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Extreme Tree Grafting
June 14, 2014 4:08 PM   Subscribe

I have a vision to (when I buy a house someday) grow a forest where the lawn used to be. The best time to have started this was 20 years ago. Since that did not happen, I am wondering if it's possible to speed the growth of trees excessively through grafting. Can you graft the trunk of a young tree into the middle of another young tree, thus doubling the height? Now I am wondering what are the most extreme and crazy things that can be done with tree grafting.
posted by brenton to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Now I am wondering what are the most extreme and crazy things that can be done with tree grafting.


Check out the work of Michael and Claudia Bonfante along with that of Axel Erlandson at what's now called Gilroy Gardens.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:19 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Yes, check out Axel Erlandson's work -- here's a Google Image Search for his Tree Circus. I remember reading about him when I was a kid, and his fantastic trees have stuck in my mind ever since. He's passed away, and I don't think he ever divulged his methods. But It's great for inspiration.
posted by Ostara at 4:42 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


If you have about 40 years or so you can do what my grandfather did. He grafted a black walnut to a butternut. It came down in a storm, so he sawed it for lumber and built two kitchen tables that have the spectrum from light to dark flowing up and down the top and the legs.

Waiting for it to grow gives you plenty of time to build a wood shop and master your cabinetry skills too.
posted by Gotanda at 5:59 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]


I don't know anything about grafting offhand, but if you're interested in having a yard to grow edibles along with trees (a "food forest"), check out Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway. Once you sort out how you'll grow the trees, that (and other permaculture guides) will help you choose the right trees and accompanying plants for your yard.
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:03 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


How about Arborsmith Studios? He's published a book, and there's a host of interesting books in the also bought below.
posted by annsunny at 6:05 PM on June 14


Grafting will not speed up growth, and will not help you with making trees taller, because you can't really make large scions, they need to be very small to avoid movement on the graft union. People can do crazy things with grafting, but not what you're looking for.

The best way to get trees fast is to plant fast-growing species. But not necessarily any fast-growing species, and it's important to plant them correctly. Where do you live? You should find a good, qualified arborist and just give them a call, tell them where you are and what your yard is like (soils, light, etc.) and ask for recommendations of good species; many people would be willing to do that over the phone, or you could pay someone to come for a consulting visit.

But planting a healthy young tree correctly will allow it to establish quickly and grow rapidly; they will most often outpace a larger tree that is moved and transplanted, because larger trees lose more roots proportionately and take longer to establish.
Where I live I've got trees I planted around 10 years ago as whips that are already about 30 feet tall (but it's pretty fertile here).
posted by Red Loop at 4:14 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


The reason I say "not any fast-growing species" is that many grow quickly at the expense of some structural or root strength, and are not particularly durable as long-term trees. Leyland cypress is an example of a species that grows super fast, but really suck long-term, and there are usually good alternatives that can still grow quickly but last longer without the same problems.
posted by Red Loop at 4:18 AM on June 15


Leyland cypress is an example of a species that grows super fast, but really suck long-term,

Not OP, but can you plant them amongst slow growers and then get rid of them when the slow-growers start really going?
posted by codswallop at 12:58 PM on June 15


Paulownia can grow incredibly fast- up to 20 feet in a year.
posted by carterk at 3:50 PM on June 15


codswallop: "can you plant them amongst slow growers and then get rid of them when the slow-growers start really going?"

Not really; they will shade out anything beneath because they are so dense and cause them to grow oddly, even a very shade-tolerant species. You can possibly stagger them, but planting shit trees as a temporary fix is usually not worth it because they quickly become large enough to be expensive to remove, especially if you have other things then planted around you have to look out for. But for many species there can be a good alternative. For Leylands, you could substitute Green Giant arborvitae, which grows nearly as fast but has far fewer problems, and is much more durable.

And Paulownia is a noxious weed in most places in the US, it should be illegal to propogate them, really; it's biological pollution. Though you could get into the argument of most of the planet being human-altered and lost causes, I say fuck that. Personally. Plant a catalpa instead. Or a tuliptree.

But all this stuff is very region-specific. Southern California is quite different than the upper midwest or the southeast, etc. It's good to find someone knowledgeable in your area.
posted by Red Loop at 7:32 PM on June 20


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