Approach Graft Trident for Nebari


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Mooresville, NC - USA
Hello to all. I have a couple large trident maples that i want to do some work on the nebari next year, and am studying on approach grafting seedlings onto trunks. Does the seedling need to have newer growth? I have a 3 large tridents in the yard im growing out that i could air layer some whips next spring to use in the summer? Would that be a plan? or i have some cuttings i took this year that have just been planted after rooting. I could use them. Where does everyone get theirs from? Thanks.
Digger, I usually use cuttings but you might want to think about thread grafts instead of approach.
I havent studied much on thread grafting. I know you drill a hole into the tree, and thread a cutting into it, or a branch. How do you get it in the root area? Do you grow out a long whip branch, and take off all the growth except the end leaves before time to thread through the tree? Are you able to get two new roots at once?

Just a thought, does the thread have to be from the same tree? If you know they are of the same species. Most of my tridents are from the same mother tree. Can you thread a branch from another tree sitting beside it, or in a forest setting, and wait for it to grow into the tree?
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Digger, if there is only a small area that needs roots then thread graft is usually done at repotting. If they need work in the ground then I would re-evaluate and consider ground layering for a more uniform nebari. The thread graft is just as you described. Drill a hole at the base where you need roots and insert the cutting through, leaving the roots close to the base where they will self graft. If done during dormant season there are much less complications. Just use a drill only slightly larger than the cutting diameter.
Thanks alot Wood. Oh, so the end of the cutting is just inserted in the tree, and sealed off, and roots planted in the ground. So, just before spring, drill a hole larger than the largest part of the cutting that will go in the tree? How far into the tree will you drill? Do you take everything off the end of the cutting, cut the end off, or what? I guess you find a cutting that has reverse taper if possible, or does it get larger at the tree, and then taper off later? What about proportions? If your existing roots are lets say 3/8" at the base, should i use a cutting the same size, smaller or larger to allow for the growing in process? Thanks again wood for the help.
Digger, just so we are on the same page. Drill a hole all the way through the trunk at the base where new roots are wanted. Insert the cutting all the way through the trunk until the roots are at the base of the tree. If there is a close size matching between the cutting and the hole,then that's all you have to do. I like to put moss over the area after it's covered in soil to prevent the area from drying and encourage new roots.
Hey digger, As long as the whip has grown strong and there for has strong roots. We down here carve a little channel into the trunk so the whip slots in tight and tidy, then make sure its secure, should be fine. good luck.:)
Just be make sure im getting this correct. I am using the portion of the cuttings trunk to make the new root, or am i using the roots of the cutting to make new ones, that will eventually grow out?

Is this the part of the difference. I saw a website that was using the actual trunk of a cutting as the new root in an approach graft. This is what is throwing me off i think.

Ive seen new branches as thread grafts, but am thinking you mean to pull it all the way through, and bury the roots, but lay one or more out straight to make the new nebari?
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Yes Digger, all the way to the base of the cutting. You need to think of the growth for future development. The mass of roots close to the base increases the nebari over time. If you use the stem as a faux root the only thing it will be is just a large root later on.
This may be worth 1000 words...a photo showing thread grafting roots onto a trident maple. Note, some bamboo skewers and raffia are also in the photo, pinning down roots and holding up the grafts' apices, so look closely for the grafted scions' unions pointed to with yellow arrows.


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I did this exact thing to one of my large tridents last spring with the help of my master grafter friend, Doc.
I approach grafted about a dozen seedlings to the base to add nebari all around the trunk.
The technique is simple. Use a dremel to cut a vertical groove about the same diameter as the seedling at the soil line, press the seedling into the groove and secure it with a small brad nailed right through the center of the seedling into the trunk. My grafts had all fused so well that I cut off the tops last week leaving only the roots and they are all looking great! I've tried thread grafting for nebari previously with less satisfacory results. Once the graft fused the roots seemed to atrophy.
I see Brian. Thanks alot. Looks like here you are mainly grafting to larger roots to add more to the look. Will the one on the front left of the photo look like they are coming out the side of the root, or will they fuse to the actual trunk. That is awesome.

Do the roots from the seedling grow faster than the others from the tree? Like they would on a typical seedling?
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Wood, when you ground layer, are you just planting a seedling next to a larger tree, or is that like a tournequet? I know bending a tree's branch into the ground is a ground layer. I guess you would secure it to the main tree? Ive heard so many people reference to ground layering with somewhat different information, i wanted to make sure. Im guessing the time to do any of these techniques is when they are dormant, just before spring? Thanks again.
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For me, performing a ground layer means layering a tree just above the existing nebari- at ground level. Dig, use the search function- you'll get loads of info there on the various grafting and layering techniques you're interested in learning. Good luck,

Good example of the root-grafting process, but the space visible between the scions and stock will push the success rate down quite a bit...they really need a tight fit so the cambiums are joined as much as possible, even before you apply pins, etc. They should also be wrapped with raffia and/or grafting tape to keep the cambiums from drying out. Good luck with these...the fact that it's a trident maple works to your advantage!
Brian, do you mean the channel that was grooved out should maybe have been a little smaller so the scion would fit tighter into the groove? Ive studied a good bit on layering, ive done 6 successful ones this year, and all are growing good. The grafting ive never done before and just reading doesnt quite help all the way for me. Thanks alot for all the great advice. These pics really help put it all together. I guess its a good thing i have all winter to learn more, lol.
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Brian, do you mean the channel that was grooved out should maybe have been a little smaller so the scion would fit tighter into the groove?

Yes, from the photograph here, it looks like the scion cambium isn't touching the stock cambium since you can see a gap between the two. They may be, and you just can't tell, so I don't presume it was done wrong and won't work. You just want to be sure that the cambiums of the stock and scion are firmly touching in order to have a successful graft.

Here is a sequence showing Kathy Shaner's work, approach-grafting some scions across a pruning scar to help speed the callous. I watched her and she spent probably 10 minutes ensuring the cut in the stock was just large enough that the scion would just fit if you worked at it (shown in the first photo). Next, she marked the scion with a marker where it would contact the stock, before scraping the bark off that section of the scion. Then it was tightly fit into the stock, it stayed put without any other means. Finally, she secured it with raffia, pinned them down with pieces of chop stick (second photo), and wrapped the whole thing in a product that served the purpose of grafting tape.


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Wow, thats cool. Id like to see how it turns out after what 3 years or so? I never thought about that, but it makes sense. I saw Kathy this past spring in Washington. She did a little presentation. That makes sense about the scion fitting tightly. Thanks again for your time working with me. Hopefully some others will gain some knowledge also.
So, would it make sense to say that if you needed only one root to fill in, then using the actual scion trunk would work, but if wanting multiple roots from an area, its best to use the roots of a cutting? How many usable roots do you get from any one cutting, 2 or 3 maybe?
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