CLEFT GRAFTING OF CAMELLIAS:
Grafting is the process of placing a known cultivar cutting (scion) onto an established root system. A successful graft produces a plant of size in a shorter time than a cutting.
To accomplish this you need a rootstock in a container; a scion of the desired cultivar; a sharp knife such as a Stanley knife; a pair of sharp secateurs; grafting tape or something similar; a fine screwdriver; a glass bottle with the bottom removed or a plastic bag; fungicide or rooting hormone; clean river sand.
a) Rootstock Preparation:
1. Clear any leaves on the lower stem 6 to 8 cm above the mix level. Wipe down this stem with a paste made from Benlate fungicide and a little water.
2. Clear the top of the mix of weed growth and cover mix with a 1 cm layer of river sand. (This helps in bedding down the top cover).
3. Cut off the top growth 6 to 8 cm from the mix level, using a 45° slanting cut.
4. At the top of the sloping cut produced make a horizontal surface by cutting
across the apex of the cut.
5. Using a sharp knife make a vertical cut, the depth of the blade width, down the centre of the stem at right angles to the top horizontal surface. Insert the fine tip of the screwdriver in this cut to keep it open for the time being.
b) Scion Preparation:
1. Select scion material from the selected cultivar and cut off a branchlet about four to five leaf nodes long.
2. Make two slanting cuts each about 3 cm long, on opposite sides of the scion stem so that the cuts meet at the base making a wedge shape. The cut on the scion should be slightly longer than than the vertical cut in the rootstock stem, to ensure "church-window" when inserting the scion into the rootstock stem.
c) Matching Up:
1. If the scion and rootstock are of the same diameter slip the scion into the prepared cut in the rootstock stem, twisting the tip of the screwdriver to momentarily open the cut for easier insertion and matching of the cambium layers. In most instances the scion will be much smaller in diameter than the rootstock stem. The scion in this case is placed to one side.
2. Use a rubber grafting band or tape to hold the scion and rootstock stem firmly together.
3. Paint the exposed surfaces with Benlate plus rooting hormone paste (Seradix 2).
d) After Care:
1. Cover the rootstock and scion with a glass flagon with its bottom removed;
or a two litre plastic bottle with its bottom removed; or a plastic bag on a wire frame.
2. Place in a shady position and cover with a brown paper bag.
3. After two or three weeks start a ventilation programme by lifting the cover off the graft to renew the air around the graft. If the bottle/flagon has its original screw top, this can be removed and replaced for the same ventilation effect.
4. After five or six weeks callusing may be evident. Study the tissue around the "church-window".
5. Raise the bottom edge of the cover jar (or remove the screw top) to allow entry of air. This is the crucial time in grafting. If the new leaf growth has started and the leaf wilts, immediately recover the graft. The union is not yet adequate to allow moisture to move from the root area to the leaves.
6. Try the airing procedure again a few days later choosing a cool, cloudy day, not during the hottest time of the day. Respond to the action of the new leaf.
When the leaf remains firm while the airing occurs for say half an hour, remove the screw top, or raise the bottom edge of the jar overnight, and recover during the day.
7. Eventually you have a self-sustaining plant that will grow in normal atmospheric conditions in a shady position. Once the covering is removed, stake the rootstock and graft carefully.