Thursday, September 27, 2012

First Apple Blossom

Yesterday was officially the first day for apple blossom. Apples bloom much later than Plums, Peaches and Apricots but roughly around the same time as Cherries. The honor of the first bloom (below), belongs to the Crofton. Crab apples on the other hand are a little more enthusiastic and have been blooming their asses off for the better part of a month now. The extremely showy blooms further down are from the North Rd "hedgerow" where I was gleaning scion wood a few weeks back. As they bloom much earlier I'm not sure how useful they will be for pollinating purposes but I have it on good authority that they will make good.

 Crofton Bloom. Simple, understated, potentially delicious.

Crab apple blooms. Showy, ridiculous, potentially useful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Plumcot Frankenfido

After only three damn years of waiting, the Plumcot I planted has fruited. Gardening is not for the impatient. As with most things I grow, the first bite and often all the way through to last, is with the eye. It just looked like a really nice orange Plum. Now that it's produced its first fruit I'm starting to see what a perfect hybrid of the two plants it really is. Its fuzzy and adorned with its dried crown like the Apricot, but it grows on the end of a long stalky proboscis thing like Plums and Frankenfido. Looks like a bumper crop of about 5 this year, but if we get to taste them that will be enough.

 Photos of the proud parents:. Apricot (left), Plum (right).

And here it is, the Frankenplumcot.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Translocated Rose Update

Proof if proof be need be that not only are roses easy to move, but they respond well to the abuse! Although not yet in full bloom, the translocated rose has better growth and more rose buds than all the other roses! I did back off on the dynamic lifter, opting for Osmacote slow release for its first growing season. Maybe it's really good stuff? Looking forward to seeing the first wave of flowers, the first ones are always the best!

Flush with growth!
First sight of rose colour.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Apple Rootstock Stooling

So you've bought too many apple root stocks have you? Well to be accurate, you've bought the minimum order possible from the ONLY commercial nursery you could find that sells root stocks AT ALL. That amount turns out to be 20, and if they are feeling generous or haven't mastered basic numeracy, 23. Then you graft interesting things onto them, every single one of them has taken successfully and you've got twenty three apple trees to get rid of. Well one of the options available to you is to make more bloody root stocks by a process called stooling. Why it's called that I can't say, it seems faintly inappropriate. While I can't see myself needing any more root stocks ever again, the logic of propagation simply doesn't work that way. The argument goes: I have a plant, I don't need or want any more of them, but because it's possible to make more of them I'd better get on with it and work out what to do with them when it becomes an issue.

This is an excellent 'how to' for root stock stooling. It looks like it's a scan from an old book, but if its copyrighted I'll take it down. Not really, come and take me on eh? I'm the Night Gardener, you've heard about what I like to do.
I managed to find a nice sunny spot for the process. Can you spot the stock?
Here's a closeup. Sheared off at ground level and basted in bitumen, Stooling is brutal!

Monday, September 17, 2012


 While I was feeding the apple trees as you must do at this time of year, I suddenly found myself in the presence of one of the worms from Dune! Hanging about in some seriously decomposed mulch was this leviathan who grudgingly took part in this photo shoot. Where's Paul Muad'Dib when you need someone to ride a worm for you! If you don't know what I'm talking about then you obviously haven't wasted two hours of your life watching Dune tonight as I just did.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Petty's Orchard

In a search for new apple scion wood bordering on madness I found myself driving to Templestowe on Sunday to visit the heritage apple orchard at Petty's Orchard and run by the Heritage Fruits Society (HFS). Although I had missed their purpose built 'Apple Grafting Day' some weeks previous (which I will continue to kick myself over), I had hoped that there might be some bits of wood left. On arrival I met John who runs the commercial operation at Petty's and oversees the orchard as a whole. He pointed me in the direction of the HFS guys who must have seen me coming and made a smart decision to pack it in for the afternoon. As luck would have it, I managed to pin down Ian and Fred, the big cheeses of the HFS just as they were about to leave and introduced myself. Unfortunately, almost tragically, I had missed the box of scion wood by minutes and logistically speaking I was more or less out of luck. More importantly though I was able to have a chat with Ian and Fred about the heritage apple orchard they maintain with its 200 varieties and the opportunities available for the aspiring orchardist, such as myself. I'm looking forward to going back in a months time when the blossom has hit to roll up my sleeves and help out in a real apple orchard. Plus they said they're gonna burn things and you wouldn't even need to be a gardener to enjoy that!

Various styles of pruning and training are used in the heritage orchard. Can they compete with my style of not quite knowing what I'm doing including grafting with calipers and weeding with sterilized tweezers? Only time will tell.
Wildlife! It's all so very different close up isn't it. Its terribly important to have some water fowl in your orchard, I must remember to get some,
On the way home I found out that Templestowe can be a mysterious and truley magical place. Undeniably influence by back to the future II and III, someone had tried their hand at converting a Commodore station wagon into a time travelling Delorean! Clearly they've run into a few teething problems as they've not been able to decide whether to go for the flying version from BTTFII (refer to rear wheel) or the esoteric railcar variety from BTTFIII (front).
You've got to make up your mind on which wheels to have. For me its always the flying one (left).
Here's the piece of 'Bonza' scion wood that Fred was kind enough to give me as a consolation prize. It's interesting, I can't think of any other pursuit in life where the gifting of a small stick could convey such meaning and gratitude as in the noble field of Orcharding. Perhaps in that dependable union of (Hu)man and dog, but slobber and teeth marks do not a good piece of scion wood make.

I wasted no time grafting it to a main branch of the Sturmer tree in the orchard. While these trees are just starting out I think it's an ideal time to add new varieties to these 'founding' branches so they can become a significant part of the tree.
Note: The spell checker in Firefox refuses to acknowledge the existence of the word 'orchardist', suggesting in its place 'harpsichordist'. Sigh...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Crab Apple Grafting

Its the first day of Spring and with the urge to garden comes the urge to blog, as well as other urges that are weird and confusing. After last years irritatingly successful grafting, I've been looking for a way to increase my apple cultivar diversity without taking up more than the generous area already allocated. The answer of course is to start adding bits to my existing apple trees. Of particular interest to me is finding crab apple trees and grafting them onto my normal sized apple trees. Crab apples create viable pollen for desert/cooking/cider/whatever varieties and also have prolonged flowering periods which is an enormous boon if you have a lot of trees that flower at slightly different times. And we're always on the lookout for enormous boons.

England has its hedgerows, America has the historic frontier orchards of Johnny Appleseed and I've got North Road, Oakleigh South opposite the Kittens Car Wash operated by a local adult entertainment complex which is very active in the community. The focus of my attention on this day however is a row of what I believe to be quite old crab apples teetering on the brink of bursting into bright red blooms which last for almost a month. Luckily they are street trees so it isn't a morally questionable act to help with their pruning and in a few minutes with some funny looks from passers-by, I had what I was after.

A number of questions spring to mind when harvesting budwood from apple trees. Are they actually apple trees? I'm almost 100 percent sure in this case but I can't completely dispel that nagging doubt that I don't know what I'm doing. I expect mushroom hunters feel much the same. Are they healthy? Now here is a definite legitimate concern yes? If I said I was going to hang out on a seedy street corner opposite a strippers car wash and strap a foreign object to something of mine you'd be at least a little concerned. How do you know for sure that an apple tree is healthy and that the grafting process isn't going to bring some kind of virus into your orchard. I'll have to dwell on this but for the moment i'll settle for a visual inspection of the tree and its constitution. Last of all, am I going to get in trouble? Why can't people just be cool? These harvested specimens were just starting to take off so I got in just in time.

My arsenal of grafting weaponry including my most excellent rose budding knife and indispensible paddle pop sticks. I have dispensed with the mastic grafting wax. Messy, time consuming and wierd it didn't seem to contribute much to the process. With good grafting tape (which is well worth the money!) the union is very well sealed?

What, you don't use digital calipers to measure your grafting site diameter? I wouldn't blame you, its just stupid. But they were expensive and I need to justify their purchase whenever possible. And also, grafting is science!

A before and after of my first crab apple appendage. In this case appended to one of my street apple trees, a Corryong Seedling on M26. I was quite pleased with the graft line-up except the top needed to be squeezed together somewhat with the tape. Side by side I'm sufficiently reassured that I found an apple tree that day. Time will tell.