Glory's Garden

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Patience is good and persistence pays: Guest post by Raymond Alexander Kukee

 Let's not lose focus now, remember, patience is good and persistence pays.
Back in 1994  I planted a skinny  McIntosh apple tree. It was a mere whip,  about 15" high, no branches, and the size of a very skinny brown  pencil.  Despite my advanced gardening skills and encouragement, annual examinations and talking to  it,  in all this time (yep, seventeen years, threats and all )  it never grew more than 5' high, hm....actually it may  not even be  quite that high.

It is still not much more than an inch in diameter.  StuntedHeight challenged. Anemic looking.  Nary a blossomA  potential Charlie Brown Christmas treeSans vitamins or something.   Last year was definitely the last straw, time to cut it down.  Not so fast, gardening guy.   There's only one thing we hate around here more than wimps and quitters, and that's apple-tree-chopper-downers.  Apples, the fruit of the Gods and all that. 

The optimism in Glory's Garden must have rubbed off on me.  "One more year...I'll GRAFT it,"  I said, almost changing my mind,  the old fingers just itching to grab the axe.

THIS very spring, a few months ago,  while it was still looking leafless, I was going to reverse direction again,  hack it down, and even made a cut on the base as I started to do so.    I  changed my mind at the last second.  It must have been the zeitgeist whispering.

Instead,  I studiously grafted a twig  (scion, that's apple talk)  from a producing "Sweet Sixteen" apple onto a  nipped-off handy branch, that would be  any arbitrarily chosen branch close to the trunk.   The theory is if a branch graft  will grow, you can eventually hack off  (in civilized terms, reduce)  the rest of the OLD tree and convert the whole thing to the new species. Not a bad plan, since I have had marginal to fair and reasonable to  erratic success grafting. Out came the grafting knife and black tape.  A simple wedge graft. Match up the cambium ( that's the green stuff under the bark). That's how you do it. Crank it up with tape to seal it so no sap can escape. Sap  has to go up into the graft  when the buds start growing.  All that sipping-sap makes it grow.
Well, that's the theory.

For the longest time the graft looked like a dud, completely hopeless.  A skinny stick with one end stuck in black tape.  No leaves.  Dried up buds.  Dead, falling off, and threatening to dry up completely.  The bark was even  beginning to wrinkle.  I clipped off  the top end of the graft stick  (scion, remember-- to real apple guys )   and sealed that cut, too.  

Nothing happened for a month, and the rest of the tree came into it's usual wimpy leaves, so in disgust,  I thought the best strategy was to simply ignore the whole tree for the season,  disassociate my hurt feelings and gardening soul from it, take revenge and viciously hack it down in the fall --after the  leaves dropped.
It's easier to do when the tree is 18 years old,  the age of majority for apple trees. Besides, in the fall, most trees look like  dead sticks without leaves  --much easier for sensitive  gardeners to hack down.   The  "chop it down with something , anything *sharp and get a real tree " concept came to mind.   (The *axe was indeed looking very tempting  at the time )

Surprise...I could not believe my eyes.  Three months later, a.k.a.  a few days ago, I discovered  the graft was not only growing, but it has blossoms.  Apple blossoms.   That would be right, since the stick (scion)  I stuck on there wasn't from a spruce or poplar tree.  Success.    I held my breath. Are we there yet? A real dual- apple tree?

  Even  more confusing, the whole  tree began to grow like never before--putting on at least a foot of height.  The leaves are now dark green, lush --  and healthy.   Why?  Grafting?   It's looking good!   I'll have a dual-species tree --if the original tree ever decides to blossom.

Maybe I half scared it to death with that sharp chopper. Maybe it just wanted extra encouragement, or company,  being an old tree and such.  No, it can't be

I know.  I think the zeitgeist from  Glory's Garden  took over and  influenced it.  They can do that, you know.  I'll ask her.   She'll know.

Raymond Alexander Kukee is another of my Helium buddies who happens to be an avid gardener, too. While his blog Incoming Bytes deals mostly with politically charged current events he often veers off the marble steps of city hall and takes a leisurely stroll into the garden. Well, you have to know, if you've been to my garden long enough, I highly recommend this practice if only to revive the soul and replenish the senses. Yes, Raymond, patience is most important to the gardener. I thank you for sharing a little bit of your garden with us.


  1. I wouldn't be surprised if "zeitgeist" from Glory's Garden wasn't a factor. (Funny how often I'm seeing that word used now.) Gardeners aren't the only ones who can learn a lesson from this excellent article. :)

  2. A very interesting and engaging write. I see the zeitgeist is hovering around, inhabiting your garden now. And I liked the dual apple-tree. ;)

    Well done Raymond. And thanks for the post, Glory. :)

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