CREATING a new apple variety for my little orchard has proved to be real hard graft.
My New Year resolution as we came into 2020 was to take a walk along the Newport-Cowes cyclepath and ‘borrow’ some trackside prunings — or scions — from a tree that I had previously discovered produced apples of real sweet crispness.
It was to be my first sojourn into the world of grafting I first witnessed some years ago at Deacon’s fruit nursery in Godshill, where, in skilled hands, it was the work of seconds to graft scions to create new trees on rootstock that would control the size of the tree.
I thought that while I was at it I would put a little appeal in my column for owners of favourite fruit trees to allow me to replicate them. In return I’d give them a new tree.
I went to Alverstone to get an eater and an ancient cooker; to Alan Stroud’s in Cowes, for apples and greengages; to Binstead and David Edwards’ orchard; to Ashey where apples stay on one tree into December and of course to the cycletrack to liberate some scions for Carriageapple I so named because the tree would have grown from a core thrown out of a train window many years ago.
But, as we all know, if I was to plant a Carriageapple seed I would end up with a very different apple. Most grown from seed are not worth exercising your jaws over.
I studied videos on the interweb, sourced rootstock and did the grafting just before budbreak, as instructed. The result? I can now categorically state that Robert Burns was very wrong when he said: “Suspense is worse than disappointment…”
I had the suspense, which was lovely because it was coloured by a big dollop of hope – asJust about every scion sprouted, then most browned-off and faded away, leaving only a few survivors this spring — and none of my Carriageapple. A big disappointmentboth to me and my scion donors.
But, from disappointment springs renewed hope…One problem with grafting is that the rootstock is often of much larger diameter than the one-year-old scion growth, which makes it difficult to get enough contact between the cambium layers just below the bark surface.
But, in the process of most of my babies fading away a lot of the rootstock put on new growth matching exactly the diameter of one-year-old Carriageapple scions and those taken from a roadside tree at Shide.
So, rootstock and scion were cut at precisely matching angles, bound together tightly with tape and sealed with grafting wax. And tThis time, fingers crossed that hope will spring eternal.
Also, very best regards to Ann Smout from the Crown Prosecution Service, who I chatted to before using my extendable pruners and putting my hands up to Grand Theft Apple…
l It’s a bit late to get things organised for this year because many varieties are already sprouting and many nurseries have sold out of rootstock — but it is worth bearing in mind for next year. Stock is often sold in bundles of ten costing about £2.50 for each, so it is probably worth getting together with like-minded friends and neighbours to swap fruity favourites.