by Jerry Meislik
I have been doing grafts on my bonsai plants for some years. I use grafting on only a small percentage of bonsai in order to improve them and generally I graft only to get a branch on an otherwise nicely shaped plant. Since, grafting takes significant time and effort it is usually about 2-3 years before the results of the graft are obvious. It takes this time for the graft to take, the branch to grow and to mature enough to be a benefit to the bonsai’s design. The graft cannot even be wired or positioned for a year or so after grafting. So basically it is left to grow wildly for the first year or more and then can be trimmed or wired to suit the design. It is a very worthwhile technique to improve good but otherwise less than perfect material.
The typical grafts that I use are free, approach and fusion type grafts. To see examples of grafts and learn more about grafts you can click here. Depending on the type of graft, time of year, type of material etc. the success rate can approach 95%.
I was contacted by Terry Johnstone of Bio-Graft, a New Zealand company selling a new self- adhesive and stretchy plastic tape. The tapes are used for grafting, budding, and plant repair as can be seen on their website.
Terry was kind enought to send me two rolls of tape to try out in my grafting. I briefly read the instructions and tried out the grafting tape doing about 40 free grafts on various of my bonsai trees. I grafted Hibiscus and Ficus microcarpa and Ficus natalensis. Grafts were performed using my usual procedure and technique.
The Bio-Graft website has some short videos explaining how to use the tape. Also included with the tape was a brief instruction pamphlet outlining the proper technique for grafting. I glanced at the instrucitons briefly but as as I often do, I just plunged right into grafting without keeping the intricacies of this tape in mind.
It took several awkward attempts to learn how to apply the tape properly. The tape requires a certain amount of stretch to adhere to itself. Too little and it does not stick, and too much and it will not stick. Use the right amount of stretch and the tape adheres to itself very easily. This simplifies grafting as the end of the tape does not need to be secured.
For me there is one small problem in that the tape comes on a spool that is about two inches in diameter and on small trees with dense branching it can be quite a difficult manipulation to get the tape spool properly into position and move it in and around the very small and tight array of branches. Terry kindly advises cutting the tape off the spool, pre-stretching it and applying it off the spool. This does make this manipulation much, much easier in the tight spots often present on bonsai trees.
My impression is that the tape works quite nicely for my grafting. It produces a neat and tight compression on the graft and is easier to apply than non-adhesive tapes that need to be secured by tying them off. The tying off process can be tricky to learn and to do right and it often results in mis-alignment of the graft. This self adhesive tape eliminates the need to tie off the end of the tape as it sticks to itself. The stretch of the tape also applies proper pressure to the graft helping make good graft to stock adhesion and should result in better graft takes.
I recommend the tape to grafters as a useful adjunct to their grafting. It makes the process of grafting quicker and easier.
All Rights Reserved © 2009 Jerry Meislik