What is grafting?

   Imagine an apple tree with bright-red Jonathan apples on one limb, Golden Delicious apples on another, and dark-red Winesaps on a third. It is possible to have just such a tree. The process called grafting makes it possible.

   Grafting means joining parts of two or more plants together so that they grow to be one plant. The top of a young crab apple tree, for example, may be cut off and the twig of another apple tree put in its place. The inner layer of the bark of a woody plant is called the cambium. It is made up of cells that are alive and growing. In grafting, the two cambium layers must come together.

   There are different ways of grafting. The joining is usually protected by a bandage or by a coating of wax.
Fruit trees grown from seeds are not likely to bear fruit just like the fruit that the seeds came from. For the little plant in the seed usually has two different trees as parents. If so, it is sure not to grow into a tree exactly like either parent. The only possible way of getting a new Golden Delicious apple tree is to graft a twig from a Golden Delicious tree on to the stem and roots of some other kind of tree. It may be another apple tree, or a quince tree.

   Grafted trees grow faster and bear sooner than trees raised from seed. The stem and roots already have a good start. Another advantage of grafting is that twigs of trees that are easily hurt by disease can be grafted on trees that are hardier.

   Fruit trees are not the only plants that are grafted. Grapevines, rosebushes, and lilac bushes are a few of the other plants that are often grafted. But only plants with woody stems can be grafted, and the parts must come from plants that are close relatives. It is fun to think of grafting a rose twig on a walnut tree and getting a rosebush 60 feet tall. But roses and walnuts are not close enough relatives to make such a rosebush possible.
Sometimes the top of a grafted plant may be broken off. Then the stem may send out branches and grow into its kind of plant. One man had a funny experience. He grafted twigs of two dwarf catalpa trees to the trunks of two young hardy catalpas. Then he planted the little trees side by side. They grew into very pretty umbrella-shaped trees about ten feet tall. Then a windstorm broke off the top of one tree. Soon the trunk of the damaged tree began to send out branches. It developed into a hardy catalpa nearly 30 feet tall. It and its former twin were a strange pair.