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.
Many years ago, being disgusted with my inability to decide for myself in regard to the relative worth of certain Greek and Roman classics without having read them, I concluded to follow the example of the great Dutch philologists, such as Scaliger, Hemsterhuis, Ruhnken, and others, in reading through all the Greek and Roman authors, from Homer down to about 500 years after Christ, in a chronological order. As a philologist and professor of classical literature, I was very familiar with a large number of them. I spoke and wrote Latin with the greatest facility, and had made and published Greek and Latin poems. In order to carry out my intention, I gave up reading, except the classics, and so I accomplished my object in the course of three years. The readers of the Horticulturist will not misunderstand me; I do not mean that I studied all the classics in so short a time, I only read every one of them through in the original. By this I was enabled to judge for myself in the conflicting opinions concerning certain classics. 1 know now what to think of Julius Coesar Scaliger, (not his son Joseph, professor in Leyden,) who says in his celebrated book Poetica, that the elegant Virgil was as much superior to the natural Homer as a beautifully dressed lady is superior in appearance to a rustic cattle-maid. I know now what to think of Philip Me-Ianchthon, who pronounces Cicero's book De Officiis the best book in existence, after the Bible; and of Henry Stephens, who declares that it is the most tedious and tiresome work ever written.
The standard by which a reader judges of a book, is his individual taste, his general culture, the richness and depth of his mind; it is true that Pro capta lectoris habent sua fata libelli.
At the time that I was reading the classics, I was very much interested in the cultivation of exotic plants, especially Cacti, of which I had then the largest col. lection on the European continent. This induced me to make extracts, under certain heads, of every thing on agriculture occurring in the classics, so that I am now able to give a detailed description of the methods pursued by the Romans in grafting the grape vine, directly from the sources. In doing this, I shall not forget that I do not write for philologists; I shall, therefore, confine my references to such as 1 deem absolutely necessary.
The Romans were very fond of rural life and of agriculture; the great and rich among them had country seats, for which they selected the most beautiful spots among the mountains, near the sea-shore or lakes. Their generals, when occupied in warfare far from' Italy, had frequently so much interest in rural affairs that they brought home with them valuable plants and trees. Lucullus introduced the cherry tree from Asia Minor into Italy. That they, being eminently practical, should have practiced various methods of propagating plants, is very natural, especially as they had the example of the Greeks before them; it is, however, strange, that they were of opinion that a scion of any kind would unite with any stock. Pliny (Historia Naturalis, xvii., 15, 5, 26) saw at Tibur Tullia a tree bearing walnuts, olives, grapes, figs, pears, pomegranates, and different kinds of apples. According to Palladius, (xiv.,) walnuts, chestnuts, apples, and pears, were not only grafted on their own stocks, but also on arbutus, sloe, willows, platanus, and the ash. According to Diophanes, (Geop., x., 76,) the walnut is only grafted on arbutus; according to Palladius, (ii. 15,) also on the plum and its own stock.
Pliny (xvii., 15, 5, 26,) says that the platan us (Platanus orientalis, L.) unites most readily with scions of all kinds of fruit trees; second to it in this respect is only the oak. Diophanes (Geop., x., 76) asserts that apples grown on platanus become red. Columella relates (v., 11) that he planted a fig-tree near an olive-tree. Three years after planting, he cut the head of the fig-tree off, split its stem with a wedge, inserted in the split a twig of the olive-tree, the bark of which he had removed on two sides, and tied it. Three years after he cut the twig of the olive-tree from the mother plant, and it continued growing on the fig-tree. I must confess that I am at a loss to reconcile assertions so often repeated during a series of many years with the well-established fact that unions so unnatural can not be effected.
Still it is time to return to our object in view.
The best time for grafting the grape vine extends from the 20th of September to spring, even to June, according to Atticus, (Pliny, xvii., 25.) Mild, calm days during the increasing moon, from the first of March to the first of April, are most favorable for the operation. (See Columella, xi., 2.) Pliny (xvi., 25, and xvii., 30, 6) explains the cause of it by comparing the plants to the increased and intensified vigor of the life of animals in the spring.
The Romans practiced four methods of grafting the grape vine:
1. Inarching. Two vines growing near each other were united by wounding a shoot of each, and tying them together till they were united. The other method of inarching, which is performed by heading the stock, splitting it, and inserting a twig of another vine, has been mentioned above, when the experiment of Columella was adduced, who inarched a twig of an olive in a fig tree.
2. Inserting the scion between the bark and the wood of the stack. This method was chiefly resorted to where the stock was thick. (See Columella, v., 11.) It was afterwards superseded by the two following.
3. Cleft grafting. I prefer putting here the references together to avoid the frequent interruption of the description. They are, Varro, i., 41. Palladius, iii., 17. Pliny, xvii., 24. Columella, vii. Columella, iv., 29.
Three days before grafting, the stock is sawed off and smoothed with a knife. This is done that the sap may flow out. It is then split three fingers deep very carefully, and the split is opened by means of a smooth wedge of bone or iron. The scion ought to be cut three days previous, from that part of the vine which is exposed to the east; it ought to have three buds and the thickness of the little finger. The uppermost part of the vine yields the best scions, for in the middle it has not so much sap. The lower part of the scion is cut in the form of a wedge as long as the split in the stock. The cut ought not to be deeper than to make the pith visible. In inserting it some writers require that it should be done with both hands, but this is superstitious. Some tie the stock in the place to which they wish the split to extend. If the scion is pressed in too tightly, the vine will not bear until very late.
Some surround the place of the junction with a mixture of tar, chalk, sand, and cow dung; others tie around this, moss or sods by means of willow branches or soft tape, to protect the grafts against rain, cold, or wind. In Pliny's time it was thought sufficient to clay the whole over, so that the scion projected about two inches. The clay should be mixed with some chaff.
If possible, the graft should be inserted near the ground, and the stock as well as the scion should be carefully covered with soil up to the top. It is advisable to make some outs in the stock, if there should be danger that the rising sap might damage the scion; it will then flow off.
Columella says (iii., 9) that he resorted to this method in grafting two jugera (Roman acres) with an early variety received from Spain.
4. Grafting in a bored hole. (Pliny, xvii., 25. Columella, v., 29.) Through a hole, bored in the stock, a shoot of another vine, growing near it, is put, clayed over, and tied with bark of the elm. If there is no vine growing near, a scion of the vine to be propagated is taken and cut to the length of about two feet. Its lower end is to be fitted to the hole by scraping the bark, inserted, and clayed over. The scion ought to have two buds above the stock.
This method is the most certain; for should the scion not grow in the first spring, it will in the second. The operation is very much facilitated by the intraduction of the gallic borer, (terebra gallica.) It does not heat the wood; the chips it makes are as fine as powder, while the borer formerly in use produced coarse chips (scobes) and left the sides of the hole rough.
[Horticola has here furnished us a valuable and interesting contribution to the history of the grape vine. While reading the classics, we pursued a course similar to that of Horticola, making notes of all allusions to agricultural and horticultural subjects, and in this way accumulated a large amount of interesting matter; but, unfortunately, our note book many years ago was destroyed with others, and we have never ceased to regret the loss. The belief of the early Romans, that-all kinds of trees could be grafted into each other, is still shared by numbers of their descendants in Italy at the present day. This subject might be followed up profitably, and we trust Horticola will do it. - Ed].