine & its aftercare: Purchase your grapevine early in the season while their roots are still fresh. Those that have been left at the garden center well into the spring may appear healthy but have poor roots. If you are able to inspect the roots, choose a plant with well-developed roots growing all the way around the joint at the bottom end rather than a plant with roots only on one side. The best time to buy and plant your grapes is in late winter or early spring, just as the leaf buds are swelling and begin to unfurl. If your grapevine is already leafing out, make absolutely sure to keep the soil moist after planting to prevent the leaves from withering. Unwrap the package and gently shake the roots free of any packing material and carefully remove any rubber bands, wire twists, etc. About an hour before planting, soak the roots in a bucket of water and clip the vine back to leave just two live buds. While the roots are soaking, dig your hole wide enough to accommodate all the roots. Set the vine at the level at which is was growing. You will be able to see the discoloration from the previous soil line on the stem of the plant. If your grapevine is grafted, be sure to keep the graft joint (a visible scar) above the soil to prevent the top graft from forming roots. Once the hole is dug, drive the support stake about 2 to 4 inches from where the stem of the vine will grow. The stake should be as tall as the height you plan for the plant's head. If you're planting next to an arbor or trellis, position the hole and stem the same distance from a sturdy vertical support post. Fill the soil around the roots; when the hole is half-filled, soak it with water, let it drain completely, and add the rest of the dirt. Make a shallow basin around the vine to catch the rain and irrigation water. A very light layer of bark chips, chopped leaves, or other organic mulch can be placed around the vine to keep weeds down and preserve moisture. Young grapevines need plenty of water in the first year to encourage quick, strong root growth. In the subsequent years, water when the leaves show signs of wilting or when natural rainfall is scarce. Once established with a good root system and strong trunk, grapevines can live for decades with minimal care. Sometimes, harsh winter temperatures can cause damage to your grapevines even if you've chosen a variety suited to your climate. You can help prevent this damage by wrapping the vine in burlap or heaping snow over the roots. The canes are too hard to do a scratch test to check for green wood, so you'll have to wait until any surviving buds have leafed out to know if there was any damage. By that time, any dead buds will be brown and dry and crumble at your touch. Cut back the dead wood to the first live bud. Grapes are susceptible to a variety of pests and disease, but not all happen every year or in every location. You can contact your county extension agent, local grape growers, or nursery to find out what insects and diseases are prevalent in your area and what varieties and methods of control are right for you. Here are the most common problems: Japanese beetles, Black rot, Botrytis bunch rot, Downy mildew, Powdery mildew, Stinging insects (Bees, wasps, hornets, etc. are a nuisance to the harvester not a problem to the plants, as they love the sweet flowers and ripening fruit. Look before you grab the fruit and if you or someone in your family is allergic to stings, be sure to plant your vine away from paths and other walkways).
Training: Training your grapes takes three years and your first harvest will come in the fourth. Grapes are produced on new shoots that sprout from growth that began the previous season. A new shoot can grow 3 to 15 feet in a single year. During the shoot's first year, leaves sprout from nodes along its length. Behind each leaf, is a compound bud. When growth begins the following spring, each compound bud forms a new shoot. At the base of these shoots clusters of small, greenish-yellow flowers are borne. Depending on the variety, vigor and sun exposure, the vine may produce from one to four clusters of flowers at each node, which will eventually mature into grapes. A vine's growth is almost all concentrated in its one-year old canes. (After its first winter, the matured shoot is called a cane.) Buds scattered along the length of the older canes can sprout, but they do so less often. So each year the new growth and fruit on an unpruned vine will occur farther and farther away from the trunk. Training and pruning will keep the new canes and subsequent fruiting buds close to the plant's trunk. The training described below is for a wire support system, although will some minor differences, you can use the same method for training along a fence, trellis, or an arbor. Muscadines are usually trained to an arbor where their vigorous growing vines are allowed to hang down after they reach the top.
The first year let the newly planted vine (which, as mentioned earlier, you had cut back to two live buds before planting) grow unrestrained, free of the support stake. Make sure the soil is moist by wiggling your finger into the soil's surface. The soil should feel damp, but never soggy. In late summer, watering should be decreased in order to harden off the plant for the approaching winter. After mid-August, water only if the leaves begin to wilt. In late winter, choose the thickest, most vertical shoot and trim it back to just above the third bud from the cane's connection to the trunk. Cut off any other shoots. The vine will almost look like it did when you first planted it, but since it has produced a healthy root system, will grow quickly the following spring. When it begins to grow in the spring, new shoots will sprout from the buds on the short, sturdy can you selected in late winter. When they reach a length of 6 to 8 inches, choose the strongest, most vigorous and upright growing shoot to become the trunk. Tie it loosely to the stake and cut off all other shoots. (If there is a possibility of damage from extreme cold, some people choose an additional shoot as insurance.) As the shoot grows throughout the season, tie it loosely to the stake at intervals of about a foot. Once the shoot comes within about 6 inches of the support wire, pinch off its growing tip with your fingers. This will cause it to form shoots, which will then be trained along the wire. (The height of the vine's head will be determined by the support against which it is grown. If you're training to a wire (which is what we're using as an example) the head comes to just below the wire. A good height for a vine grown against a fence is about 31/2 feet high; high enough so that the cordon arms can be trained to run along the top of the fence. A vine reaching for the top of an arbor may need a head 6 feet or more above the ground. If your vine is going to be trellised up a ladder of wires, the head should be about 6 inches below the last wire.) Soon after pinching, new side shoots will form. When they reach pencil thickness, choose two of the strongest and guide each horizontally along the wire (or arbor or trellis), so that the vine forms a T shape. Loosely tie the cordons to the lateral supports at intervals, occasionally weaving them around the wires. Remove any other shoots. Be careful not to damage any leaves growing from the arms, but remove any growths as they arise from the trunk. Cut off below ground level any suckers from the base of the plant. Any shoots growing from the cordons should be pinched back to about 8 to 10 inches in length. The second winter remove any shoots that have grown from the cordons, and clean up the trunk if needed, so that all that is left is the basic T-shaped vine. If the cordons have grown vigorously during the summer, cut them back to about 10 to 12 buds each. If you desire a multi-tiered vine, with four, six, or more arms, you'll need to allow the main trunk to grow to the top support, which may take an extra season or two. Head back the trunk each season to a vigorous-looking bud, then choose a strong shoot to train upwards. In the meantime, choose shoots to train as arms on the wires or other supports below. When the trunk reaches its ultimate height, in the winter, cut through its top bud to prevent further upward growth. By the third year, the trunk and cordons will be established. The compound buds on the now one-year-old arms will produce new shoots and may produce flowers. However, bearing fruit would stress the young plant, so pinch off the flowers. (If you can't wait, just keep a couple of grape clusters this year.) Take care not to damage the shoots when you're removing flowers, because you'll need them next year. Training is now finished and pruning will be the maintenance from now on.
Head training: Head training is the simplest training method that creates a compact single trunk, which can be pruned to produce spurs or canes depending on the type of grape you're growing and the amount of space available. This training method should only be used in dry summer climates and is mainly used for wine grapes. In humid climates, the thick ball of growth at the head of the vine would be very susceptible to attack from pests and diseases. Training is the same as previously described throughout the first two years. However, in the second growing season when you'd choose two shoots to train as arms, you would instead allow all the shoots to grow. Then, in late winter, choose four or five canes that grow near the top third of the trunk and cut back to two buds; remove all others. During the season, remove any other growth from the trunk and any suckers that appear at its base. You should have 8 to 10 good canes at the end of the season. Pruning for head training will be described below.
Pruning: Pruning is important because it limits the amount of grapes produced, which creates larger, better quality grapes and preserves the vine's strength. A pruned vine is also less susceptible to diseases. There are two methods of pruning: spur pruning and cane pruning. All types of grapes, except muscadines, should be pruned in winter or late winter before the plant breaks dormancy. Muscadines should be pruned in the summer when the vine has slowed down after its spurt of vigorous spring growth. American grapes, most American hybrids, and a few European varieties are usually cane pruned because they tend to produce clusters of grapes farther out on the canes. Cane pruning allows long canes to form. Almost all European grapes produce grapes on shoots that grow from basal buds. Therefore, spur pruning, which keeps the vine compact, is the best pruning method.
Cane pruning: Cane pruning produces a heavy crop of fruit from many buds formed on long arms. Because fruit is produced only on one-year-old wood, new fruiting canes must be brought along each year to replace those that are removed after they bear a crop. Now then, continuing from where we left off training, the vine has just finished its third season. Its head is at the desired height, and shoots are growing along the length of both arms. The arms, prohibited from fruiting last season, won't fruit again, so you need to remove them and choose two new arms (for each old one) from among last season's shoots to replace them. This is done in late winter. Select the two sturdiest, darkest canes growing near the trunk on each cordon. The selected cane farthest from the trunk becomes the fruit-bearing arm for the coming season. Cut off the old cordon and tie the new one loosely to the wire. The other selected cane, the one closest to the trunk, becomes the renewal spur for the cordon. Cut it back to two or three buds. These buds will produce shoots during the coming season, providing a crop of one-year-old wood from which to select fruiting canes next winter. Remove all other canes, then head back the new cordon to a length appropriate to the age and vigor of the vine. An average vine can support about 8 to 12 nodes on each arm. As your vine matures, you can vary the number of nodes and even cordons, according to its health and productivity and the space you have available. If the fruit is small and scarce, reduce the number of nodes; if the vine is growing rampantly, increase the number. In the ensuing winters, cut back the old cordons to the renewal spurs, each of which will now have two or three new canes growing from them. Choose the two darkest, thickest new canes on each spur and repeat the process of creating a new cordon and renewal spur. Cut off any other canes produced by the renewal spur.
Cane pruning for head training: In late winter, tie two or three of the now one-year-old shoots to the support wire, cut them back to 10 to 12 buds each. Head back two or three of the other shoots to two or three buds each. (These are the renewal canes and will produce shoots to use for next year's canes.) Cut off the rest of canes at their bases. Repeat this process each year.
Spur pruning: Spur pruning works best on European grapes because they produce their fruit on basal buds. Again, picking up from training, your vine has just finished its third season. Its head is at the desired height and shoots are growing along the length of both arms. In late winter, choose three to four of the healthiest shoots growing from each arm, spaced about 6 to 10 inches apart, and remove all others. Trim back the selected shoots to leave just two buds on each. In the spring, each bud will produce a shoot and one to four clusters of flowers, and soon you'll have grapes. During the growing season, remove any shoots growing from the trunk and any suckers from the base. In late winter, on each spur, cut off one of the fruiting shoots at its base. Shorten the remaining shoot to just two buds, and the cycle repeats itself. You can increase the number according to the health and productivity of your vine by heading back both canes on a spur to two buds instead of cutting one off; or you can decrease it by removing both canes entirely on selected buds.
Spur pruning for head training: In late winter, cut no more than five canes back to two buds and remove the rest. In the coming season, each of these buds will produce two fruiting shoots. Each year, repeat the process of pruning back to two buds. As mentioned in the above section on spur pruning, you can prune one or both of the fruiting canes back to two buds each winter depending on the vigor of the plant. A mature, spur-pruned, head trained vine needs no lateral supports, and the plants can be grown closer together.
PROPAGATION: Grapes can be increased by seeds, cuttings, and layers. Seeds can be sown in light soil as soon as separated from the fruit. Place in a warm greenhouse where they should germinate in a few weeks. Cuttings can be made from soft shoots in the summer and inserted in sand in a greenhouse or in a cold frame. Cuttings can also be made from hardwood cuttings, 9 inches long, in the fall. Very vigorous kinds can be increased by taking a single eye or bud with an inch of wood on each side and inserting in a warm greenhouse in the spring. Layering may also be done in the spring.
American & American hybrids (Unless otherwise noted, all can be grown in zones 5-8 and are cane pruned.): Alden; Beta; Blue Lake; Buffalo; Campell Early (Island Bell); Canadice (zone 5-7); Captivator; Catawba (z. 5-7); Champanelle; (z. 5-9); Concord (hardy in z. 4); Delaware; Diamond (White diamond); Edelweiss; Fredonia (Early Concord; z. 4-9); Glenora; Golden Muscat; Himrod; Interlaken Seedless; Ives; Kay Gray; King of the North; Lake Emerald (z. 7-9); Mars (Mars Seedless); Moore Early (hardy in z. 4); Moored; Niabell (z. 5-9); Niagara (White Concord; z. 5-7); Ontario (z. 6-8); Portland; Price; Reliance; Schuyler (z. 7-9); Seneca; St. Croix; Steuben; Stover (hardy only to z. 7); Suffolk Red; Van Buren; Worden.
Muscadines (All can be grown in zones 7-9.): Carlos; Doreen; Fry; Higgins; Jumbo; Magnolia; Nesbitt; Noble; Scuppernong; Sterling; Sugargate; Summit; Triumph.
European grapes & interspecies hybrids (Unless otherwise noted, all can be grown in zones 7-9 and all are spur pruned): Aurore; Baco Noir; Black Monukka; Cardinal; Chancellor; Chardonnay; Chenin Blanc (Needs 100 chill hrs.); De Chaunac; Emperor; Flame Seedless (z. 7-10); Foch (Marechal Foch; z. 7); Perlette (needs 100 chill hrs.); Seyval (Seyval-Villard); Thompson Seedless; Tokay (Flame Tokay (needs 100 chill hrs.); Verdelet; Villard Blanc; Zinfandel (needs 100 chill hrs.).
Below are some of the varieties from above listed under the recommended regions that they will grow well in.
North: Beta; Edelweiss; Fredonia; King of the North; Reliance; St. Croix; Worden
Northeast, Central: Buffalo; Canadice; Captivator; Catawba; Concord; Delaware; Fredonia; Moore Early; Niagara; Ontario; Steuben; Van Buren; Worden. European grapes - Aurore; Baco Noir; Chancellor; Foch (Marechal Foch); Seyve-Villard; Verdelet; Villard Blanc.
Northwest: Campell Early (Island Blue); Diamond; Fredonia; Glenora; Himrod; Interlaken Seedless; Moored; Seneca; Suffolk Red.
South: Blue Lake; Champanelle; Doreen; Fredonia; Fry; Higgins; Ives; Jumbo; Lake Emerald; Magnolia; Portland; Pride; Scuppernong; Stover.
California, Arizona & other hot-summer, mild-winter areas: Black Monukka; Cardinal, Emperor; Flame Seedless; Golden Muscat; Niabell; Perlette; Thompson Seedless; Tokay.
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