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On Sunday, March 14, 2004 at 1:30 pm Garfield Farm Museum will hold its 17th Annual Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar. Dan Bussey of Edgarton, WI will instruct participants in the making of four apple tree grafts to take home for planting. Bussey will bring a selection of historic desert, cooking or cider apple varieties for grafting.

Grafting of woody plant materials is thousands of years old as people observed that trees or vines crossing each other could grow together. This ancient knowledge became the basis for producing generation after generation the same variety of fruit. Since many plants and animals depend on reproduction by sharing genes from two parents, growing apples from seed does not produce the exact same traits as the tree where the apple grew. Grafting overcomes this by attaching the youngest branches of an older tree to young root stock. Thus one can perpetuate a variety by every so often grafting the newest growth of an old tree onto young root stock.

Although it is a simple process, there are tips that will help guarantee that the graft is successful. Bussey has grown over 300 varieties in his backyard, many of which he re-discovered as they had been believed to be extinct. His work has been recognized by the Seed Saver's Exchange of Decorah, IA which has a conservation orchard of old apple varieties. What pleases Bussey is to discover the unique taste , cooking or preserving characteristics of these old varieties. The mass market of today does not provide any real selection of apples in the store so most consumers do not know what they are missing. Bussey likes apples in all forms of food but he is partial to cider as he has an old commercial cider press that gets lots of use every fall. Selecting several different verities he can produce special cider blends whose multitude of subtleties would intrigue any wine connoisseur.

A number of past participants have brought scions, the part of the branch from the tip back to the annual growth rings, from old dying trees that may have been planted by their grandparents. Grafting gives the varieties a new lease on life so new generations can taste the same apple pie great-grandmother once made. Bussey will bring root stock which nurseries grow just for grafting. If the grafted scion dies, the root stock will grow into a tree but it would have very meager, undesirable apples. Bussey will instruct on how to care for the graft for several weeks until time for planting. As time allows, Bussey will take the group out to the museum's remnant orchard to discuss the pruning of established apple trees.

There is a $25 donation for the class and reservations are required. Call the museum at (630) 584-8485, or email at Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. The 370 acre site is a historically intact former 1840s farm and teamster inn being restored as an 1840s working farm museum by volunteers and donors from around the country.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.

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