The Pain of Pruning

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The Pain of Pruning

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:53 pm

Hopefully, another thought provoking topic.

I am experimenting with most types of bonsai propagation. I'm in the process of learning how to succeed at air-layering and how to fail at cuttings. (I'll try it again next spring.)

When I get a new potential tree, It's almost torture to cut out and throw away the waste. All I can see is possibile material for new trees. I'm sure similar psychotic problems have plagued other bonsai enthusiasts at some time during their years working with trees.

Here is a classic example (for me). I found this Cotoneaster at Home Depot. All I could see was the winding main trunk and the possibilities of a cascade, informal upright, etc.



So I pruned it back a tad!



Now I'm looking to see how far back I want to take this. 6", 12" 18"? Wide, tall, long, etc.

I can see several large branches that need to come out (the thick one to the lower right for sure.)

But there is a nagging thought riding in the back of my mind, "Should I wack it off or wait till spring to try and get it to root, air layer it or something.

Is this part of the usual dementia related to bonsai? Is it something I just have to prune my way through, or is it a reasonable idea that to come by starting stock that thick is worth trying to salvage?

It's becoming like an obsessive compulsive disorder to not want to cut without a plan for it or to just throw it in the brush pile.

Is there a "Dear Bonsai Abbey"?

Jay

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Ed Trout on Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:05 pm

Jay,

While I am not "Dear Abbey", I have been asked this question a time or 2 in the last 30 + years. " How much do you cut back initially when beginning a bonsai ?"
The first thing I warn people is that they really NEED to know how a particular tree is going to react to this cut back. How long will it take to re-branch, and where will that re-branching occur ? Will there be die back ? Or worse yet death !!
Find the line that you like, and then cut back slowly IF you don't know the answers to the above questions. Keep track of the results, including time of year, temperature, etc. Once you "learn" the tree, then you can proceed with confidence. I think the greatest thing that disappoints most people, is that they don't have a "masterpiece" when they get done with their initial styling. I've always said that creating bonsai is much like playing chess, only you're playing against a tree. You make a move ( clip,wire,fertilize,water,etc ), and then wait for the tree to make a move ( grow ). It's a great long game.....sometimes you win, and sometimes the tree wins...but in the end you both win. Most every great bonsai began as an "ugly duckling", and ends up being a beautiful Swan !!

Hope this gives you some perspective,

Ed Trout Pembroke Pines, Florida

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  JimLewis on Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:30 pm

But I can't think of a better tree to experiment with than Cotoneaster. They love to be pruned. They backbud readily. Everything you cut off -- big or small -- will root as a cutting.

You are correct that that lower branch will want to come off. Above it, there also is a branch that shoots off parallel to the ground. It is out of place there, and should also be cut. I'd start and stop there for this year. Get out your rooting hormone, and start a bunch of cuttings. It's late, but maybe you can bring them inside to a sunny window and keep them just barely damp over the winter.

It's a fun species. I use the mini-cotoneaster regularly.

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:49 pm

So the question is, as far as nursery stock cotoneaster goes, what do you think of the one I chose?

The rest were more like multi-trunk bushes with no decidedly primary trunk. I was planning onj waiting until they went on sale, but I was afraid this one wouldn't be there when I got back.

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  JimLewis on Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:58 pm

Looks fine. There's probably any nm ber of potential bonsai shapes in there. Somewhere. It is badly overgrown.

I'd guess your bonsai is in here somewhere:



Last edited by JimLewis on Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:02 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:01 pm

If it roots as easily as you say (minus my inexperience, plus my past history with rooting cuttings) I should be able to get some halfway decent starts to work with.

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  William Feldman on Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:58 pm

There's such a thing as too much success. 30 rooted cuttings in a pot are eventually going to have to be transplanted into 30 individual pots. Growing them into "finished" bonsai will be a drain on your time and table-space. I've learned the hard way that if time and table-space are in short supply, you're better off composting the excess. On the other hand, if growing on hundreds of potted "sticks and twigs" gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, then go for it! Just don't neglect your "real" trees.

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Sat Aug 22, 2009 4:23 pm

Thanks William, Like I said, this may vary well be a mind set that all bonsai growers go through. THe thought that I might be tossing some great potential material verses growing the compost pile. Very Happy

Every now and then I find myself trashing all cutings, BUT...

Jay

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  John Quinn on Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:43 am

William's comments echo what I was about to write.

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Sun Aug 23, 2009 5:00 am

Went nuts, added two cutting starts to put in my cutting chamber (not finished yet) and a pile to the compost.

Before:



After:



Plus:



Cured... Till next time!

Jay

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Henrik Stubelius on Sun Aug 23, 2009 1:32 pm

Way to go Jay, now bite the bullet and get rid of the leftovers thumbs up

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Sun Aug 23, 2009 2:36 pm

Its all in the compost pile.

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Nik Rozman on Sun Aug 23, 2009 3:15 pm

Jay Gaydosh wrote:Its all in the compost pile.
thumbs up

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My Solution to the Problem

Post  wabashene on Mon Aug 24, 2009 12:50 pm

Way to go on the pruning!

We all go throught this stage and even now that I have cut my "trees in serious progress" stock way down to less than 30 I still am an inveterate cutting taker.

However am also fortunate to have 2 allotments which are small parcels of land you rent from the city for growing vegetables etc.

I plant all the cuttings to form boundary hedges for the pathways around and across the allotments.

These consist of San Jose juniper, lonicera nitida, privet, cotoneaster, chinese elm, hawthorn seedings, oaks grown from acorns and beech hedging stock. I keep them cut down to 60 cm/ 2ft with hedge trimmers and who knows, one day in 8 years or so when I retire there may be some good stock coming on stream that has taken minimal effort.

For instance, a chinese elm cutting I started 5 years ago has just gone into a training pot having grown from pencil thickness to 50 Mm diametre along with a couple of shohin size San Jose Juniper cuttings.

However, I do agree that you don't want to take up valuable bonsai time caring for 100's of cuttings in pots - not the way to get serious about bonsai - but still likely to be part of the process for most people.

thks

TimR


Last edited by wabashene on Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:04 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Kev Bailey on Mon Aug 24, 2009 3:56 pm

Everyone who knows me well enough to have visited my garden understands that my love in bonsai is not just the finishing of trees. I enjoy every aspect of horticulture too. I have had to stop propagating this year as I'd run out of space. In a similar way to Wabashene, I filled up my garden when I moved here 12 years ago.

Last spring I lifted most of the resulting stock. This Chinese Elm is approx 12 years from seed but has spent ten years planted in the ground. I've done some initital carving of the chop, above a natural uro that resulted from wind damage. It will eventually make a giant broom style tree. It's a lot bigger than it looks. The pot is a mica drum measuring 26" across and the base of the trunk above the roots is 23" radius.

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Mon Aug 24, 2009 4:29 pm

I wish I had the space to plant them and let them grow. Unfortunately, my ambition is bigger than the postage stamp piece of property I live on. I think I have to break out of the safe mode to be able to seriousl chop on material before I will begin to have major break throughs.

Although my education is in animal science (cattle, horses, sheep and hogs). I can't stop trying to increase what I'm growing...botanically speaking.

In my office I have cuttings of Jade and African Violets. I planted three avacado stones and have three trees growing in pots (with those leaves they are obviously not bonsai!)

At home, I have the specimens I'm been working on since the beginning, but occassionally I add to it by getting a small collection of a specific species so that I can try differetent styles, methods and sizes. Right now I'm working on 5 Boxwoods, 10 San Jose Juniper, 2 Alberta Spruce, 2 Fukien Tea, etc. Sometimes it gets a little obsessive.

I've grown potatos above ground, tomatoes upside down, we've had European-based intensive garden beds.

I just like growing STUFF!

Bonsai, in my life, started with a facination of things Korean, Chinese & Japanese. But the facination built more on the first failure (or two) and a desire to get it right. It wasn't until I obtained my first 4 or 5 bonsai books that I began working for earnest.

Again, I'm as much a novice as ever, but I am a perpetual student and Willing to work to get it right.

Jay

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Re: The Pain of Pruning

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