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.
"Now, the greater the activity of the roots, the greater and quicker is the circulation of the fluids. Activity of root action is dependent on the leaves being largely and fully developed, and these again are dependent on the amount of sap fluid being carried up and through the plant organism, and above its fruiting members in the form of, first, large sappy growth, and secondly, the solidification of every molecular particle throughout all the ramifications of the plant organism, fruit and all." " Pray, through what agency do you attribute the perfecting of the vine's system and its fruit ? is it not ' healthy leaves' rather than ' sun-light V " "The theorist who asserts that the ripening of the vine's fruit is effected by 'healthy leaves,' and not by ' sun-light,' cannot prove any such assertion. Let the dogma be issued forth, if you please, from the highest throne of botanical science; for with equal propriety may the animal physiologist assert that the human system is developed and perfected through the agency of the stomach, and not through the air we breathe.
Where would 'healthy leaves' come from were it not for the direct rays of sun-light ? No such leaves would ever be found, and we could as reasonably expect to find them in a darkened cellar as in a glass structure, if such statements as the above were correct, or, indeed, even likely to be logically correct. The student of such a theory would require his intellect opened somewhat by a reasonable argument, a priori and a posteriori".
There are vines in Texas, Florida, etc., where a system of pruning is adopted of cutting back the annual growth to within a few buds of where the growth was projected, and the practice continued for so many years that the trunk of the vine is often over three feet in diameter. If the theory is correct, that "in proportion as we cut away the vine, the roots die away," the plants in question could not have lived long enough to have formed such immense trunks. Again, what is the experience of all practical nurserymen or fruit-tree growers ? Why, that when a plant has become stunted in growth, it is cut clean back, which in almost all cases renews the plant's energy.
In the section of country where we reside, the yellow locust abounds most plentifully. After the trees have well developed themselves into pretty good timber, the tops will die off, and the tree would gradually die altogether but for the preventive put into practice, which is, to saw off the heads of the main branches, when the trees shoot out again into luxurious growth, and continue to do so for a number of years; and we have seen the "rings" in a transverse section of the wood, which plainly demonstrate the time when the lopping off the branches was effected, by observing the great difference in the diametrical proportions of the rings. Such evidence as this certainly does not prove that cutting back the wood destroys the roots. Nature prunes and shortens back the branches of vines. Look at the grapevine in a state of nature, and how do we find it ? thus: the ends of the annual growths not being perfectly ripened are destroyed by frost to a certain extent backward, or to a point where the wood has been sufficiently ripened. Then, if we watch this piece of wood that has been so killed at the end, we also find that this same branch, in the season of growth, does not burst all its buds, but that a number of them near the base of the branch do not burst at all.
This is the condition of the vine in a state of nature; and from the facts demonstrated we establish a system of pruning as nearly allied to nature as possible, but in which system we try, and do obviate what may be termed the objectionable in the natural, i. e., the dying away of the ends of shoots and the non-bursting of the whole of the buds which are left. When considering the possibility of vine roots not being able to reach out into the soil to a greater extent than its branches are grown inside a vinery, we are reminded of an instance of a very remarkable kind in England, the seat of Robert Vernon, Esq., Wantage, in Berkshire, and with whom we lived as gardener. In those gardens was a range of graperies, a large culinary garden in front with a gentle slope to the south, the foot of which resting at the edge of an extensive artificial lake. All parts of the garden that were not in crops were trenched every fall two feet deep, and in two years, by the alteration of the winter crops, the whole garden was put through the trenching operation, In the vine borders no roots were found, nor indeed were any ever recognized, as far as we were cognizant, in the garden soil; but on looking at the edge of the water of the lake could be seen large bunches of vine roots, clustered as large as bushel baskets.
These roots had traveled from the vineries, below the trenched ground of the garden and down into the water, a distance of over one hundred yards! The length of rafter these vines were trained to Was TWENTY FEET ! Sunny Dell Vineries, White Plains.