Each August for the last 19 years I have bud grafted roses using budwood from actively growing roses from the second bloom cycle of the season. This is a simple process of surgically attaching a budeye, called a scion, of a desired variety onto appropriate rootstock. Grafting improves varieties with weak root systems and increases the vigor and hardiness of frail varieties.
I set up the budding bench in the shade next to the rose garden and get out my budding kit. The kit contains a very sharp budding knife — a Tina made in Germany — along with budding rubbers, a roll of parafilm, a container of isopropyl alcohol, plastic plant markers a horticultural pen, a notebook, and a portable radio for the Red Sox games. I usually bud on week-end afternoons and my season lasts about a month.
In April, I had received 3 bundles of tough, winter hardy Canadian multiflora rootstock, 25 seedlings per bundle, and quickly potted them up. These seedlings, mere twigs at the time, grow rapidly and by mid-August the shanks are a ¼ inch thick or thicker – heavy enough to support a graft.
Yesterday I conducted a grafting workshop. It was limited to five students — with a few others placed on a wait list — to allow for plenty of one-on-one instruction. We sat around a table under a big maple tree first practicing T-cuts on rose stems then harvesting bud eyes before we “went live” on actual rootstocks. The learning curve was steep and it didn’t take long before all five were cutting confidently into the shank of the rootstock, peeling back the bark and inserting the budeye into the wound, then quickly closing the wound with a budding rubber or parafilm.
Everyone took home a couple of grafted roses of their choice knowing that success or failure occurs within the first 24 hours but won’t be realized until next spring.
Bud grafting can be creative. A couple of years ago, I started budding two different varieties onto one rootstock, an old technique used to make standards or rose trees (standards have two, three or even four grafts on one cane to provide symmetry). I’m looking to create novel plants by combining varieties with similar growth habits, hoping to avoid one variety from dominating the other. I find floribundas are ideal for this. I match-up similar bloom sizes and bloom shapes but with contrasting colors. I have combined yellow and purple, yellow and pink, purple and pink, red and yellow, and red and white. I call them “Duettes.”
Bud grafting also allows me to build my collections of rare vintage varieties like the Brownell Everblooming Pillars and grafting roses onto sturdy multiflora rootstock creates ideal roses for the New England climate. Plus it’s another way for me to enjoy rose gardening.
Mike’s article about Bud Grafting has been added to our “Articles About Roses” page at www.rosesolutions.net. It includes pictures that show the various steps in the bud grafting process.