Expert teaches antique apple tree grafting seminar March 13 at Garfield Farm Museum

  • Apple tree expert Dan Bussey, left, returns to Garfield Farm Museum to lead the annual Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar on Sunday, March 13. Not only has he rediscovered many antique varieties he also is one of the top experts in the country on historic varieties.

    Apple tree expert Dan Bussey, left, returns to Garfield Farm Museum to lead the annual Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar on Sunday, March 13. Not only has he rediscovered many antique varieties he also is one of the top experts in the country on historic varieties. Courtesy of J.M. Johnson

 
 
Updated 2/28/2022 8:12 PM

Learn how to grow antique apple trees at Garfield Farm Museum's 34th Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 13. For $35, participants make three grafts of heirloom varieties to take home for planting this spring. Garfield Farm Museum is located on Garfield Road, off Route 38, 5 miles west of Geneva.

Reservations are required by calling (630) 584-8485 or email info@garfieldfarm.org.

 

Apple tree expert Dan Bussey leads the seminar and will bring several different antique varieties of scions. Not only has he rediscovered many antique varieties he also is one of the top experts in the country on historic varieties. He has written "The Illustrated History of Apples in the United States and Canada," an astounding seven volume work listing all known varieties.

With the unsettling times, connecting to the basics is such reassurance that life goes on as each spring returns. Preparation for the year ahead must be made now to produce the bounty that will sustain life for another year.

Sign up for the Antique Apple Grafting Seminar on Sunday, March 13, and learn how to make three grafts of heirloom varieties to take home for planting this spring. Dan Bussey has been leading this workshop at Garfield Farm Museum in Campton Hills since 1988.
Sign up for the Antique Apple Grafting Seminar on Sunday, March 13, and learn how to make three grafts of heirloom varieties to take home for planting this spring. Dan Bussey has been leading this workshop at Garfield Farm Museum in Campton Hills since 1988. - Courtesy of Garfield Farm Museum

Modern human's success depends on the careful groundwork before fruits of one's labors are born. All these expressions so readily applied to any human undertaking all come from the growing of food. They are deeply embedded in the languages of those cultures that first broke the land to plant a crop.

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Taking a knife in hand to delicately cut into the small stem from an old apple tree is the first hopeful step of harvesting a crop in five to six years. Mirroring that cut into a young root stock to match up the thin layer of cells that will graft the two stems together is an act of faith as much as skill. The energy of life is so forgiving that most first time grafters will have success if they provide the nurturing care these grafts will need for 3-5 years.

The first weeks require a dark cool place for the grafts to heal. When the ground can be worked and hard freezes are past, the young graft be set outdoors. That first year calls for planting the graft where it will get all the protection and attention it needs. Drought, doe eyed deer, voles, mice, weeds and lawn mowers are all threats even after transplanting it by year two to its permanent home.

Dan Bussey shows how apple grafting involves attaching a small branch from a tree to a root stock to preserve the unique attributes of the tree.
Dan Bussey shows how apple grafting involves attaching a small branch from a tree to a root stock to preserve the unique attributes of the tree. - Courtesy of Garfield Farm Museum

All these patient steps may at best rewarded by a flush of young leaves and stems, and maybe, just maybe by year 3 or 4 that first delicate white bloom or two might mature by fall into one's first fruit. Like marking a child's height every year on the door frame, each hint what of the tree will become will excite the calmest gardener.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Key to all is the anticipation of tasting an antique variety few of the public know. Whether one seeks the most delicious apple pie, the crisp crunch of a long forgotten flavor, or the sparkle of a special cider, the diversity in something so taken for granted, so overshadowed by all the latest wonders of the modern world, just waits to be rediscovered by one's own special palate.

The question is, does one have the patience, the steadfast resolve to earn a reward so simple but rare in a world of quick fixes and immediate gratification. Join the 90-minute program at Garfield Farm Museum and start a six-year journey that will measure your character as much as any green thumb.

Dan Bussey has been the instructor of the seminar donating his time and materials since the seminar's inception in 1988. He will also instruct participants on how to care for their grafts until they are planted.

Dan Bussey, left, demonstrates apple scion grafting technique during an Antique Apple Grafting Seminar.
Dan Bussey, left, demonstrates apple scion grafting technique during an Antique Apple Grafting Seminar. - Courtesy of Garfield Farm Museum

Bussey graciously donates his time and grafts to the farm to make this event possible.

There is a $35 donation for the class and reservations are required. Participants are asked to bring a sharp knife. Call the museum at (630) 584-8485, or email at info@garfieldfarm.org. The 375-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.

Visit www.garfieldfarm.org or www.facebook.com/GarfieldFarmMuseum.

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