Skinny Scion Blues

My trees put out wood so I’m used to having access to vigorous scion wood and my whole technique revolves around using thick scions and doing splice grafts to nice thick water sprouts near the trunks of trees. I always try to tell people that I only use scion wood that is at least pencil thick.

There are such nice people on this forum who have voluntarily sent me scion wood free of trade which is so kind and generous, but I have to say that I do a lot of grafting and hate the nature of the chore. It is very tedious work compared to everything else involved with being an Orchard Keeper besides THINNING FRUIT.

When I receive skinny scions I don’t even try to use them- they are what I used to use for cleft grafts which I don’t do anymore because it just takes too much time. It’s splice or nothing for me these days.

I’m prone to wonder what is up with trees that only put out toothpicks for annual shoots. Does anyone have a King David growing that is putting out real growth that can send me some nice thick scion wood? I will likely buy a tree before bothering with tiny scion wood. I’m just plum spoiled.

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In my case the only thing that grows vigorously is my plouts and I wished they didn’t. The more the trees grow the more I have to prune. I just have a backyard orchard so vigorous fast growing trees is not something I want. The result is thin new growth and thin scion on many but not all of the trees.
Actually I was looking at my gooseberries and wondering if grafting would work on such thin stems. I might try it just for the fun of it.

Fruit production (especially under-thinning) is a big cause of this for me. For example, my Superior had almost no new growth (maybe 1-2 twigs) and Toka and Satsuma a few mid-sized scions (not up to pencil), after all 3 produced crops ranging from decent to heavy. The younger plum trees, which had few if any fruit (Lavinia, Laroda, Valor, Jam Session, and a few others) put on 5-7’ of new growth, the bottom of which is the size of my thumb.

Gooseberries root so easily that I would usually go with that approach instead. The one GB which grows vigorously enough to graft to is Black Velvet. I should try grafting Jeanne and Hinnomaki Yellow (2 weak growers which make great berries) onto a BV rootstock. Maybe they would put out more growth…

I am mostly bark grafting and I prefer the small stuff for that.

I have several trees that are producing very little wood, like Bob it tends to be on trees that overset, and also not having good sun adds to it. Other trees are cranking out mile-long shoots in comparison.

I have a King David but it got a lot of fireblight last summer, it was an odd thing. Almost no fireblight in my orchard except King David which got a great deal on the shoots.


That and I have a lot of small caliper root stock that the small stuff works great on !

well, I assume folks who send skinny scions don’t have better things to send. I sent some skinny persimmon this year…but it was close to 50% of the first year growth I had at all.

I doubt anyone is sending you skinny wood to cheat you :frowning:


Assuming that I have it, I actually try to send a thin and a thick stick of each variety. That way, the grafter has choices and a better chance to match whatever they are grafting.

But, obviously, if there isn’t much growth, that is all that can be sent. I tried to only list the trees with decent amounts of growth as being available, in order to avoid that situation. If someone requests something else, I send what I can.


Good thought!

I try to do that too, but I can’t always do it.
I’ll take small stuff,no problem!

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I agree 100%.

However, I finally, finally moved into what I am hoping is my permanent home. In my case, and I realize that isn’t representative of all of them, many of my trees are 2-3 years old. I don’t have mature Prok, or Reine de Mirabelles…

I’ve offered what I can. Part of that was selfish, to try to increase my own orchard, but with the caveat that anything that failed I would replace. Part was also free; I sent stuff to folks I wasn’t exchanging anything with, gratis. But I sent what I had–I could wait another 4 years, watch my kids hit college before I even started cultivars I hoped they could try, etc.

I also prefer nice, fat scions. But I disagree with the OP about anything else “not being worth my time.” I get that Alan spends way more time managing orchards, but he isn’t grafting 1500 skinny scions of Count althan’s, he’s doing like 5 from a skinny-scion exchange…and in a couple years he’ll do a thousand from nice fat watershoots. Sometimes you don’t get the ideal, but I tend to believe I get the best folks can offer…


Scott, one of the pieces you sent me is plenty thick enough. I only ever really just need one piece.

Thats what makes cleft grafts such a wonderful thing. You don’t have to worry about the size of the scion. You just graft whatever is sent. I’ve received quite a bit of scion wood this spring and it runs the gamut between large and small wood.


Actually, if I was interested in doing clefts I would WANT skinny wood. It is always available unless a tree is dying.

If I’m trying to do 100 grafts in a day, I simply can’t do clefts. Also, I find clefts on smaller wood on tree side don’t heal and grow as well as a diameter matching splice with complete cambium contact.

I am not a fan of clefts either, but I was just saying you (I assume) aren’t doing 100 clefts, unless you’re getting a LOT of that skinny wood. You’re getting the skinny stuff rarely, and then making a handful of grafts with it. Perhaps I am wrong and you got stuck with a boatload of it; I admittedly wouldn’t know.

I have some very ugly trees from my initial cleft grafting myself, I have even considered cutting them and re-grafting once the rootstock pushes a new shoot. But for now they’re destined to be deer-trees…I learned clefts before whips so I got a year of uglies…

I also don’t mind small stuff for splice grafts, aligning one side works well for me. Its too-large that I have a bigger problem with for some reason.

What I usually do in collecting wood is find a really long guy and cut into pieces - that gives some wider stuff and some thinner stuff without much work.

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I would prefer to use something that’s at least stiff enough to let me cut it without bending, but sometimes there just ain’t much of a choice.

Yesterday I was “training” a new shoot off of last year’s Cox’ Orange Pippin graft and I ended up breaking it- so I cut it up into pieces to try again this year. Dern, but that’s a nasty feeling!


This is something that has been happening for years. I ask for pencil thick scion wood and get toothpicks and it surprises me because my trees put out a wide range of diameter annual wood.

I was tired from a day of pruning where an unpredicted rainfall put me in a frustrated mood when I came home to a beautiful envelope with K. Dav wood inside and I was disappointed. But now I am fine with it- I don’t mind grafting from one small piece- if I do two splices one is bound to take.


You spend all winter pruning so it’s no surprise your trees put out lots of vigorous wood. Many don’t prune much so they have thinner wood. Seems pretty simple to me. I’m one of those that doesn’t prune much because my trees don’t grow excessively. I have to make some big cuts a yr ahead to get good grafting wood.

I summer prune pretty aggressively. The result is whatever little I winter prune has almost no continuous water sprouts. They are all branched closely. I had to look really hard for decent sized scions before sending them out this year.

My wood was thin on many varieties this year, I assume do to 4 month drought.