The Eugene Permaculture Guild hosts an annual, free Spring Propagation Fair that I recently attended. The event included a fruit tree grafting portion, a seed swap area and several speakers throughout the day talking about things related to edible gardening. I have always been curious about how fruit tree grafting works so I went to check it out.

I was first and foremost completely blown away at the huge number of fruit tree cultivars that were available at the fair. I’m not sure whether they have something similar to this event up in Portland, but it would be worth the drive to Eugene next year if you are looking for a rare or uncommon fruit tree cultivar.

There were several dozen buckets of different plum and Asian pear cuttings, or scionwood, each bucket a different cultivar. I would guess there were over a hundred apple and European pear choices. Can you imagine? There were just buckets after buckets snaking around the room.

Although not rare, Mirabelle plums can be somewhat hard to find. I saw an empty bucket that previously held some cuttings and vowed next year I would come earlier to grab one. I believe Raintree Nursery up in Washington state sells them, but I like the idea of grafting and growing one myself.

The tree cuttings were collected by fruit tree enthusiasts – people who specialize in growing rare or uncommon cultivars. Some people were growing them in the city and others had a sizable piece of property on the outskirts of town. What an interesting group of characters and a great source of knowledge.

People were milling about and browsing through the buckets of cuttings, each with a very clear description of the cultivar’s traits. Various rootstock was available for purchase, so once you had the two ready to go you would consult with one of the grafting experts.

The grafting table had several well-seasoned experts ready to answer questions and walk you through the process of grafting fruit trees. They were the ones who carefully cut the rootstock and the tree cuttings, arranging them together and then wrapping the two pieces into place. They offered tips on what to watch for the first couple years and answered other fruit tree related questions.

I’m glad this event is now on my radar and look forward to learning more about the process next year!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson