Grafted Hawthorns

These Doyenne du commice pears are growing on a 20 year old hawthorn. The scions were cleft grafted in April 2010.

So far so good!

This Medlar ‘Nottingham’ was budded onto a self set hawthorn in April 2010 and is growing away nicely. The first growth at the beginning of the season got knocked off but it soon regrew and has put on 55cm of growth.

The tree is growing through a hard gravel pathway. I think this is the type of situation where a hawthorn rootstock will be useful!

Hedgerow grafting

These photos were taken on the 23rd July.

Left shows a Pitmaston Duchess pear cleft grafted onto a hawthorn. The graft has taken well but hasn’t put on much extension growth. This is probably due to the excessive shade created by nearby trees.

The photo on the right shows my most successful graft this season. It’s a Doyenne du Commice cleft grafted onto a multi stemmed hawthorn of about (or over) 100 years old (I’m estimating this by the 2 foot diameter of the coppiced stool).

This tree is in full sun and the scion has put on over 2 ft extension growth.

This photo on the left shows the same tree before I removed the 6 ft high bracken and the huge amount of thorn regrowth.

This just goes to highlight how much work is involved in such a project. In order to ensure that the scion recieves as much sunlight as possible and as much of the trees food reserves as possible, a lot of maintenance is required in removing excess regrowth and local vegetation.

On the right is a Pitmaston Duchess whip and tongue grafted onto a hwathorn shoot that has regrown as a result of the hedge being laid last year.

Even though this graft was buried deep in nettles and thorn regrowth, it is still thriving.


Having recently found out that Pears, Quince and Medlar can be grafted onto Hawthorn I’ve been experimenting with cleft grafting these onto existing hawthorn trees.

This is Doyenne du Comice pear cleft grafted onto a 20 year old hawthorn.

I have grafted onto a stem about 2 inches in diameter. The stem behind has been left as a sap drawer and will be removed next winter.

Knowing that Hawthorn will take such varieties opens up a lot of possibilities.

There is great potential for creating linear orchards (or ‘edible corridors’) within existing hedgerows.

Scrub land on town and city outskirts quite often have plenty of  hawthorn and crab apple (onto which all varieties of apple can be grafted). This can be seen as established rootstock ready to be turned into a productive orchard with very little work.

Hawthorn and crab apple will grow on very poor soils. If they are used as rootstock then this will extend the potential for creating orchards in such places where it wouldn’t usually be considered.

The next 3-4 weeks are the ideal time for cleft and rind grafting.

I will be using this time to try out these methods.

This hawthorn on the Old Rasecourse Common near Oswestry was pruned last year and has put on plenty of healthy growth. This new growth can now be grafted this winter or budded next August with either Quince, Medlar or Pear.

I’m assuming this thorn has self seeded. If this is the case then this is the perfect rootstock for the area. The tree will be of true local provenance, being the offspring of generations and generations before it all well adapted to local conditions.

The Old Rasecourse is used by hundreds of people every week. There is potential to create lots of fruit trees from the existing Hawthorn stock.

If areas like this can be made slightly more productive in terms of providing a free sustainable food source, then it will be a small step toward reducing our dependancy on imported and non-local food sources.

If anybody reading this has any experience of cleft or rind grafting I’d be grateful for any advice. (This is my first season at attempting it so I will have to wait to see how successful I’ve been)

Forest Gardening

I’ve just returned from Devon after being on a forest gardening course at the Agroforestry Research Trust with Martin Crawford.

It was probably one of the most inspirational courses I’ve been on. Martin’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject is relentless. He has researched into thousands of different plants with many different uses from food, dyes, medicine, cordage, teas, nitrogen fixers, beneficial insect attractants, companion plants, saps and resins.

On my way home I stopped off in Bristol. Whilst walking to the pub through the city I was amazed at how many varieties of trees and shrubs I saw that were also planted in Martin’s forest garden.

On one street in inner city Bristol I saw Eleagnus multiflora, a nitrogen fixer that produces edible fruit, beech and small leaved limes (edible leaves),  Sorbus aria, a Whitebeam producing edible fruit, Quercus ilex – Holm oak with edible acorns. In the university accommodation gardens were planted some medlars, by a cash machine was growing Rosa rugosa (a common vigorous rose with lovely edible flowers and large rosehips that are high in vitamin C . Maybe Bristol is a good city to be in if we have a food crisis!

I have been asked to design a forest garden in Bristol. Here’s what it looks like at the moment….

jamesandbeckshole 009

….a bit of a state!

The design brief is that the clients want  a space that can be used for entertaining, is good for wildlife, is a calm and relaxing space, looks good, and above all else, produces a considerable amount of edible plants for their kitchen.

The site has an open aspect to the east and south and at the moment three large Leyand cypress are on the north western boundary.

As the property is in a conservation area, planning permission is needed to remove any large trees. All the neighbours (and there are plenty of them)are in favour of their removal as long as something replaces them in order to retain peoples privacy.

The idea at the moment is to dismantle the Leyand cypress to a height of about 2-3 feet, then inoculate the stumps with edible mushroom spores (probably oyster mushroom). This will not only provide a useful crop, but by inoculating the stumps immediately after felling, it will help to prevent the invasion of parasitic fungi (such as honey fungus) which could prevent the healthy growth of any further tree planting at the site.

The idea at the moment is to replace the Leyand cypress with 3 Tilia cordata (Small leaved lime). These trees will be grown flat against some framework to a height of roughly 15-20 feet. Small leaved lime has edible leaves and flowers that not only make a nice tea but are also fantastic for bees.

 This would require some pruning over the season to keep it in check. The pruning will also reduce the amount of flowers that are produced. I’ll have to look into that one.

Shrub layer ideas at the moment are bamboos (edible shoots), Cystisus scoparius (Broom) that produces flowers for wine making and is also nitrogen fixing, so will feed the plants around it, rosemary.

This project is in it’s very early stages. Watch this space for further developments…………………………