Friday, 6 April 2018


Apple grafting in the cold with David Ellwand. Photo: Paul Loughane

Hedge laying spectators are often surprised how much wood is cut through to bend down the stems. The hawthorn stem should be cut 80% through so that the upright stem can be bent over. There is enough of the cambium layer left for the bent stem to survive and give maximum regrowth from the stool. Even more of a miracle for them would be apple grafting, cutting an apple variety stem, the scion, completely and then grafting it on to a root stock. Wirral Countryside Volunteers and Wirral Tree Wardens held an apple grafting day at New Ferry Butterfly Park with an impressive total of 18 varieties of scions which came from orchards in Malpas, Willaston and Chester.

Apple Grafting - the cut. Photo: Paul Loughnane

Despite the cold, 3oC with snow and wind which made the fingers numb and stiff, under the gentle tutelage of David Ellwand 36 apple scions were grafted to either dwarfing or semi-dwarfing stocks. This was achieved using the whip-and-tongue groove method and then firmly bound with tape. Lining up the scion can be difficult and if the rootstock is larger than the scion you have to graft the scion to one side for the graft to be successful, making sure the cambium layers of both knit together so there is a free flow of sap.

Whip-and-tongue grafting sequence

Several Cheshire varieties of apple were grafted. There are no named Wirral apple varieties. The nearest name variety is the Elton Beauty, raised at Ince Nursery in 1954. However, one apple seedling at the park was thought worthy of grafting the “Adam and Eve tree” which produces a crisp dessert apple, with a good, sweet flavour. This was christened the “Adam and Eve” tree by raconteur Mel Roberts, the Park’s founder. The story goes the tree arose following a domestic argument; when the green grocer’s wife dumped the green grocer’s produce including apples in the park when it was abandoned land.

David Elwand took a tour of the park assessing the apple trees growing there. They were bought as wild crab apple trees but turned out to be varieties of apple trees. He gave us advice on pruning them. Right at the north end of the park up the steep embankment, David was rewarded; identifying a golden hornet crab tree, the apples of which would be very useful for his Pomona cider project.

Potted up grafted trees. Photo: Paul Loughnane

The grafted trees are well-labelled, potted up and placed in a shady corner in the park to slow growth just in time for the union to take before the scion comes into full leaf and draws on the rootstock. In addition to cloning the apple varieties, the dwarfing rootstocks were propagated by both coppice stooling and trench layering.

Paul Loughnane

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