The mysteries of my Frankencrab

megamav(5a - NY)June 29, 2013

Just some thoughts as this Frankencrab project has pressed into the end of June.

harvestman got me thinking about something to do with this tree.

I purchased this property in 2008, and according to neighbors, this tree has been there since they can remember, which for one of them is since the property was built out 30 years ago. I dont know how accurate that is, but I have been wondering what this tree's true height potential really is.

I've done some reading and it seems common crabapple rootstock is either M.7 or Ottawa 3. Ottawa 3 is pretty small, around 10 feet according to documents on the web. M.7 is a bit bigger than that, and its possible this tree is on M.7 but I dont see a graft union on it at all, no seam, no change in bark color.

This tree was allowed to do whatever it wanted for a majority of its life. It was in the shade up until last year, now it gets sun 7AM to 4PM. It was perfectly content with mediocre growth and leaf size until I halved a lot of branches last February to get new growth to graft onto this year.

Once I halved just about everything on the tree I really woke it up, leaf size tripled and it put out root suckers like a banshee. I had a new vertical leader come up at the top where I cut off a lot of wood, and no lie it was at least 6 feet tall in 1 year, so that would put the tree close to 16 feet tall with that growth.

Fast forward to this year, grafting is done (for now), I've got Freyberg, Calville Blanc d'Hiver, King of The Pippins and Belle de Boskoop on the tree.

You'll see on the left, on the south side of the tree, I left the weeping crab apple growth on it to protect the trunk from southwest injury and its done exactly that.

Now to what I've been thinking about...
I dont see a graft union on this thing, so could it be a seedling crab apple?

I grafted Belle de Boskoop onto an injury callous vein to make it my new central leader, and I did that first week in June, and its put on a bit of growth already.

I wanted a tall top of the tree, so that is why I selected the Belle de Boskoop to be at the top and north side of the tree, here is the north side scion...

Look at the size of that thing! Compare that to the other half of the cleft that didnt take!

So, what do you think? I think im going to get a tall central leader on this thing, but how tall? It remains a mystery to me. I planned on doing some tree work from the roof already, but if this is a seedling root, and I have a notoriously vigorous variety as a new leader Im wondering if I'll be getting more than I bargained for.

This post was edited by megamav on Sat, Jun 29, 13 at 12:53

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franktank232(z5 WI)

Pretty cool stuff.. i love grafting.. Will you continue to add varieties to your tree?

I have a few apples that have been in since 2006 that i'm pretty sure are on seedling (they were labeled semi dwarf and from Wal Mart) and they were pushing 20 ft until i hacked them hard. I probably removed 50% of both trees in the last 2 weeks, trying to open them for sun/air...

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 2:13PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I probably wont add more varieties, just expand the current varieties onto new stock growths.
What we have on there in King of The Pippins, Calville Blanc d'Hiver and Belle de Boskoop, we like a lot, and have a purpose for our use. I dont have any more room on my lot for trees really, so this is it. I'd like to have enough of each to use without much limit.

Wildcard variety was recommended by scottfsmith, Freyberg. Him and I have similar taste preference, this is/was his favorite, so I asked him for scions over the winter, and its been growing well.

If I *were* to add more, I would add one or two of the following:

Abbondanza - Recommended by scottfsmith
Ashmeads Kernel
Alkmene - Recommended by Axel
Calville du Mont d'Or
Egremont Russet
Ellison's Orange
Golden Nugget
Karmijn de Sonneville
Late Strawberry
Razor Russet - Recommended by scottfsmith and Axel
Sinta - Recommended by Axel
Sweet Sixteen
Wolf River
Yellow Newtown Pippin

Or more of what I have in the ground now:

Kidd's Orange Red
Orleans Reinette

We'll see where this goes, I have zero expectations beyond 15 feet, which is about 5 above where it is now.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 3:10PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I've made my own Frankentree this year. The original variety is Ecos Red, which didn't thrill me in it's first bearing year. I suppose that was a bit of a quick hook, but I left a few branches on it to give it another chance.

The following scions grafted successfully:
Black Oxford
Ross Nonpareil
Sweet Bough
Wynoche Early
Swiss Limbertwig
Golden Russet

I also grafted a few other varieties which don't seem to have made it here. But, they were late grafts with leftover scion-wood from potted rootstock grafts. Next year (or maybe budding this summer if they put on enough growth), I can graft back from those potted rootstocks and add a few more types.

The rootstocks have:
Rein-Des Reinettes
Blue Pearmain

The only types I missed out entirely on were Ribston, Pristine, and Rusty Coat.

From the list you are considering, I have 4 from which I'm hoping for fruit this year. I'll let you know how it goes.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 5:59PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Frankentree r fun!

Bob those low guys are not apically dominant, it will be hard to get them to grow much. Its good to put backup grafts there to keep the variety but not for the main graft. If they are main varieties not backups I would grab some budwood on them this August and put them in a more dominant spot.

When I make a frankentree I pick a height, say 4', and cut all the scaffolds off to that height. All the grafts will then have the same vigor more or less because there will not be one that is too apically dominant. If you want a lot of varieties you can put 6, 8 or more different varieties bark grafted to the same big fat stock. They are all at the exact same height on the same stock so will have very similar vigor. Eric, you may have trouble with that one graft growing like crazy wanting to take over the whole tree. Also watch that big weeping part, its going to want to send up some huge shoots here. I would whack it way back now.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 6:49PM
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megamav(5a - NY)


Thanks for the advice.

Im not worried about the Belle de Boskoop consuming the north side, it can have that whole area back there, but I will need to trim off that one thats trying to grow back over to the south side. Should I do that now, or wait until dormant season?

Any concern with southwest injury at this point cutting back the shade branches?
I want to use at least 2 of the 3 weeping stock branches for grafting in a year or two.
Would you cut it back to a shoot about 18" from the trunk growing on top of the branch?

Red arrows indicate cuts, except for Freyberg of course.
Thats doing well.
(Open in new window to get a bigger pic).

This post was edited by megamav on Sat, Jun 29, 13 at 19:29

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 7:28PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Thanks for the heads up Scott. Can I expect that the lower ones will eventually fruit, or will they just barely survive? Some of them, I'd just like a taste... I've only got a couple in the low branches which aren't replicated somewhere else, so I should be able to graft more in the upper area.

Speaking of grafting over some upper branches, should I wait until then to cut back the top of the tree? Just above the top of the picture, there are several branches from the original tree. I figured that it was keeping some of the new grafts from cooking in the sun, but your mention of apical dominance has me thinking I should remove them sooner than later.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:38PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Bob, those lower guys usually peter out pretty fast, forget any fruit from them. If the tree is very large some of those lower grafts can work if you cut off something big to replace, but I don't see that.

Eric, I would prune back the weeping bit as much as you can without getting the trunk exposed. Well, personally I would take it all off and paint the trunk.

I usually don't prune new grafts too much in the first year, to get as much vigor as I can in the spot they are coming from. The only exception is if the whole thing is way too vigorous, then I trim it when I see the problem and I keep checking up on it because it may continue to take off.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 10:41PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I'll take care of the tree today.
Anyone have an idea if this tree could be a seedling?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:55AM
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megamav(5a - NY)

OK, I've taken care of balancing the tree by taking the weeping parts out as much as possible while maintaining shade on the trunk.

Today's forecast: Partly cloudy with a chance of root suckers.

This post was edited by megamav on Sun, Jun 30, 13 at 11:03

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 11:02AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Looks good!

Its surely some standard ornamental crab that the contractor picked up at the nursery (looks like was planted with the house construction). I have an ornamental peach and two ornamental cherries with similar roots, all of them are grafted. So unless there is some common ornamental crab which is grown from seed you can probably assumt its grafted. Graft unions are often impossible to see.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 5:13PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

Thanks Scott for your help.

With that being said, this tree is definitely fighting back from my prunes from over a year ago and this year, so hopefully its an indication that it will stick around for a while, but 30 years old seems pretty old.

We will see where everything goes from here, this tree and its history and makeup are still a mystery to me.
Its a fun adventure figuring out its true potential as a stock. Belle de Boskoop should give it a little extra kick upward. Everything thats been grafted on it seems pretty healthy, upward and thick.

Since you think its grafted, my guess, its M.7 rootstock.
Too old for Geneva rootstocks.
It was common back in the late 70's early 80's, and cheap.
Height matches M.7's mature height, and it suckers like a mad man.

Fun project!
It will be a stunning display from the road each fall in a few years.

I'll try to remember to post updates as it and the project matures.

Much respect,


    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 7:36PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I too pruned the top layer off (it is piled on the woodchips around the trunk in the pic). The only parts from the original tree are a few branches with apples on them. It is also pointed to the NW, the direction the tree gets the most shade from, so the grafts should get plenty of sun.

The tree is on Ranetka. When I made it my first apple tree 4 years ago, it was sold as "semi-dwarf". But, from what I've read it is a near full-size rootstock, so hopefully it will have plenty of vigor to push the grafts with.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:02PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I tracked down what type of crabapple this is, in case anyone comes across this thread in the future.

"Red Jade"

Red Jade - USDA Database

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 2:06PM
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