In 2012 I attended the annual Apple Graphing Workshop at Seed Savers. While there we learned the basics of bench grafting. This experience not only provided me with my first grafted tree, an old variety named Hamilton, but also hooked me on the hobby/obsession of collecting antique or heirloom varieties of apples.
Since that first year of that first antique apple variety, the antique apple collection has grown to over 180 varieties. Cox Orange Pippen, Arkansas Black, Red St. Lawrence, Tollman Sweet, and Watermelon were some of the first apples grafted. While some may not turnout to be wonderful apple additions, harboring some genetic material that may die out and possibly never again exist is exciting.
Some of the Antique apple varieties are somewhat familiar like Duchess Cox Orange Pippin, Wolf River, Connel Red, Harelson and Fameuse. Other varieties like Smokehouse, Watermelon and Lyle Bonner are much more obscure.
Fast forward to 2020 and many trees are really starting to come into production. Apples will increase in availability for fresh eating, preserving and cider makers. Look for apples to be available at our stand at the Buffalo Farmers Market, or directly from the farm at our on farm store, opening up in 2021!
When you attended the workshop, did Seed Savers indicate which modern stock of apple trees are best to graft onto? We are zone 4 (same as Seed Savers) and I would like to preserve several antique varieties, but would like to know which apple tree varieties are easiest to work with when adding on grafts.
They talked briefly about rootstocks but I don’t recall what they suggested. In have had great luck with M 9 and MM111 and the seedling antonovka. It mostly depends on your space and how big of a tree you can handle. St. Lawrence Nursery specialized in hardy apple trees, and used to recommend the standards to give the most vigor to trees to withstand winter, but I asked a tree expert once who said some semi dwarfs were just as hardy. A 30′ apple tree is a challenge to maintain, but a beautiful sight. I mostly use mm111 now.