We were down the road enjoying a morning coffee at Marie's the other day, when we noticed a little advert stuck to the door for a "bourse aux greffons" not far away. A bourse translates in this case as something like an exchange, as in stock exchange, and greffon is a graft, also to mean a grafted tree. The advert mentioned apples, pears, quince and plums, and being generally interested in garden-related things, we decided to take a look.
So this morning, a cold and misty Sunday we took a 20-minute amble in the car down some country lanes to the Château de Verdelles.
We got there 10 minutes after opening, and the place was already busy. The bourse was in a converted barn, and there were more varieties of apples, pears, quince, and so on, than... well... than you could shake a stick at. I think the event is organised by a club of fruit tree enthusiasts: there were old as well as modern varieties there, and also some with strange descriptions like "on the road to Le Mans"
Apple trees don't breed true from seed, so if you want to ensure that you get the right type of apples, you have to make a new plant using genetic material from an existing tree. The easiest way of doing this is to graft a scion onto a root stock, and this gives the advantage that by selecting the right root stock, you can also determine the final height of your tree.
So on the central table were laid out, carefully labelled, little piles of scions from all sorts of fruit trees. At one end of the room there were heaps of root stocks, and at the other end of the room were guys who would graft the one to t'other for you. The scion would cost you a euro, the root stock 2, and the grafting 2, so you could get a fresh graft for 5 euros. You could also bring your own root, your own scion, or take things home and do the grafting yourself if you wanted. Grafts are not always successful, but even so, an apple tree of your choice for 5 euros is not to be sniffed at.
Well, I've had this idea sitting at the back of my head for a while, that it would be nice to have some espaliered fruit trees somewhere about. If I'm honest, it's because I've been seduced by the wonderfully-managed examples that I've seen in stately gardens. So, even though I have not prepared anywhere to put them, I failed to resist the temptation to buy 4 trees.
Firstly, I chose 4 different varieties of scion: Reinette Clochard, Reinette d'Armorique, Winter Banana and Grand Alexandre. I then chose root stock that will allow compact growth of espaliered trees. The last stage of the process was getting the scions grafted onto the roots, and these pics below show how it was done: saw the root stock down to length; split the end of it with a curved knife and mallet; wedge the resulting slit open with a screwdriver; insert the tapered end of the scion into the split so the two green growing bits touch; remove the screwdriver and bind the result; wax the join to protect it.
Now all I have to do is plant them :)