Grafting is an ancient horticultural technique initially practiced by the Chinese before 2000 BC, in which tissues of plants are joined in order to continue their growth together. Today, grafting is carried out on a commercial basis, for scientific purposes and by enthusiasts, typically on plants which are difficult to propagate through cuttings.
Here at Lime Cross Nursery conifers, trees and shrubs have been grafted since the 1980s. Jonathan Tate, founder of the nursery, was a former member of the International Plant Propagators Society and learnt the technique from plantsmen in Holland.
Grafting requires careful monitoring and care throughout the entire process. It must be precise and requires a high level of expertise to achieve good results and healthy plants.
Carried out in the when the plants are in dormancy (not actively growing), a wedge is sliced from the stem of the host plant (or rootstock) using a sharpened and disinfected penknife. This reveals the cambium layers. A matching slice is cut into the stem of the plant to be grafted (or scion) and the sliced stems are then placed together and bound tightly to secure with grafting strip.
The bound grafts will then be transferred to a humidity tent where they are kept shaded and humid for several months until they are ready to be re-potted for further growth, and once re-potted, the grafted plants will be ready for sale in another two years.
Grafting season at Lime Cross Nursery is coming to a close, but over the course of the past two months, evergreen conifer species Abies, Pines, Piceas and Cryptomeria and deciduous conifers Gingko and Metasequoia have all been propagated.