In the first place, "catch your hare." This may not be very easy. Amateurs and gardeners rarely bud or graft Roses except on to Briers from the hedges, for the simple, but sufficient, reason that they have nothing else to work them on to. The cultivation of Manetti, De la Grifferaie, and Cutting and Seedling Briers is practically confined to the trade.
This sounds rather like damping newly awakened ardour, but things are really not so bad as they seem. It is easy to gather Brier heps, "stratify" them (that is, lay them in sand for a few months) and raise plants from them. It is not difficult to strike cuttings of Briers (we shall come to cutting-making very soon) and procure plants from them also. It is quite within the bounds of possibility to get shoots of Manetti and De la Grifferaie, and turn them into workable material. All this, I say, can be done. If I am asked whether it is worth while, since Roses ready established on the stocks can be bought so cheaply, I am given pause. Truth to tell, the commonsense of the Rose-growing community has decided that it is not. Some few Rose growers like to propagate stocks of various sorts, and do their own working; most prefer to buy the plants. It is a matter of temperament.
If, however, the raising of Rose stocks from seeds and cuttings is to all intents and purposes left in the hands of the nurserymen, it by no means follows that Rose propagation is not worth learning. It is well to know how to strike cuttings, because many Roses do well on their own roots. It is still better to know how to bud, because every rosarian works, or wants to work, a few hedgerow Briers some time or other.
The man or woman who wants to bud some standards has the impulse, as a rule, when the twin influences of the flowering season and other people's work are upon them. That is to say, in July or August. Unfortunately, they awaken simultaneously to the fact that they have no Briers, and, what is worse, will have to wait till November for them, so that there is the dreary prospect of a whole year's delay before budding can be begun. Of course, with people of the blow-hot-blow-cold class the inevitable happens. Long before November comes the Briers are forgotten, and it is July of the following year before another thought is given to them.
The best thing is to go and give an order for Briers to the acknowledged Brier hunter of the district directly the fever is felt. This forager is generally a well-known character, and I am at a loss to know how the novelist has missed him. He (the forager, not the novelist, of course) has exceptional gifts in trespassing and stealing, and people whose consciences will not permit them to appropriate portions of their neighbours' hedges find these qualities of his peculiarly helpful. It may be remarked, by the way, as a singular phenomenon Connected with horticultural morality, that many people whose principles will not allow of their making a foray in person are ever ready to pay the Brier-hunter a shilling a dozen for his wares, and ask no questions.
Fig. 8 shows the stamp of material the Brier buyer or collector wants to get, and also how to deal with it - in part. Let us follow the standard up. It is procured, prepared, and planted in November. In spring fresh growth starts. In July or August (a showery period in either month will do) it is ready for budding.
The number of buds to put in must depend, naturally, on the number of suitable branches on the top of the Brier stem. If there are four, five, or six shoots as thick as a lead pencil, more or less, four, five, or six buds may be inserted, one in each.
Beginners often put the buds in near the tips of the branches: this is wrong. They must be inserted as close to the base as they can be got. After a wet spell there is no trouble in preparing the branches, because, with a free flow of sap, the bark rises readily. The sharp edge of a knife should be pressed through the bark about 1 1/2 inches from the base, at right angles with the branch. Then the point of the knife should be pressed into the bark at the very base, and drawn up the centre of the shoot until it enters the cross cut first made. If a proper budding knife with a flat handle is used, it can now be reversed, and the bark raised at both sides by running the bone along beneath the cut edges.
There are two salient points connected with the buds. One is to keep them fresh; the other is to get out the wood without pulling the growing germ away with it. A little variation in the size of the bud, or in the time of budding, is nothing serious; but these points are vital. Beginners should always cut the buds out rather long. Suppose that a healthy summer shoot as thick as a small cigarette is taken. One inch above a leaf gently slide the sharp edge of a knife through the bark, and draw it down underneath the leaf, about half-way through the shoot, bringing it up 1 inch below the leaf, and then slicing off with it a tail of bark. Crop off the leaf, except for 1/2 inch of stump, turn the bud cut face upward, and twist the "tail" round one finger, holding it firmly with another. Drawing back this "tail" will cause the wood to rise, so that it can be grasped between the finger and thumb and pulled out. If the small green germ, not much bigger than a pin's head, which lies in the hollow of the bud, comes out with the wood, leaving nothing but a mere shell of bark, throw the bud away and get another. With practice, it will be found that the bud can be so manipulated as to get the wood away without pulling forth the germ. When that art is mastered, the principal stumbling block is removed.
Keeping the buds fresh is simple. As fast as they are prepared they should be dropped into a vessel of water, and directly enough are ready to bud a few of the standards, get it done. Insert each bud, see that the edges of the bark evenly overlap it, and then bind the whole gently but firmly round from top to bottom with soft worsted.
It can very soon be seen if the buds are not going to take, for they will begin to shrivel. If they remain fresh they will grow, but if they remain dormant all the winter so much the better. When they start in spring, cut back the Brier shoots, leaving only a stump a few inches long to tie the young Rose shoots to as they develop. At the end of the first growing season the stumps may be cut away, and the standard is a Brier no longer, but a full-fledged Rose. Fig 9, shows a growing shoot suitable for yielding buds, the buds, and their insertion in the shoots.
Propagation by cuttings presents no serious difficulties. Ripe, brownish pieces of the current year's growth, 8 or 9 inches long, with a piece of the older wood, termed a "heel," at the base, are suitable, and they should be prepared and inserted in September. It is well to put them in deeply say, two-thirds of their length, and make the soil firm. Should the frost heave them up in winter, tread the soil back again directly it softens. I have rarely seen better Roses of any class than the own-root plants raised by the well-known Kentish exhibitor, the Rev. J. R. Buchanan, of Herne. He is particularly successful with Teas. Among these, Madame Lamoard Hon. Edith Gifford, Innocente Pirola, and Souvenir d'Elise Vardon do wonderfully well. Some varieties make good plants in a year, others in two years. Fig. 10 shows the kind of shoot to choose for cuttings, and Fig. 11 the cuttings inserted.
The grafting of Roses is so rarely practised out of nurseries, and withal is so simple, that it is scarcely necessary to deal with it at length, or to illustrate it. Seedling Briers just starting growth in small pots make the best stocks, and in the winter or early spring, with a close propagating case having bottom heat at command, there is no trouble. The scion should consist of a stout piece of firm, ripe Rose wood with a leaf. A slice may be taken out of the side of the stock, and the scion cut to fit the space. Then the two surfaces should be fitted together and tied. Covering with wax or clay is not necessary. They should be shaded, and dewed over frequently, until a union has taken place.