July. Hard Graft?

Grafting is one of those gardening mysteries.

Jargon like ‘scion’, ‘topworking’, ‘stock, ‘rootstock’, ‘whip and cleft’, don’t help much either.

We are fortunate to have a guru of the graft – John Pinniger from the Heritage Fruits Society – running a grafting workshop at the garden on Sunday 23 July. The HFS manage Petty’s Orchard at Templestowe – and are the volunteer keepers of much of Victoria’s apple heritage. Their aim is to conserve heritage fruit varieties (also known as ‘heirloom fruits’) on private and public land.

Petty’s Orchard has 280 apple varieties on 350 trees, most planted in the 1980s by Melbourne Parks & Waterways, but later additions to the collection include French cider apples, and other heirloom varieties, as well as a collection of apple rootstock, the 3 Medlars available in Victoria, and roadside collections.

Each year in Melbourne the volunteers from the Society run two workshops – at the Templestowe orchard and at Ceres. And there’ll be a third one at our garden this July. The focus will be on apples, but John will also cover pears and stonefruit (peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots etc.)

Places are very limited, so book your spot now for either of two sessions – 10.30 till 12.30, or 1.30 till 3.30. Cuppas and cake at start and end of day. Soup for lunch in between for all. Cost? A donation to cover John’s train ticket and printed notes. It’ll be members first, but we welcome other gardeners (and will have a waiting list in the event of cancellations).

As well as bringing some material to practice on, John has kindly offered to bring some scion (what you graft from) and rootstock (what you graft to, if you aren’t grafting to your existing trees) from the heritage orchard to sell. Because he will be coming by train, he’ll need to know what and how much to bring.

If you look at the website links, you can see all the scion varieties they have and also the ones they recommend as most popular. John will also bring his special grafting tape for sale. All proceeds will go to the Heritage Fruits Society.

More info, to book and order planting material, and offers of food, contact Janet 0439 003 469 or email.

Johnny Appleseed may not have been such the harbinger of good that popular myth suggests, since apples don’t tend to grow “true” to their type from seed; only grafting will produce the same variety. He had religious objections to grafting and preferred wild apples to all named varieties.

But legend also says that Johnny was very popular with cider makers! Since he was against grafting, most of his apples were not readily edible and could only be used for cider. (Writer Michael Pollan suggests the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was because he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier…)

Appleseeds aside, the July notes are now posted. Find out what to grow and do in the garden this month, in amongst the frosts. It is a rewarding time to spend amongst the bare bones of the garden, taking stock and planning ahead. Plus other July tasks

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