Garden Lore

Sir Frank Crisp’s eccentricities were reflected in his garden. In 1905 Lady Ottoline Morrell visited Friar Park where she found Crisp, dressed in frock coat and top hat, proudly showing his visitors around the garden, which had ‘Sham Swiss mountains and passes decorated by china chamois’. Twenty-three thousand tons of rock were used in the construction of this garden which accommodated an extensive collection of alpine and other rock garden plants.

Alastair Forsyth Yesterday’s Gardens (1983)

graft incompatibility
Graft incompatibility

The odd growth on this tree is a fine example of what is called graft incompatibility. Many trees and some shrubs are grafted or budded – in other words the roots of a different cultivar are used to grow the desired top. There are many reasons to do this. Sometimes dwarfing stock is used to keep fruit trees – particularly apples and citrus – small enough for home gardens. Often a plant will have special characteristics – maybe variegated foliage, bigger flowers, weeping habit – but it cannot be raised true from seed and getting it to root from cuttings may be difficult, too slow or impossible. In that case, it is budded or grafted.

A closely related plant has to be used as root stock and as a customer you are reliant on the propagator or nursery knowing what root stocks to use. If they make a poor choice you can end up with this effect over time. It will be a weak point on the trunk. Where the top and bottom are fully compatible, it is hard to pick the join although it always pays to keep low growth removed in case it is the root stock coming away. It can out-compete the grafted top if left to its own devices.

This is a lime tree, or linden on a London street.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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2 thoughts on “Garden lore: Friday August 1, 2014

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Yes. The ill-fated era when those with insufficient knowledge thought it would be good to do high grafts of decorative tops (often weeping) onto root stock with attractive peeling bark like P. serrula. Sadly incompatible longer term. I was thinking of that practice in particular when I mentioned that the customer is dependent on the grower using the right root stock. There are many similar issues with Michelia doltsopa ‘Silver Cloud” too. Short term success does not necessarily equate to long term compatibility.

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