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This method of plant propagation consists of uniting a shoot, which can contain a number of buds, with a selected stock.
When fruit-trees are grafted the scions are cut before vegetative growth begins. A well-ripened shoot of the preceding year's growth is selected, and can be kept for a week or so before using. The upper portion of the stock is completely cut off at a point just above where the scion is to be grafted. This is usually done before growth takes place in spring.
Since old mature wood plays no part in joining the two parts, it is most essential to take care that the union of the cambium of the scion and the stock are correctly brought together. This is best done by using new wood.
There are a number of ways to graft. Tongue or whip grafting is the most common and is practised when the size of the scion is about the same as that of the stock. Crown grafting is applied when there are a number of scions to be grafted on to a much thicker stock. The upper part or "head" of the stock is cut off at a point a little above where the scion is to be grafted.
In tongue grafting the scion is cut with a long sloping surface 2 to 3 inches long and then notched. The stock is then cut so that the scion will fit into it. When a scion has been inserted into the cut, the wound is bound with a
plastic bandage or raffia and sealed with wax, resin, or any other safe water-resistant material. As soon as the buds on the scion have grown into shoots about 6 inches long the bandage can be removed. The young shoots should be supported, for they can be easily broken off.
Crown grafting is practised on large stocks after the sap has begun to move in the spring. One or more scions are cut with a long sloping surface and they are then inserted into longitudinal slits, about 2 inches long, between the wood and the bark of the stock.
Grafting can be performed at any time of the year when the stocks are dormant, but best results are obtained before spring growth begins.
Since it is an advantage to have the stock in advance of the scion, the latter should be cut some weeks before grafting. Take the scion from last season's growth. Growths that result from grafted buds and scions are extensions of the parent plants rather than new plants. They possess the same qualities as the plants from which they came, and this makes these vegetative processes valuable to gardeners and nursery staff.
Because plants raised from seed do not always have the qualities of the parent plants, vegetative propagation is used when uniform results are required. Vegetative reproduction is used to save time and this is important when a large number of plants are to be grown. To produce enough trees to make an orchard from the "pips" of pears would take many years; enough can be produced in a comparatively short time when vegetative methods are used. The propagation of bulbs - Hyacinths, Tulips and Narcissi - is a very slow process when done by raising seeds.
The buds of a plant grow into shoots which closely resemble one another, each producing leaves, flowers, and fruits of much the same shape and colour. Occasionally a single bud will grow into a shoot that produces leaves, flowers, and fruit very much different from those growing on the rest of the tree. A single bud on a Peach tree at one time produced shoots which bore what are now called nectarines instead of peaches. Such sudden variation is called bud-variation, or "sporting", and has often been found in cultivated perennials. Few of the "sports" can be propagated from seeds. They must be removed from the plant and propagated by vegetative means, if they are of value.
Many new varieties of garden plants have come from "sports", for example Roses, Carnations, Tulips, Pelargoniums, and some variegated shrubs and trees. Variegated Holly and Weeping Ash have been at one time "sports" on their parents.