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Some things change, some things stay the same.

April 14, 2008

A springtime herald here in Western Oregon,  is the blooming of the red flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum.  These plants are gorgeous, and always a surprise to see blooming in the woods, with their hot pink flowers.   Easily propagated from seed or hardwood cuttings, the wild currant makes an excellent low maintenance landscape plant. 

It used to be said that when the wild currant bloomed the smelt would begin running in the Columbia and its tributaries.  This is no longer true, the smelt or oolichan as the Indians called it has been recommended for listing on the Endangered Species Act.  I imagine I contributed to the extinction of this delicate, and tasty fish.  When the cry went out, “the smelt are in the Sandy” – people went in droves to dip them.  Being true rednecks, we didn’t clean the fish before frying or smoking.  They are so small, the guts are easily taken out after cooking.  But, you have to sample life as it comes.  Everyone shares in the demise of all the species that are gone.  The waters are polluted everywhere, and we have all had a part in it, one way or another.

Smelt song – or hummingbird favorite.
As for things staying the same, I usually graft every year, just to keep in practice.  This year I grafted scion wood I gathered here on the farm and some that I picked up at a scion wood exchange.
Pound Pear   – exchange       fruit weighs a pound, keeps until spring
Sweet Spanish Pie Cherry  – TC       juicy, sweet pie cherry 
Gravenstein  apple –  TC            old striped variety, tree planted 1881
King apple  –  TC              old reliable keeper, tree planted in 1881 
Jonathan apple – TC          old type, looks like King, keeps a little longer, tree planted  1885
unnamed self- dwarfing seedling  apple – TC    like Northern Spy, except bears every year. 
I used Antanovka standard rootstock for the apples, since I want long-lived trees.  Standards do not bear as soon, but will grow large enough to be used with livestock.
Also this weekend, I stuck cuttings for Vern’s Brown Turkey fig, and Interlaken seedless grape.

Leaves the size of mouse ears – time to graft.

Scion wood – cutting the apical-wedge or cleft graft.  Scion wood was gathered while dormant in early winter, and stored in the refrigerator.

Close-up of cutting the apical-wedge.


Cut the rootstock horizontally, matching the size of the rootstock to the scion wood.
Next make a vertical cut about 1″ down the rootstock

Gently push the cut scion wood down into the rootstock cut.  Match the cambium as close as possible. I will line the cambium up before wrapping on this one.  Cut the scion wood down to 2 – 3 buds. 

Wrap the joined area tightly with polyethylene grafting tape, (sometimes called tree tape) to keep the graft from drying out.  You can also use grafting wax or rubber bands.  If you use the tape, you can actually watch for the callous as the two surfaces join. 

Time will tell if I was successful or not.  Keep out of hot sun, keep well watered and rub off any growth that appears below the graft.

Maybe apple trees to last another 100 years!


5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2008 6:19 am

    I learn something every time I visit! Thanks!
    I love current jam, although I think we have a slightly different species here. Ours were mostly wiped out when pine blister rust control was actively pursued, but they are starting to return.
    We used to smelt fish too. I didn’t really like to eat them, although the rest of the family did. However, the fishing was a social event around here that was just unparalleled. Sorry that they have become scarce.

  2. April 15, 2008 7:08 am

    Wow, that made it seem so easy, even I could do it! I have always thought of grafting as one of the big mysteries of life…maybe I will give it a try…

  3. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 15, 2008 8:05 am

    threecollie – I’m glad your currants are coming back. The pine blister rust is a problem here too.
    It is the social events of communities that always bring back fond memories. Especially the ones centered around food.

    Jean Ann – It is easy, it’s mostly gathering up your supplies beforehand, and having a sharp knife. Very rewarding to start something from just a few twigs. If the graft fails, you can bud in the summer or just re-use the rootstock next year…

  4. April 16, 2008 12:25 pm

    Like Threecollie said, I always learn something. I’d like to try grafting an old apple from the other year, now I might, THANKS!

  5. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 16, 2008 8:24 pm

    Linda, you’ll be surprised how easy grafting is. I practice on extra apple wood prunings of the same size before making the actual graft. Then I can make a neater cut on the real thing. And you’re welcome!

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