This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Seedlings, it is not necessary to define. Grafted, or budded varieties, are those selected from the former on account of the superiority of the fruit, and other good qualities, as hardihood and productiveness, and propagated mostly by budding or grafting, generally upon seedling stocks, or, until within twenty-five years, when an improvement or innovation called root-grafting has been widely introduced.
With respect to the general system of grafting or budding, it were folly to question its safety and utility when properly used, though unquestionably an impost to be resorted to when necessary and avoided when practicable. The point is simply to what extent shall this practice be carried? And in view of the vast importance of horticulture - in view of its increasing risks and responsibilities - everything pertaining to that prime operation should be carefully investigated.
Grafting, or budding, considered as an abstract mechanical operation, performed under favorable circumstances - as, for instance, to graft or bud a young tree its own wood - cannot be regarded as inherently objectionable or dangerous, or as exerting any possible influence, other than for the time being to lessen its size or retard its growth. It is only in its perversions or accidents, its newly created world of changes and circumstances, that it can work injury. In the endless variety of combinations produced there must be an increase of risk - ample occasion for all the ills complained of as belonging especially to buds or grafts. Thus we have -
*Paxlon'8 Flower Garden. - Vol. I, p. 43.
1. The subjects, endlessly diverse in habits and preferences as to soil, climate, culture, etc.
2. The operation, including time, manner, and results.
If these be taken into the account, we shall wonder not so much at the degeneracy as the endurance of our cultivated varieties. It is indeed maintained by some that what we have gained in one direction we have lost in another - that our choicest fruits, not only pomological but intellectual, have been dearly bought at a sacrifice of physical vigor - as saith the old proverb, "wiser and weaker;" a position not without considerable show of reason. But believing it opposed to the prevailing fact, as well as the hopeful theory, of " progress" - a progress not seeming and partial, but real, and, to some extent, proportionate - we must reject it while allowing, and otherwise explaining, the facts from which it springs. To say that culture and improvement pertain not to the entire range of human effort - as well to the physical as the intellectual - as well to the tree as the fruit - or to both as well as either alone - is manifestly absurd. We believe there are, in all directions, vast unexplored fields of profitable research and glorious accomplishment - untold stores of rich, new, noble inventives and prizes.
At the same time it is evident that our efforts at cultivation and improvement have been, in many instances, partial, and in others, entirely misguided, producing certain baneful tendencies and results which are too obvious to be disregarded. These, whatever may be our theory, let each be sure to oppose and to the extent of his ability.
In discussing this subject, we shall endeavor to prove -
1. That the seedling is, physically, the more perfect tree. Theoretically, because of its unity and entireness, simplicity and naturalness throughout, in both origin and development, roots, top, growth, and product. Nature, in any given process, is perfect. Practically, because the wood of seedlings is firmer, bark tougher, and wounds made on them heal more readily; they are generally more productive and hardy, and accommodate themselves best to different soils and climates. Therefore:
2. Though grafting is indispensable, yet that grafting, other things being equal, will be best which employs most of the seedling stock.
These positions we shall not discuss separately or in regular order; nor is it, perhaps, necessary, for we doubt if any one conversant with the subject would feel inclined to question them. In fact the general impression, with regard at least to the hardihood of seedlings, has seemed to be that they were quite too tough, most unnecessarily and inconveniently thorny and rugged!
The ultimate issue no doubt is between seeds and buds - the rough, hardy product • of the one, and the smooth, tender, rapid growth of the other - which affords the best foundation, or vital centers, to work from.
The seed is certainly nature's primal, chosen method of. reproduction - the perfect embryo of a new, perfect individual - nothing second hand, or second rate, or fictitious, or adventitious about it It is not one of many parts of a tree given, to manufacture the rest, but all parts reduced, embodied, pledged to reproduce the whole, In examining the seed more closely, we find one part designed for the radicle, which is first developed; afterwards another, designed for the stem; and that these parts are utterly distinct - not interchangeable - a most significant fact. Each part, then, must remain by itself, each for its own element, and get each dependent on the other. And here at this point of union, if any where, is the life of the tree - the very seat of vitality - that common center from which all other parts radiate, and which, therefore, if any part, is indispensable.
That buds possess a species of vitality and are capable of indefinite, and, in some cases, profitable, extension or multiplication, is undeniable. Still it must be, from the very nature of things, an inferior, dependent process. There is no real re-production - no internal renewal of life, or vigor, or individuality, - but merely a sort of polypus-like increase, with, as I must think, a decided tendency, (at least among the more import-, ant varieties of fruit,) in every successive generation, to lose a portion of its original reproductive energy, unless that tendency be counteracted by working on strong seed ling stocks.