Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

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Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  CityofTrees on Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:40 pm

Hello all,

My name is Garrett and I live in sunny Sacramento, CA. I've posted here a few times but have been mostly lurking to learn as much as I can from the firsthand experience of all you fine folk. I have a modest collection of trees that were all purchased in the last 6 months since my fascination with bonsai began. I must mention that all of my (16 or so, wow!) trees are only in the very early stages of being trained as bonsai, and as such I don't do much work on them other than the occasional pruning or slight wiring, mostly focusing on keeping the trees healthy and growing quickly. Most of these were purchased as general nursery material and a few have been bought at specialist bonsai nurseries but still in the very early training stages (or as I hear them referenced on the interwebs, "potensai"). I've always had a green thumb with the easy material like veggies succulents and house plants and just hope some of that transfers to my practicing of bonsai. It's going well so far, most of my trees were repotted into slightly larger containers after purchasing and all seem to be growing vigorously. I've tried to keep with the simpler material that is good for beginners but my fascination and obsession with plants knows no bounds, which is why I now have 16 trees in development when I'm only a few months into this wonderful hobby.

This brings me to my little Olive tree that I purchased from a nursery in Southern California close to Disneyland. This area has a thriving Asian population and as such has a decent amount of places that sell bonsai related items. The nursery I purchased this from wasn't a specialist bonsai nursery but they did have a special section for material intended as bonsai. That's where I found this little olive, though I got there so late they were about to close and I didn't bother to find out the full name i.e. Olea Europaea? As a side note, can anyone tell me what variety this is?

I fell in love with the little tree, with it's nicely buttressed based for the size and smooth taper to the top, and so bought it and brought back up north with me. The tree has been growing well, I've cut back the strongest growth twice this season. Not for any particular reason other than to see how it responds and hopefully produce some back budding. It responded seemingly well to this action and has back budded in multiple places along the existing upper branch structure and a few below. Like I said I'm very new to trees and bonsai (though I've learned much in a short time) so there is still a lot to learn and I'm just observing responses to certain actions at this point. What else is a newbie to do than just jump in head first?  Laughing 

So here is the tree:



This picture was just taken yesterday so it is current. If you look closely at that picture, you can see these three sprouts coming from the base of the trunk:





I'm thinking about letting one of these shoots grow as a sacrifice branch to give me even more buttressing and taper at the base of the tree. My question is (finally), which one of these should I let grow freely? Is there a rule of thumb when it comes to this, such as pick the strongest one? Or is it just a matter of preference for the specific situation and which one grows in the best spot? If you look at that last picture, the two growing closest to each other are larger and stronger so I would be inclined to choose one of them, but they're right below a nice little "natural" hole that I'm guessing was created when a larger branch was removed. So I'd really like to cut these two back and let the other one grow freely. Do you guys think this is a good choice? Is it ever a bad idea to grow a sacrifice branch at the base of the trunk to increase buttressing? Should I immediately cut the other two off completely or let them grow a bit? Or just pinch them back for a bit and let the one I want to dominate be dominant? Sorry I know this is one of those beginner-afraid-to-pull-the-trigger questions  Rolling Eyes just trying to increase my understanding and I promise someday I'll be able to make these decisions on my own  Smile Thanks to all

Garrett

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Growing a sacrifice branch on an olive

Post  john5555leonard on Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:12 am

Hi, you don't need a sacrifice branch on that tree,you need to develop the whole tree . It looks like you've got it in good soil so just let the whole tree grow for a few years, feed it we'll and let it grow . I know you will want to play with it now but resist the temptation and you'll get a good tree out of it later. Kind regards john

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  CityofTrees on Thu Aug 21, 2014 3:15 am

Hi John, thanks for the reply. Like I said the tree is in development as are my other trees so I haven't done much other than repot it and let it grow. I've pruned some but not this one much, to me it appears happy and well-growing. What do you think I should do with these shoots? Would fattening the base be useful later on? From my understanding you can let the whole tree grow as you said while growing a branch for a special purpose that you intend to remove later. Again thank you for taking the time to reply I'm very new to all this and still learning daily.

Garrett

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Olive

Post  john5555leonard on Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:35 pm

Hi, those basal shoots can be left on for now, they will not help fatten the trunk much but it will add a bit of character when you remove them, olives root easy, if it where me I,d let them develop until they harden off and form bark, then cut a notch in them and cover with soil , remove when rooted and then you've got 2 more trees

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  JudyB on Sun Aug 24, 2014 6:14 pm

Or...
You could wire some early movement into those new shoots, and think about having a clump style tree.  This base looks like it has nice potential to be a good clump, and those shoots are well placed to get things started in that direction should you choose to try it.  If you change your mind, you can always cut them off... Olives look best when sort of lumpy, so even if you decide on a single trunk tree, you won't have to worry about the swelling getting out of hand. I would keep the outside two and take off the middle one.

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  Andrew Legg on Wed Aug 27, 2014 1:17 pm

Garrett,

If there is any life left in that second trunk, I'd get rid of the suckers. They'll just take energy from the second trunk which seems to be dying back.  I'd say it's a Mission Olive or Olea europaea.

Cheers,

Andrew

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  CityofTrees on Wed Aug 27, 2014 8:01 pm

Hi all, thanks very much for your thoughtful responses. I'm so glad I've found the help I was looking for.

john5555leonard wrote:Hi, those basal shoots can be left on for now, they will not help fatten the trunk much but it will add a bit of character when you remove them, olives root easy, if it where me I,d let them develop until they harden off and form bark, then cut a notch in them and cover with soil , remove when rooted and then you've got 2 more trees

I like this idea John, I'm going to leave the shoots on for now at least (I think) to develop some character before I remove them. It's also good to know that olive roots well and a ground layer would be possible, I'll keep in that in mind when I figure out what to do with these shoots. Thanks again John.

JudyB wrote:Or...
You could wire some early movement into those new shoots, and think about having a clump style tree. This base looks like it has nice potential to be a good clump, and those shoots are well placed to get things started in that direction should you choose to try it. If you change your mind, you can always cut them off... Olives look best when sort of lumpy, so even if you decide on a single trunk tree, you won't have to worry about the swelling getting out of hand. I would keep the outside two and take off the middle one.

Hi Judy, thanks for the tip and taking the time to respond. You're right that the base has nice potential to form at least a multiple trunk tree or clump type. I thought initially that this olive has very nice buttressing and taper (though small for now) for such a young tree, and with the second trunk emerging from the base pretty perfectly it would lend itself well to a double trunk. I agree that these shoots are pretty well-placed to start some initial training as a clump form, thanks for opening my eyes to that. I like your idea of leaving them on to at least develop some lumpiness if I decide to remove them later, I think I'll go with that for now. It might be hard to tell from the poor pictures, but do you think this would make a good candidate for a twin-trunk tree? The tree seems to already be growing this way with that second trunk forming a nice little mini-tree hiding under the larger canopy of the main trunk. Have you seen many olive bonsai styled this way? Thanks again for your help!

Garrett

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  CityofTrees on Wed Aug 27, 2014 9:08 pm

Andrew Legg wrote:Garrett,

If there is any life left in that second trunk, I'd get rid of the suckers. They'll just take energy from the second trunk which seems to be dying back.  I'd say it's a Mission Olive or Olea europaea.

Cheers,

Andrew

Hi Andrew, thanks for the identification that's very helpful. I'll look both up and try to figure out which it is. There is some life left in that little trunk, though it might not appear so. I do have a green thumb (which of course we know just means paying attention to your plants and giving them what they want) but I'm new to bonsai so I can't say for sure but I think if you could see the tree in person compared to when I got it you would agree that it's coming back to life. I got the tree just a few months ago from a nursery in SoCal, it was roughly the same size as it is now but with no new shoots or active growth that you see now. It was in some very compacted soil in a 4-inch pot. I'm honestly surprised at the size it had for such a small pot and seemingly poor soil. Needless to say it was rootbound so I immediately transferred it to this 1-gal smart pot (soft sided breathable pot). The soil is about 40% akadama 40% lava rock 20% fine organic content. If I could do it again I might get rid of or lower the organic content and add some pumice, it doesn't drain incredibly well but the plant appears to enjoy it just fine. Since then, the one or two existing shoots on that smaller trunk have formed some new green growth, and a couple additional buds on this smaller trunk have broken and formed long shoots from this trunk which have not been trimmed back at all to give vigor to the trunk. There is also, of course, lots of new development and buds breaking on the main branch as well.

Here is another picture of the tree, I know it's hard to see what comes from where so all the red lines mark shoots that are growing from that small trunk. Almost all of those shoots just formed this season over the last few months after it was potted up to the 1-gal. Just to make it easier to visually differentiate them, the basal shoots are marked with yellow lines. I hope this means that the second trunk will be just fine in the future because I do envision it playing a part in the design. I would be glad to cut off the basal shoots or trim them back if you think they'll take too much energy from the rest of the tree, let me know what you think. Thanks again for your valuable thoughts and for taking the time to respond to my post.

Garrett




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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  Andrew Legg on Wed Aug 27, 2014 10:17 pm

Hey Garrett,

From the first few pics I could not see growth there on that second trunk, but now I see it is obvious. Good stuff!  The tree looks healthy. In South Africa the biggest problem we have with our olives (Olea europaea var Africana) is root rot caused by excessively wet feet.  Quite a few of us are seeing very good results going with very free draining inorganic, or low-organic growing mediums. We use Alliette to combat root rot in out long wet winters.  I have quite a few olives, and the more free draining and less organic, the happier they seem to be.

As I understand it, the name Olea europaea is just the scientific name for the Mission Olive.

What have you got in mind for the design of this tree? I definitely see potential for a parent child tree.

Coming back to your original question, I think these suckers will only contribute to making the root that feeds them bigger, potentially causing root imbalance. In my mind, they are not high enough up to be o much use, so I'd be tempted to whack 'em! cheers

Cheers,

Andrew

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  CityofTrees on Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:04 am

Andrew Legg wrote:Hey Garrett,

From the first few pics I could not see growth there on that second trunk, but now I see it is obvious. Good stuff!  The tree looks healthy. In South Africa the biggest problem we have with our olives (Olea europaea var Africana) is root rot caused by excessively wet feet.  Quite a few of us are seeing very good results going with very free draining inorganic, or low-organic growing mediums. We use Alliette to combat root rot in out long wet winters.  I have quite a few olives, and the more free draining and less organic, the happier they seem to be.

As I understand it, the name Olea europaea is just the scientific name for the Mission Olive.

What have you got in mind for the design of this tree? I definitely see potential for a parent child tree.

Coming back to your original question, I think these suckers will only contribute to making the root that feeds them bigger, potentially causing root imbalance. In my mind, they are not high enough up to be o much use, so I'd be tempted to whack 'em! cheers

Cheers,

Andrew

Hey again Andrew,

Oh I see, so those aren't two different types of olives that I need to differentiate between and figure out which one it is Rolling Eyes I thought it was an olea europaea from the limited research I've done but wasn't sure by any means. Of course it wasn't marked at the nursery and this was very early on in my bonsai endeavors so the thought of asking the variety completely slipped my mind. Yes it's very hard to tell from the low quality pictures what is growing from where exactly but I'm glad you see the growth on the second trunk now and think it's good stuff! I'm so glad to hear that you agree it looks healthy, it is one of favorite trees (they're all my favorite of course Very Happy) due to the already pleasant shape of its trunk at such a young age and what I see as loads of potential.

Yes a parent-child tree, that's exactly what I see when I look at it! The tree already lends itself so well to this design, with the second trunk forming a small tree by itself that sort of hides under the canopy of the main trunk and the main canopy shrouds it as if trying to protect. I just love it! Recognizing the fact that I'm a beginner, I think it would be unwise to ignore the obvious styling choice that the tree lends itself to. The fact that someone with much more experience than me thinks the same about the tree fortifies my belief that this is the right direction to take it!!

Thanks for the info on how olive is treated out there with regards to culture, I really wish I had known this before I added a substantial amount of organic content but I didn't go too overboard. The tree seems to like it for now, probably more tolerant of it during the blazing hot summer here but I'll be careful with watering during winter. I'm sure the tree would do fine in this pot in this mix for the next couple seasons but I'll probably repot it next spring into a more free draining mix. Do you think this will help in the development or is it unnecessary to repot so soon? Do you develop your olive in larger training pots or in a smaller bonsai type pot? I just want to get it out of that mix it's in now and into something more free draining even though it doesn't appear to have any problems with its current home. I have no plans or rush to get this in a bonsai pot any time soon and just planned on potting it up slightly until the trunk is finished before decreasing root and pot size for the final stages of development.

You bring up a good point about the basal shoots causing the nebari on that side of the tree to grow disproportionately to the other roots. The roots and trunk on that side of the tree are already slightly dominant over the other side and I believe you're right in thinking that this will only exacerbate that issue. I do plan on this being the front of the tree but I want it to look presentable from all sides, as a tree should, so I must strongly consider the good point you bring to light. The nebari on this tree is a little weak as is so it's likely something I'll have to address at some point. I believe I saw another bud breaking from a similarly low point on the opposite side of the tree, the side that is a little weaker, so maybe I should cut these current ones back or off completely and let the other one develop. Or let one develop on each side to strengthen and thicken nebari but let the one on the weaker side grow more freely? I promise one day I'll be able to make these decisions on my own Laughing Thanks again for the help!

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:30 am

Garette,

I would suggest since you are new to Bonsai, that you just grow this olive for a trunk.

My olive is the smaller leaf and from seed [ 1984 or so ], the source was the Botannical gardens in South Africa, a gift of about 1/2 a kilo of seed.
It sprouts even today all over, so you can clip and replace branches as you wish. The wood is very hard and resists decay well, so wounds are not a problem.

In Bonsai at the beginning, Health [ horticulture ] is more important that styles.

My own is grown in a 1/3 organic to 2/3 inorganic mix and the pot is a bit deep. Our climate goes to rain from April/May or June, dries out after Christmas.
Placement is full sun.
I water twice a day, morning and before 4.30 in the evening.

Try for a 3 inch trunk, and perhaps slowly going to a very large pot, potting up by an inch larger pot every year.
Or ground grow for some years.

The larger leaf does not quite give the same visual results as the small leaf, so you might want to do a google for larger leaf olive bonsai.

Easy tree for me to grow, but my own does not like to be trained too tightly. Plus the olive trees I knew in Florence, Italy were more like large trunks with bushy heads.
Best of Luck.
Khaimraj

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  CityofTrees on Tue Sep 02, 2014 11:14 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Garette,

I would suggest since you are new to Bonsai, that you just grow this olive for a trunk.

My olive is the smaller leaf and from seed [ 1984 or so ], the source was the Botannical gardens in South Africa, a gift of about 1/2 a kilo of seed.
It sprouts even today all over, so you can clip and replace branches as you wish. The wood is very hard and resists decay well, so wounds are not a problem.

In Bonsai at the beginning, Health [ horticulture ] is more important that styles.

My own is grown in a 1/3 organic to 2/3 inorganic mix and the pot is a bit deep. Our climate goes to rain from April/May or June, dries out after Christmas.
Placement is full sun.
I water twice a day, morning and before 4.30 in the evening.

Try for a 3 inch trunk, and perhaps slowly going to a very large pot, potting up by an inch larger pot every year.
Or ground grow for some years.

The larger leaf does not quite give the same visual results as the small leaf, so you might want to do a google for larger leaf olive bonsai.

Easy tree for me to grow, but my own does not like to be trained too tightly. Plus the olive trees I knew in Florence, Italy were more like large trunks with bushy heads.
Best of Luck.
Khaimraj

Hello Khaimraj, I've seen you around while browsing other posts, handing out kindness and sound advice, and I appreciate you stopping by my thread.

This is so true what you say about horticulture and the general health of the tree being paramount in the early stages of bonsai, rather than focusing on future styling. I'm happy to have learned that early on and learned that my general impatience does not affect my bonsai pursuits all that much, I'm learning  Smile  It's difficult to not imagine a future style while looking at developing trees in your garden even long before styling is at hand, which I'm sure you deal with in your garden as well. But, I promise you that these are only visionings and the health of the tree is first on my list of priorities. I've only cut back a couple of the longest shoots to see how the tree would respond, otherwise it has just been potted up from its small container and untouched. I do love the shape of this trunk already which is what drew me to the tree, and I think it will only get better with age. This is good to know about how vigorous the tree is and that you can clip and replace branches at will, I won't be so worried about placement for future development in these early years.

That's also good to know about the tree resisting decay well and that wounds are not an issue. I don't know if you can see in one of the earlier pictures, on the main trunk there is this knob from past branch growth. Can I just go at this with the knob cutters or concave pruners and bring it back in to shape with the trunk? This will create a relatively large wound (relative to the size of the tree) that I would cover with cut paste, but I was unsure about olives and their resistance to decay. Is there a best time of year to make this cut so that the wound heals quickly? I've also noticed my olive tree dropping leaves and not quickly replacing them, is this pretty common? Do you have to prune hard sometimes to get backbudding and maintain growth on older specimens or do they drop and replace leaves easily? Actually I have been gradually losing light on my small patio as the season progresses and maybe this is responsible for the leaf drop, or at least the fact that they aren't being replaced quickly? The leaves browned slightly at the tip then

Interesting to hear about your soil mix, sounds pretty close to mine as far as organic/inorganic content. I thought about going fully inorganic or maybe 10% organic but perhaps I'll stick with the current mix, it doesn't sound bad (or look it). Is yours in a bonsai pot or in a training pot at this stage? I think mine will be in training pots for some time and I'm okay with this  Cool  the tree has been in a 1-gal most of this year and will go in a 2-3 gal when necessary, probably next season. Do you feed with organic or inorganic nutrients? I've only fed with a chemical 20-20-20 nutrient at close to full strength but have read that olives like organic nutrients better. What's your experience with that?

Sorry for all the questions, I'm so eager to learn, and again thanks very much for your kind help.

Garrett

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Sep 03, 2014 7:02 am

Garrett,

the problem most beginner's face in Bonsai is, the one plant, the victim.

When learning, as with this olive, get about 5 to 10 plants [ grow the cuttings ] and do your tests on them. If they die, it won't hurt as much.

Don't have a lot of space, train them as miniatures.
See which soil mix works for you, and which fertiliser programme gives the best results.

To - pot up - it is normally best to enlarge by an 1" [ 2.5 cm ] on the sides and bottom. Additionally see if the plant can handle a depth of greater than 6" [ 15 cm ] in a container. Read as much as you can.

My olive is in a Bonsai pot, if you put my name with the words - olive bonsai - on Google, an image should appear.
I have temporarily removed my images from Image Shack, until I find a server that does not try to make money on my images. Apologies.
Best of Growing,
Khaimraj

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Re: Growing a sacrifice branch on an Olive tree

Post  CityofTrees on Sat Sep 06, 2014 1:10 am

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Garrett,

the problem most beginner's face in Bonsai is, the one plant, the victim.

When learning, as with this olive, get about 5 to 10 plants [ grow the cuttings ] and do your tests on them. If they die, it won't hurt as much.

Don't have a lot of space, train them as miniatures.
See which soil mix works for you, and which fertiliser programme gives the best results.

To - pot up - it is normally best to enlarge by an 1" [ 2.5 cm ] on the sides and bottom. Additionally see if the plant can handle a depth of greater than 6" [ 15 cm ] in a container. Read as much as you can.

My olive is in a Bonsai pot, if you put my name with the words - olive bonsai - on Google, an image should appear.
I have temporarily removed my images from Image Shack, until I find a server that does not try to make money on my images. Apologies.
Best of Growing,
Khaimraj

Hi Khaimraj

Thanks for the reply. You might be glad to know that I have at least 15 little trees in my garden that I'm developing as bonsai, all different kinds. While studying the art and reading that suggestion a few times (to get multiple trees), I also realized that with my eagerness I would most definitely need more trees in my garden. I'm only less than six months into the art and already have about 17-18 trees Shocked all of these are in pretty much the same stage as the olive, just young nursery stock that I intend to develop as bonsai.

Some are further along than others but not by much, and this is what I have (that I can think of at the moment): j. shimpaku, j. shimpaku var. Kishu, j. squamata "blue star", j. sabina (Tam), j. pengii loderi (squamata var.), Japanese yew, dwarf hinoki false cypress, Zelkova serrata, satsuku azalea "Kazan", Cryptomeria japonica "Vilmoriana", flowering quince (unknown variety), ulmus crassifolia (texas cedar elm), trident maple (roughbark variety), chamaecyparis pisifera "plumosa compressa". I also have a couple Japanese maple varieties that I might or might not develop as bonsai There are a couple missing and sorry for the interchangeable use of scientific and common names, I'm at work and writing the list from memory. Many of these haven't been touched at all and just allowed to grow strong and healthy to increase trunk caliper. Most were bought earlier in this current season closer to spring and repotted from their original pots to the next size up. The strongest growers have been pruned back to a node or two on new growth after letting it extend a few inches but that's about it. I've been reading a lot both books and on the forum trying to learn and avoid the beginner plant-killing phase, though I'm sure its inevitable.

I don't have an incredible amount of space at the moment but for now at least I prefer shohin size and up. For some reason they speak to me more but I'm sure I'll enjoy the smaller size at some point. I'll be sure to take your advice on potting up, is the best time for olive repotting spring like most others? What do you think about that slight bulge on the main trunk that I asked about a post or two ago? You said your olives have no problem with healing wounds, do you make large cuts in late winter/early spring or at another time? I'm wondering when will be the best time to cut off this knob for fastest healing.

I tried searching for your tree on google, maybe I didn't look long enough but most of the ones I found were other people's olives that you commented on and couldn't find yours specifically. Thanks again for all the advise, it is appreciated.

Garrett

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