Azaleas blooming, apple tree grafting

Took this shot today at work of one of our Exbury hybrid azaleas in full bloom. In addition to those stunning blooms, the fragrance is heavenly! Exbury azaleas are hybrids of several native deciduous azaleas that grow in the shady understory of the coastal plain and Piedmont of the Southeast.

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This past weekend, one of Richmond’s local cideries hosted a workshop on how to graft apple trees. Grafting is the technique of taking the scion wood (top half) of a tree that produces the fruit you want, and attaching it to the root stock of a tree that is cold hardy/heat tolerant/disease resistant. All apple trees have to be propagated this way, since they do not breed true to type from seed.

Anyway, we were given two varieties for the scion wood (old heirlooms, Albemarle Black and Golden Pearmead) to graft onto the root stock of the dependable Red Delicious. It took me some time to get the angle of the cut just right, as the thin layer of tissue on both pieces of stem have to line up very closely, with maximum contact giving you the best chance of the graft “taking.” Two cuts on my finger and what seemed like fifteen attempts later, I had two apple seedlings with successful grafts. Both are now planted in the back yard, with a homemade fence around them to keep the deer and other critters away.

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The trees are still many years away from bearing, but that’s a small price to pay for having apples to pick within a stone’s throw of the back door!

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