Summer Grafting Get-Together

When: July 12th
Time: 9:00am to 11:00 am approx.
Where: At Road’s End Farm
What: An informal class on using T-Budding and Chip Budding techniques for warm weather grafting of fruit trees.
This is an informal, outdoors, hands on group setting to learn how to use these styles of grafting to propagate fruit trees.
Why: To save grandma’s heirloom peach tree, to get an exact replica of that “perfect plum” you don’t know the name of, to make a “fruit cocktail tree” with multiple types of fruit on one tree. Or just for fun!

Bud GraftWe will be focusing on Pear, Peach, Plum and Apricot and we expect to have another event in late August on Apples. RSVP is a must and seating is very limited for this one. Send an email to reserve your spot to and you will be selected in the order received. Again this is not a demonstration, it is a hands on, get dirty, you will graft some trees, event!
There is no tuition cost on this class to the selected participants. We ask you bring your own very sharp pocket knife or a box cutter type knife, water, hat etc. Dress for the weather. We will supply all other items. You can collect budwood from our orchard or bring your own. We will ask for how many rootstock you will need and these we will charge $4.00 each (our cost) as a potted plant. We will send instructions on collecting and saving your own budwood.


By Catherine Smith (doccat5)
April 8, 2013


Well let us consider the ancient art form of espalier. What is espalier? It is any tree or shrub pruned and formed (trained) against a wall. Espalier differs from topiary in that in espalier it forms the skeleton of the tree, while topiary forms the silhouette by pruning alone.

Gardening picture

This technique originated in France and England in the 16th century, out of the practical need for growing fruit in such marginal climates as northern France and southern England. Traditionally it is used primarily on dwarf apple and/or pear trees, but other types of plants can be trained in this manner.

The Six Basic Espalier Styles

Cordon: Most traditional form of espalier. Grows horizontally for a distance, lending itself well as a garden-bed divider. Can be a single cordon, also known as “rope,” or a multicordon, generally with three tiers of branches. The multicordon takes two to three years to reach definition. May take longer on the East Coast because of shorter growing seasons.

Palmetto Verrier:
Vertical branching adds nice definition between trees planted against a wall or fence. Horizontally trained branches are gradually trained into upright positions. Design can take up to three years to reach definition.

Fan: Suitable for areas requiring vertical coverage; will best cover a square space. Style defines quickly; can have clear definition within one year. Branches angled at 45° can be raised or lowered for greatest fruit yield.

Tree is allowed to take on a more natural shape; requires simple pruning to keep on a two-dimensional plane. Somewhat easier to train-simply balance the tree’s aesthetic symmetry as the branches begin to grow.

Belgian fence: Lattice effect offers one of the most formal looking styles. Requires three trees or more to create overlapping Vs and two modified Vs to create finished ends. Within one year, the beginning design of overlapping Vs is well outlined.

Also known as “Brooklyn Botanical.” Several vertical branches stem off one horizontal base. Fairly easy to train and maintain.

First of all, espaliers save space. An espaliered fruit tree provides loads of fruit in a fraction of the volume of a natural tree.

Second, an espaliered tree bears earlier than a natural tree, bears much more heavily (in spite of the reduced number of branches), and bears for a longer time. A well-trained espalier often remains fruitful for over a hundred years. An espaliered tree is pruned and trained so that all of its energies are concentrated in the production of fruit-bearing wood. Once the skeleton or ‘chassis’ of the tree is established, all the gardener’s efforts focus on the development of vital, healthy fruiting wood.




Third, an espaliered fruit tree is healthier than an unpruned, untrained tree. Increased air circulation throughout the tree in available by using this technique. Secondly, the frequent attentions of the gardener required to maintain the espalier mean that he or she spots problems early on and applies appropriate interventions more promptly, thus needing less spraying.

An espaliered fruit tree is much easier and faster to harvest. Likewise, any necessary treatments can be applied more quickly and easily, and with a lesser volume of spray than on a natural tree.

Finally, the interesting part, from an aesthetic point of view. An espaliered fruit tree becomes a piece of landscape sculpture. It is beautiful in all seasons of the year.

The art of espalier also allows you to solve vexing landscape problems in interesting ways. For instance, no prettier enhancement to bare house wall exists than to train an espaliered fruit tree against it. If that wall has windows, you can choose a form that artfully frames them. And best of all, horizontal space is not an issue, as the espalier will cling flat against the wall. At the same time, an espalier will not harm the wall of your house as will many climbing plants with holdfasts.

Some growers simply enjoy the aesthetic value of espaliered trees, with their traditional symmetrical branch forms resembling fans and candelabras. These forms are created by snipping off unwanted branches and training others to move down toward the desired position. These unique forms make exquisite garden focal points: during winter, the branching patterns are revealed; during the spring, apple blossoms in varying shades of white and pink decorate the tree; during the summer, there is a two- or three-week stage of dramatic showy blossoms. Also, because you can train them to grow against almost any supportive structure, they are wonderful “cover-ups” for unattractive walls, fencing, or compost bins.

Espaliered fruit trees can also be used as elegant screens and fences. Free-standing forms make incredibly beautiful vertical accents in any garden–living sculptures that provide not only a feast for the eyes, but for the tongue and tummy as well.

Along with pear trees, apple trees are the traditional espalier subject because their spurs live for years producing fruit. Espalier apple trees bear fruit at a young age and are versatile in nature, with their supple, easily trained new growth. However, you’ll need to practice delayed gratification because most of these trees take approximately three years to mature and reach the desired design. For some growers, this is too large a drawback. But if you don’t mind the wait, your patience and creativity will pay off in the long run, with bushels of yummy fruit and a very attractive unusual focal point in your landscape design.

THE TRADE-OFF: Most espaliered trees need approximately three years to attain the desired design and reach maturity. If you can stand the wait, you’ll be rewarded with beautifully structured trees and bushels worth of fresh apples, pears and other fruits.

This year’s grafting is finally complete.  We ended up grafting about 280 new little trees.  This is exciting because it allows us to grow and evaluate many antique or rare varieties we normally would not have available.  Names like Bell-De Boskoop, Karmije De Sonnaville and Caville Blanc D’hiver evoke thoughts of the faraway countries and places they came from.   Chenago Strawberry, Pitmaston Pineapple and Apricot on the other hand are intriguing because their flavor is reminiscent of a different fruit than apples.  Williams Pride and Westfield Seek No Further are obviously just the best there is.

This season we are doing things a little different. We bench grafted this scion wood to both semi-dwarf and full dwarf rootstock so we could offer a variety to those wanting smaller trees.  After grafting we planted into 3”x 3” x 8” tree pots and will grow them indoors until all frost is past.  At that point we will transplant and grow them for probably 2 years in the field. The first winter the whips will be pruned back to encourage branching and the second winter

Starting grafted trees in 3″ x 3″ x 8″ tree posts

the trunk and branches will be cut back again.  By the second summer, 2014, they should be ready to go to new locations.  About 45% were new types of apples and the rest were from the ones we have growing.  This picture shows a few in tree pots starting to leaf out

We also grafted sweet Cherries, about 8 types, European pears 6 kinds and European plums 6 kinds.  Earlier we had grafted about 14 new jujubes.  Matt is getting to be fast at bench grafting and with Connie and myself wrapping the grafting tape and labeling the varieties we have worked out a pretty good and simple system. All in all it was a fun and worthwhile springtime project

 It is funny to see a little 10″ tree with blooms on it! 

Some 10″ grafted trees blooming!

Earlier in the spring we had a post that covered a little on grafting.  This past March Matt and Ashley grafted 25 apple trees using a EMLA 7 rootstock.  They started with both the saddle graft and the whip and tongue styles.  Soon it became apparent that the whip and tongue was easier and more comfortable to work with. When doing the winter pruning we saved scion wood from some of our less common, unpatented apple trees.  Below are pictures of some of their successes now 90 days later.  Considering this was their first attempt and with no formal training, I believe their results were exceptional.  They have 18 good grafts out of 25 for or 72 percent success rate. We were unable to find any correlation between variety and success rate.  Hopefully next year these will be ready to sell and expand our inventory selection.  The varieties are Cox Orange Pippin, Liberty, Grimes Golden Delicious, Gibsons Golden and Empire.

  Here is a picture I took in early June, 3 months later to show how the little trees look. The green is a sealer so the graft union doesn’t dry out

Last weekend was good weather and a perfect chance to get trees pruned. Luckily at their small size not much pruning is required, mainly heading back central leaders to get more and better scaffold branching.  We also trimmed some scaffold branches back to get secondary branching on them.  It is amazing the different growth habits of different varieties.  Some are very stubborn with upright branches that need to come down more horizontal, some are reluctant to branch well. Some types had a profusion of good branches with no work on our part.  Having them in groups of 5 in one spot helps to see the differences in growth types. 

 This was also a good time to collect scion wood.  Scion wood is new growth from last year that is usually a terminal part of a branch. It is the name for the wood that is grafted onto rootstock.  Virtually all fruit trees varieties are grafted to a different type rootstock.  These rootstocks are types developed for different reasons.  Most are made to dwarf a tree’s ultimate size or are for disease resistance or possibly for different soil types.  We grafted about 25 apple trees on EMLA 7 rootstock this weekend.  EMLA 7 gives a tree about 60% of standard size, has good anchoring and is great for heavy or clay soils. 

The 2 basic graft styles we used were Whip and Tongue and Saddle graft. These 2 will work on most fruit trees although the commercial growers may use a different style. Both pieces of wood should match in diameter and be about pencil thickness. In this grafting the main points are to make even planes that will mate well with each other, to have the best contact with cambium wood (the layer just under the bark), to hold the pieces tight together and seal to prevent air getting into and drying the union. 

With the saddle graft the rootstock is cut at an angle on opposite sides so that it comes up to a point (an inverted “V”) and the scion wood is notched with a “V” shape cut at the same angle and length.  We found the hardest part was to get the cuts exactly 180 degrees opposite each other, also the “V” cut wants to just slide under the bark and give you a “U” shape cut.  Cutting the “V” takes practice and some skill.  It is best to wrap your fingers and thumbs with white medical tape first to prevent cutting yourself since you are cutting back towards you.  We used a box cutter razor knife and you will cut yourself if not protected!


The Whip and Tongue graft was much easier for us to accomplish.  You make 1 cut all the way through the rootstock at an angle with about a 1.5” cut, then halfway down make a cut in reverse to the start of the original cut.  Do the same on the scion wood and insert the pieces together.  If each cut is the same length and parallel it makes a very strong graft that holds together well.


 Always watch and make sure that your cuts will end up with the buds going upwards!  As soon as you have put the parts together you need to bind them tight with something that will give as the tree grows. We used grafting tape which is 5/8”wide clear polyethylene (non adhesive).  Just start wrapping in a spiral and tie off when you are past the graft.  Some people will use electrical or masking tape which will give or break when the tree grows.  Black tends to get too hot if the tree is grown in full sun before unwrapping.  After wrapping we then applied  Dr Farwell’s Seal and Heal  This is a paste that you brush on and it dries in 30 minutes to form a flexible long lasting, rot resistant coating impervious to water and air.

Many people just use the grafting paste or can get a good seal with just the tape.  Since we felt inexperienced we used both as a precaution.  We also kept the roots of the rootstock in a bucket of water except when we were actually working on them and the same for the cut ends of the scion wood.

Now all we have to do is wait for them to bud out and start growing, then we will see how good a job we did and how successful this was.  All in all not a bad way to spend part of a Saturday.