More than 4,000 years ago people noticed that apple and pears didnt reproduce true to the parents from seed, and the qualities admired in the parent would soon be lost. By grafting a woody stem from the favoured tree (Scion) on to a growing seedling (rootstock) from the same species, a new tree which was the same as the parent could be grown.
It was also noted that the plant which provided the rootstock dictated the growth and cropping of the grafted variety. Rootstocks today were classified by scientists at East Malling research in Kent early in the 20th Century. They were classified by vigour, each one having a letter and number to identify it. This system is still used today throughout the world.
M106 rootstock. Most of our fruitvtress are grafted on to a M106 rootstock. This is a good choice for small to large gardens. This rootstock will produce an apple tree about 3.6 metres (12 foot) wide and 3m (10 foot) tall at maturity. Apple trees on M106 rootstock can easily be pruned to keep them to a height of around 2 to 2.5 metres (6 to 8 ft) high. The roots are reasonably vigorous and an M106 rootstock apple tree can easily support itself without the need for staking. It will produce about 23 kilo (50lb) fruit in a normal season. The tree will not grow too large, so that the average mobile person will find it easy to prune.
M27 rootstock. The least vigorous of all the rootstocks - grown as a bush tree, they can be spaced as little as 1.2m (4ft) apart. Ideal for the small garden these trees need to be staked. Improve the soil before planting with plenty of organic matter. Mulch regularly to make sure the tree is well feed so that you get a good crop of apples. Apple trees on this rootsock are also suitable for planting in a large planter for the patio.
M9 rootstock. Dwarfing, most commonly used for commercial rootstocks. Ideal for small gardens, cordons and center leader trees. Produce large fruit.
M26 Rootstock. Semi-dwarfing, suitable for most bush and trained tree production. Roots produce suckers, will not do well on poorly drained sites.
M111 rootstock. Fast growing best for standard trees in large orchards or where sheep or cattle graze.
Colt rootstocks. A dwarfing rootstock used on cherry trees. The tree will will grow 6-10 foot tall with a 6-10 foot spread. Cut the centre out so all the branches bend down and its easier to cover from the birds.
Quince A. Used for pears. semi vigorous, most suit to large bush and espalier-trained plants.
Quince C. Used for pears. Semi Dwarfing, small bush, cordon or intensive orchards.
Pyrus. Used for pears. fast growing, ideal for standard forms.
Communis. Used for pears. Will produce large trees that live for a long time
Pixy . A dwarfing rootstockused on plums, suitable for bush trees planted 8-10 (3 m) apart