Jonathan Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, would have been right at home in Wallingford. He was a compassionate vegetarian, supremely focused in his 50-year quest to plant apple seeds from Pennsylvania as far west as possible. With Johnny, it was all about the seeds.
The problem with planting apple seeds is that the resulting tree usually produces apples that are nothing like the original. This happens because apples grown from seeds are extreme heterozygotes. These seedling fruits display unpredictable characteristics often only distantly related to their parent DNA. Their genes include variations that combine randomly and create apples that are vastly different from each apple’s parents.
To make a new apple tree with the kind of fruit that you want, you must graft. Grafting is a technique where you attach a piece of wood (scion) from the tree cultivar that you want, to another piece of living wood (rootstock) that will become the growing tree. This is a type of cloning.
There are many different ways to graft, with varying sizes of scion wood or buds and rootstock. And then there is graft compatibility – not every kind of fruit can be grafted to every kind of fruit tree. In general, you can graft most apples to apple and crabapple trees, most European pears to pear and quince trees, many Asian pears to Asian pears, quince, and European pears, and most stone fruit (cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, almonds) to each other.
Local non-profit City Fruit is offering a beginning apple and pear tree grafting class from 10 am to noon on Saturday, March 21 in lower Wallingford, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. Experienced grafter and orchard steward Patrick Mann, who has over 100 successful grants among the 50 fruit trees at Amy Yee Tennis Center in Mount Baker, will share his skills with a small group of students.
We will have scion wood available to graft modern and heritage apple cultivars such as Honeycrisp, Akane, Spartan, Liberty, Red Macintosh, Golden Russet, Blue Pearmain, and Winesap to a mature seedling tree serving as rootstock. And just to be a bit edgy, we’ll graft European pear varieties such as Bosc and Comice onto a hawthorn tree.
Dr. Frankenstein would approve.
The class is small so students can have individual attention. Sign up at cityfruit.org/classes