American Beech as Bonsai?

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American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  augustine on Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:46 pm

Could you please tell me the American Beech as bonsai, pros and cons? (Fagus Grandifolia)

We have plenty to collect but don't know if they are good as bonsai? (Emphasis - I have access to very good wild material.)

Thank you and best to all.

Augustine
central MD 7a

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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  hometeamrocker on Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:16 am

It seems the biggest complaint is how slow they develope. That being said, I have a few projects going that will take some time and I have seen some nice ones as bonsai and certainly in the wild.

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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  drgonzo on Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:45 am

This species is by far and away my favorite headache!

I've been working with F. grandifolia for many years now and have had good success. They are indeed very slow to develop and you must plot their course years ahead of time, using sap drawers and some limited bud pinching to help keep internodes short. Leaves will reduce fairly well once you start to get good ramification.

I allow all buds to grow and fully extend on a branch that I'm developing and I only prune back the spring growth to one or two leaves on the bud nearest or second nearest to the trunk to help shorten its internodes. Once the overall branch has reached desired thickness I will then prune back to that one special bud and refine the branch further. But this can take years so its like your developing one bud to become one branch with short internodes to keep as the finished branch and letting everything else go crazy with the idea being to one day cut back to that finished branch you've been pinching/pruning for years...I hope that makes sense.

My American Beeches love pure kanuma soil and one should be careful to allow several years recovery after collecting as they are slow to grow roots. Basically everything you can do in one season to say a Maple will take three seasons on American Beech, think of it that way.

A healthy Beech can be defoliated every two years say, however be careful to leave a leaf on the tip of each branch to draw sap so the branch doesn't die back. New buds will be produced with this procedure along the trunk usually but they will not actually extend until NEXT year. The new leaves that grow in after the defoliation are repulsive so this technique is only useful for gaining ramification not in reducing leaves as one does when we defoliate a Maple.

In talking with Jack Sustic about the American Beech in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum he recommended a mix of akadama and grit for soil and he feeds his Beech Dyna grow 7-9-5. I have personally found American Beech to be prone to Potassium deficiency when grown in containers so it helps to treat them early in the spring with a product like pro-tek 0-0-3.

I have also found them to be highly salt intolerant so feed with low doses if using chemical ferts. They are also very light feeders (having only one growth spurt per year) so fertilize lightly (once a month half strength and do not feed in the heat of the summer.) This year I'm trying Bio gold with just my Beeches to help prevent salt burns..ALL my other trees can take chemical ferts without an issue but the American Beeches will display salt toxicities very very easily. Also watch out for Beech Bark disease transmitted via scale insects and at the first sign of any scale on the tree pick them all off and treat with a anti fungal systemic as the disease can be fatal. It would be a horror to loose a tree after 10-15 years of work just when things were starting to look decent.

I currently have a nice specimen I've been working with for 4 going on 5 years now and a forrest that is three years old. Neither will be near show condition for probably another decade. I found it took me about three years alone just to learn how to grow them and keep them happy in a container.

Its a labor of love with this species as they will teach you the meaning of patience. I hope my info has helped a bit.
-Jay

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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  JudyB on Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:58 pm

Thank Jay, for that wealth of information on beech. Beech are far and away my favorite tree specie.
How much of this can be also used for Eu. Beech do you think? I've also had problems with salt burn, I tried using something in combo with dyna-gro last year, and won't try that again.
Nice to see someone developing these, I wish I could collect here, but it's not allowed. There is one that I covet every time I pass it...
Would love to see your buds unfurling!

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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  drgonzo on Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:36 pm

Hi Judy

I'm still hunting for a nice European Beech to noodle around with and from what I've read they are easier to deal with then American Beech. I have a nice shohin Japanese Beech that I acquired from Bill V. several years ago that has been fairly easy and rewarding to work with. My reading and my experience have indicated American Beech as being the difficult member of the big 'three' Beeches we commonly see in bonsai culture.

The salt intolerance is definitely an issue with American Beech. I have had problems with my Japanese beech with this as well but not nearly as touchy as the American beech in that regard.

-Jay


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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  Todd Ellis on Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:47 pm

I have grown many collected American Beech (F. grandiflora) and find them to be fun trees to grow. They usually transplant well IF you have enough roots. Often, beeches in the VA woods have a mat of roots growing in the compost, or upper layer of top soil, which is enough to sustain them. I find that if they have a nice clump of fine roots, then they will survive collecting/transplant shock. If they only have a few roots when collected, plant them in the ground for a few years for signs of vigorous new growth. I do major obvious cuts, branches I don't need, at the collecting site, and then seal the cuts when I get home. Carving out the stump/cuts can be done once the tree displays active strong growth; growing firmly in the pot or ground. I believe sealing the cuts enhances healing. They are slow to heal. Another caution, to shadow Jay's words ... always prune to an existing (vigorous) bud if you are trying to enhance taper. Do watch for scarring with wired branches. Beech branches can thicken quickly; if you're not sure the wire is too tight THEN remove it and evaluate.

In the USA Southeast, I consider Fagus and Carpinus similar with their needs and find beech to be slower growing (than hornbeams), but more forgiving.

Keep looking for places where you can get permission. You will eventually find some nice beeches!

Best,
Todd

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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  drgonzo on Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:59 pm

Something else to consider;

Because Beech bark has a fully mature look even on 2-3 year old trees, forests made from collected saplings can look very nice very quickly, particularly when out of leaf, while you wait to develop branching.

You can collect a few larger saplings from the wild (with permission) then augment the planting with seedlings ordered from various nurseries that specialize in trees. Cold Stream Farm is the only place in the USA I have found that has American Beech seedlings. European Beech seedlings are easier to find through mail order and Bill V. is offering Japanese Beech seedlings through his catalog this year also, a rare treat!

-Jay

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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  JudyB on Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:31 pm

Yes the forest idea is a good idea, one I had not thought of. Maybe I'll start there.
It's difficult to get permissions here for some reason. I've applied several times, and have never been approved... yet. And native trees are not allowed anyway.

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Re: American Beech as Bonsai?

Post  augustine on Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:52 am

thank you all very much.

Best regards,

Augustine
central MD 7a

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