Salvaging a Bradford Pear, from Useless to Fruitful

When we moved to start what would become chestnut acres farm, on the property, right in the front yard, were three Bradford pear trees.  There are multiple reasons why I dislike Bradford pears.  The first that comes to mind is susceptibility to wind damage.  In 2011, when a number of tornados came through our area there were a number of neighborhoods that while spared from major damage had an abundance of downed Bradford pears.  The second is the smell, think rotten fish, when flowering they smell awful.  

I considered ripping them out of the ground, but heard that they were vigorous and would keep coming back from the roots.  After further reading, I learned that the Bradford pear has one redeeming quality.  It is similar to the standard fruiting pear tree root stock.   So there was my answer, graft fruiting pears onto the base of the Bradford pear.  Make them useful!

So, my first attempt was last year about this time.  I tried cleft grafting.  In short, I sawed off the top of the tree, used a wedge to split the top, inserted a piece of scion wood, covered with wound paint and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately this resulted in 100% failure. Fortunately I didn’t kill the trees, providing a second chance.

In February, I made a second attempt.  This time, I enlisted a friend with training in grafting, a passion for permaculture and two pear trees that were ready for pruning.  The two pear trees provided the scion wood. 

Experiments are always better with a friend.  Especially one who knows what they are doing.

We tried two methods, namely the splice graft and the bark slot method.  I’ll show you both of these and in a few months, I’ll report back in the results.

Basic Grafting Supplies:

Knife (I used a sharp kitchen knife)

Parafilm Wax Tape 

Splice Graft Method

The splice graft, sometimes called a whip graft, is performed by cutting matching angled cuts in the scion wood and the root stock, lining up the cambium layers and then securing with grafting tape.

Cutting the root stock (Bradford Pear)

Matching the scion wood, ensure the cambium (area between the bark and the wood) of each are touching.

Taping the graft with Parafilm tape.
Graft complete!

Bark Slot Graft Method
The bark slot graft is a method that allows smaller scion wood to be grafted onto a larger branch or rootstock.  In this method you make a shallow cut into the bark the width of your scion wood.  You cut the scion wood on two sides to create a slender wedge.  Then you insert the scion wood into the bark slot.  Finally, you cover with grafting tape or wax.

Make two small cuts in the bark, the width of the scion wood.

Insert the scion wood whose end has a tapered wedge.
Apply grafting tape, Done!

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