Blue State Graft

February and early March are dormant grafting season.  For several years I’ve been involved in a statewide group of people interested in preserving rare and interesting types of fruit-bearing trees.  In the late winter various chapters hold scion exchanges at which people can buy rootstocks and collect twigs (a.k.a. scions — hence the name of the exchanges) of different varieties of fruit to graft onto them.   Around here, backyard orchards are a pretty popular hobby; in the early spring, public libraries hold classes on how to graft fruit trees, and our local chapter puts on a grafting clinic, with demonstrations and some one-on-one help.   I’ve learned the basics of grafting, and every spring now I build a few trees of my own.  I have quite a flock of them, many in pots, waiting for the day when I can finally plant my fantasy orchard.

Early this month I grafted four kinds of pears and two of apples, and a nectarine onto rootstocks and started some fig cuttings indoors.   A couple of weeks later I grafted a couple of twigs of Golden Delicious apple from one tree of mine onto another.   The antique pears have wonderful French names:  Buerre Hardy, Conseilleur a la Cour, Duchesse de Comice.    Because I’m not skilled and don’t have confidence, grafting for me is slow and fiddly.  It also carries a frisson of danger, because grafting knives are as sharp as razors.  I cut myself at least once each season; this year it was a nasty slice in my forefinger.  I’ve come to believe that grafts won’t really take unless you shed some blood as a sort of sacrifice.

My daughter and son-in-law bought bare-root trees — avocados, apples, a pear, a mandarin, a lime — for their new house.   I could probably do that; these days nurseries sell an amazing variety of trees.   I don’t know, though; there’s something satisfying and enlightening about learning a skill, seeing my homemade trees  grow and  bear fruit, and absorbing the lore of rootstocks and graft types.   It’s an ancient art, and it feels right to be part of another generation carrying it forward.




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