The Garden: An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Gardening 28: 1 (July 4 1885)

Root-Grafted Trees

D. B. Wier

Interested in some recent remarks by an able American grower on the results of rootgrafting fruit trees, we wrote to him for some further information, and he favours us with the following, which we think well deserves attention:—

When root-grafting an Apple—we will say we have a scion 6 inches long and a piece of root 3 inches long—we splice or graft the scion "on to" the root; the two are then 8 inches long. We plant it, leaving an inch of the scion above the soil and 4 inches below the surface. When cultivating the little tree more soil is thrown to it than is generally used. When it has grown three years the scion will have thrown out roots of its own; in fact, oftentimes the original piece of root used (if uncongenial) will cease to grow, be absorbed, and disappear entirely. I have many times root-grafted Pears on Apples, and, when taking them up at three years old, have found every tree furnished with proper Pear roots. Therefore root-grafted trees are much more uniform in their growth than stock-grafted trees, because they all have their own natural roots. I say all in this instance, for when we plant the young trees in orchards we plant them considerably deeper than they stood in the nursery, thus giving the original scion increased inducement to throw out roots of its own. Therefore, as I have said, root-grafted trees are more uniform in their growth and fruiting than other kinds. And if the variety be hardy in withstanding severe cold, it is reasonable to suppose that its own proper roots will also be hardy. In this way we overcome the difficulty of having a hardy tree on a tender root, which we cannot do when we stock-graft.

It is a well-known fact to all experienced nurserymen in this region that one-third of the Apple seedlings grown from promiscuous Apple seed prove tender and get killed by the first severe winter; it is indeed reasonable to suppose that a tree on its own roots should and will do better every way than one on a root belonging to another variety.

I have found that the Early Richmond (Kentish) Cherry, from large experience, does better in every way (except it suckers somewhat) on its own natural roots than it does on any of the many different stocks upon which the Cherry is worked. Of course these differences are often very slight. A case in point: the standard Pear is usually propagated by being budded or stock-grafted on seedlings of the wild Pear, the best and strongest obtainable; these seedlings are very diverse in all their characteristics, except perhaps one—viz., strong growth. Some of them are very uncongenial to the cultivated Pear; on some of them indeed it will not grow at all, while on others it will grow finely one, two, or three years, then cease to thrive. From this reason we have, in a large standard Pear nursery, a very diverse growth, and it is not possible to get more than half, and usually not more than one-third, of first-class trees at three years old from the number of Pear seedlings planted, and it is not possible to get a good, vigorous, healthy, long-lived orchard from any except first-class trees (unless you happen to plant them so deeply that the Pear would throw out its own natural roots), owing to the want of congeniality between stock and scion, or, in other words, between the wild seedling and the cultivated Pear. With root-grafted Apple trees the case is entirely different; all of each variety grafted will make good uniform trees, and then, when I add that the foliage dominates or rules the roots—for it is a well-known fact that each variety of root-grafted trees has, even as early as the third year, its own peculiar uniform roots—the story seems to be all told.