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.
The rapidly increasing settlement and cultivation of our northwestern territory, together with the increased interest and attention given to fruit-growing, is demanding a knowledge of all the items tending to constitute a hardy tree. The comparative hardihood of any one variety when root grafted or budded some four to six inches above the crown, has been freely discussed, and we believe has resulted in a pretty general impression that the budded tree is the best. One capable writer has tried to soften down the generally considered error of root grafting by distinguishing a line between grafting on short or long pieces of roots, claiming that the great trouble is owing to the few and uneven roots formed on the short pieces, and the disadvantage or difficulty of taking up the trees without cutting them badly.
As, in our knowledge, the roots, however started, form in ratio to the growth of the top, we do not see how a graft inserted on a piece of root one foot or more in length gives any more hardihood to the tree than when the graft is put upon a root of only four inches in length. It has ever been our impression that the seat of vitality - the point of hardihood, if you will, because the more of vitality the more of endurance - lies in what is termed the crown, that point from whence, in a seedling, the root shoots one way and the top another. In any plant grown from a cutting or a root graft, this natural point is lost; nature is forgotten, and art has assumed control; a more ready and rapid propagation is obtained, but at a measurable loss of natural vitality.
In the study of our cultivated varieties we have learned that some have more of hardihood to endure climatic change than others, no matter how propagated; and as a rule, it is found that the nearer the cultivated sort is allied to a natural or crab, the hardier it is. In vegetable life, as in animal life, all have not alike the same vitality and capability of endurance; and when we work any one of our cultivated sorts on any number of seedlings, the results are not alike, as every practical observer knows. Greater uniformity is maintained when a variety is root grafted than when budded upon an indiscriminate lot of seedlings, an item which we view as sustaining our idea of the vital point and the influence obtained thereby.
The recommendation of the Wisconsin State Horticultural Society to grow apple stocks from the seed of Siberian Crabs, because of their hardihood, is a good one; but in order to follow our own views, and enable the grower to obtain the greatest hardihood for his permanent trees, great care must be taken, first, to see that the tree from which his seed is taken be perfectly healthy. Second, to select his seeds, using only the largest and plumpest. Third, when his seedlings have grown one season, and stood over one winter, to go among them, and root out all that show any sign of feebleness. These three conditions performed, there is good reason to suppose the operator has material on which to build permanent growth, which he may do by budding or grafting at any point not less than four inches above the natural crown of the seedling.
Nurserymen will of course object to this mode of procedure, as involving too much care and labor corresponding with the present price of trees. But if there is really anything in it, as according to our belief, then it would be better for the planter to pay four or five times the present price of trees, each one of which could be depended upon, than to receive the trees grown upon the present cheap and reckless manner as a gift.
As we have said, the northwestern portion of our territory is alive to this subject, and demanding attention and knowledge thereto, insomuch that we believe a stock of apple, pear, and cherry trees, grown upon principles tending to give them increased hardihood, would as soon as grown find ready sale at remunerating prices. The people are becoming rapidly educated in fruit-growing. Instead of the orchard being an appendage to the main objects of the farm, to be planted and then neglected, it is yearly coming more and more to be the leading item, one that can not be overlooked even by the owners of the largest of stock or grain farms; and with this knowledge of the value of fruit-growing comes a corresponding knowledge of the difference in value of trees and vines, and a willingness to pay therefor.
Every kind of fruit is increased in size and improved in quality by attendance on early thinning. If done early, the one pear or peach left where two were, will often become as large as both would, and be-vastly better.