Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

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Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  kellyronald6 on Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:53 am

I live in San Antonio Texas Zone 8. I bought a American Hackberry a few years ago, but it got lost in the small forest that I have. I need to get it back to the small compact look it use to have. Can I defoliate the tree and cut the branches back hard and get it to back bud?

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  JMcCoy on Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:00 am

Hi Kelly,
Have you visited with the San Antonio Bonsai Society?
http://bonsai-satx.org/Bonsai/Welcome.html
They have some very experienced, long time Bonsaiists, and are also a pretty laid-back fun group! If you haven't already, I highly recommend joining them. Hackberry can be cut back hard and also defoliated, but it's a little late in the year to be doing it. Usual defolation for backbudding is done about June. Trees now need to start hardening off the end twigs so these aren't lost during winter (even as mild as yours).

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  0soyoung on Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:11 am

Yes, that is how it is done.

Rather than trying to recreate the wheel, Brent Walston gave the world an outstanding expose to understand pruning.

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  BonsaiJim on Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:55 pm

The time for defoliating hackberries has passed. One reason this variety is not held in higher esteem is the difficulty in getting fine ramification. This is primarily due to not understanding timing on activities- it is important that all fine twigging be hardened off and thick as possible heading into winter, otherwise it dies back. I have learned to stop touching them much past mid August. Also when trimming back they will typically die back so leave a stub and trim closer once it dries out.

I would wait till late spring to cut back hard. Fertilize it well so it is good and strong heading into winter.

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  Treedwarfer on Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:59 pm

Defoliating is primarily used to improve outer ramification and generate a fresh crop of foliage for late season shows. It should NEVER be used as a developmental technique simply because it severely stresses the tree. Some species (trident maple for example) can tolerate this on an annual basis (tolerate, but not appreciate) whereas others will not like it very much. I know there are those who say they defoliate annually and their trees are doing well, but we don't know how much better they would be doing if they were not defoliated - right? Hard pinching is a far better alternative to defoliation.

If you want to induce dense back budding, wait until early summer, when the tree is growing at full throttle, then cut hard back. You will see an explosion of new growth, far more than hard pruning at any other time.

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:08 pm

Bonsai Jim,

thank you. I have my hackberry's in the trough until late January, then they sleep until April 1st. Going fpr3" trunks. I normally defoliate around May/June.
Thanks a million once again.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  BonsaiJim on Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:21 pm

"Defoliating is primarily used to improve outer ramification..."

This is exactly why it IS a development technique... it also induces back budding and it is a method of growth control. It is not solely for show preparation. I am of the opinion more branches=more growth= faster development... so even my trees in the ground get some degree of defoliation as I want control over certain areas, typically lower branches.

I don't want to grow miniature telephone poles- I want trunks with character so sometimes letting a lower branch grow out just to distort that area of the trunk has value to me. Sometimes I want have to reduce the tendency towards apical dominance.

Everything we do is stressful to the tree. Repotting, root pruning, etc, etc, the skill comes in reading the tree and/or how it will respond to a given technique.

The unspoken premise is that the tree is healthy and well fertilized so that it handles the stress as expected. And, you MUST have the correct expectation.... Smile

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  Treedwarfer on Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:57 pm

Jim,
We disagree. Defoliation is a refinement technique, not a developmental technique, and the two are separated by a decade or more. What you are describing as your aim would be better achieved by pruning rather than defoliation. Defoliation induces far more buds in the outer sections and far fewer inner buds than selective hard pruning. The proliferation of new outer buds drains energy that could be better employed for your purpose and shades out what inner buds may develop. If you want to grow a low branch to thicken or distort the trunk, slowing it down with defoliation is counter-productive. A few years free growth followed by hard pruning or removal in early summer will give you much quicker and more dramatic results.


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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  BonsaiJim on Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:17 pm

"We disagree."

Correct.

" Defoliation is a refinement technique, not a developmental technique, and the two are separated by a decade or more.... <snip>"
If you like hacked up trunks you are correct again. If you want trees that show minimal intervention of man in your life time you take a more middle of the road approach. You also get old trunk young branches=incongruence...


"If you want to grow a low branch to thicken or distort the trunk, slowing it down with defoliation is counter-productive. A few years free growth followed by hard pruning or removal in early summer will give you much quicker and more dramatic results. "

Perhaps I was not clear... When I want to overcome apical dominance and/or maintain strength in a lower or inner branch(es) I defoliate the top and the outer portions of the branch.

Simply put, while you can use a hammer however you wish sometimes I use one as a golf club.

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  Treedwarfer on Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:53 pm

Jim,
Evidence of man's intervention can be more a reflection of the skill of the grower than the efficacy of the technique....

Actually, I sometimes use a hammer to shape the ends of heavy jins on junipers. Try it some time - it's veeery satisfying! Twisted Evil

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  JimLewis on Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:41 pm

One reason this variety is not held in higher esteem is the difficulty in getting fine ramification.

But it can be done. This tree was displayed at an ABS convention several years ago. It has, I understand, since died. It was quite large.




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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  BonsaiJim on Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:45 pm

That'd be Guy Guidrey's?

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  JimLewis on Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:48 pm

Yeah. I think so. I no longer have any notes from that long-ago meeting and the only thing that survived transferring this picture from a Windows machine to a Linux machine and back to a Windows machine was: "ABS - Hackberry".

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:16 pm

Jim,with your permission I have copied the image to my Bonsai specimen file?

Perhaps the way to get past the fine branchlets is to just grow a large Hackberry and find the size where the branches do not die back to in winter?
The size of the trunk and branches, would give the illusion of fine branchlets, even though one might have wanted a Zelkova?
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Defoliating for the purpose of backbudding

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