Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

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Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Wed Sep 30, 2015 4:14 pm

We've been developing an Arizona Cypress, Cupressus arizonicus, aka Carolina Sapphire Cypress, into a literati form for maybe 4 years or so. Three years ago we introduced some movement to the trunk and started developing some foliage pads. Last year we repotted the tree into a rice strainer a la Jonas Dupuich to allow for some strong feeding. Early last year I made some long term decisions about styling and made some maintenance decisions based on that:

The plan was to allow the lower branches that were to become jins in the future to grow freely, untouched. This was to accomplish a whole host of tasks: 1) thicken the branches, allowing more substantial jin and more styling options with them, 2) increase sap flow so we could safely adjust the angles at which the branches exit the trunk (the plan was to cut a notch in the lower portion of each collar and wire them hard down, reducing the angle and making them look older and more natural), 3) increase the girth of the lower trunk improving taper, 4) increase sap flow to improve root development and set up a possible ground layering to build a new nebari from scratch, 5) redirect energy out of the foliage pads, shortening internodes and giving a lighter, airier feel.

The foliage pads in the upper portion have been cut back to two growing tips every 3 months or so to increase ramification.

The plan was to jack up the energy in the lower portion of the tree and use the metabolic "momentum" if you will to accomplish the more drastic styling choices we wanted, then to jin those branches and start refining.

Well, much to our surprise, the exact opposite appears to be happening. Last year lower branches started out growing normally, putting out nice healthy growth. This year they continued that trend but instead of the big fat shoots we were expecting, the growth sort of stalled, and now whole sections of those foliage masses appear to be dying off, while the foliage masses that have been cut back and maintained are growing normally. I looks like the cutting back is actually redirecting energy TO the cut back foliage rather than FROM it.

Has anyone else had this experience before?

Thanks

bottasegreta
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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  MKBonsai on Wed Sep 30, 2015 7:46 pm

A picture or two would be great. Plus - what work (if any) has been done on the roots - as it may be that this has a bearing on things?

JT - MKBonsai

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:00 pm

I will snap some pictures.

No root work has been done since it was repotted into the collander at the beginning of last year. The die-back doesn't show a preference for one or another which made me think it wasn't the roots.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Wed Sep 30, 2015 11:17 pm

I'm trying to post pictures but they're all uploading sideways....

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  JimLewis on Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:46 pm

bottasegreta wrote:I'm trying to post pictures but they're all uploading sideways....

Use a camera and not a phone, or load them into your computer first, check heir orientation, then upload here.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Thu Oct 01, 2015 2:30 pm

Sorry Jim it's not working. They are right side up on the computer, sideways on the post.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  geo on Thu Oct 01, 2015 7:33 pm

So post them sideways. It is better than nothing.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  beer city snake on Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:19 pm

bottasegreta wrote:Sorry Jim it's not working.  They are right side up on the computer, sideways on the post.

generally if you edit your pictures, even if you just rotate it 360 degrees and end up where you started, and then save it again, it should then post right side up... i will usually just get the orientation right and then crop a hair off so the the image is essentially changed and the re-save it.

hope that helps.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  JimLewis on Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:22 pm

bottasegreta wrote:Sorry Jim it's not working.  They are right side up on the computer, sideways on the post.

I assume you have some kind of draw/paint/photo editing software on your computer. Bring the picture up in that program and use the rotate button (wherever it is). Then put THAT picture here.

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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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Reply with quote Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  geo on Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:34 pm

Kevin crops! I knew it!

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:58 pm

Ok, I figured it out!

So here is the tree from the front with the sacrafice branches indicated.  You can see from the picture that the top 3/5's or so of the tree have the bright blue-green foliage which is indicative of active growing tips.  And you can see that the bottom 2/5's or so is much sparser, duller, less perky:

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Here is the view from the back where you see the same.  The branches have so bright healthy foliage but on the whole the branches' vigor seems to be trending down....

" />

Here is a close up of the crown.  You'll notice the large shoot coming off the right hand side.  That is to thicken a branch that WON'T be sacrificed so we've let that one shoot grow long while the rest is cut back.  THAT'S the kind of growth we were anticipating on the lower branches.

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And here is a close up of the lowest most branch which is suffering the most.  Many of the growing tips have browned and died, and over all the whole branch is looking dull and sparse and not so perky:

" />

Hope these help.  Any ideas?  Thanks

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  steveb on Fri Oct 02, 2015 3:33 am

Coulld it be that the branches are suffering because of the notches that were cut?  Or it this due to the general nature of conifers to direct energy to the top of the tree and lose lower branches?   I don't know but am throwing out suggestions.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Fri Oct 02, 2015 3:57 am

so the branches haven't been notched yet. we were trying to build up some energy first, but then this happened.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  0soyoung on Fri Oct 02, 2015 7:47 am

steveb wrote: Or it this due to the general nature of conifers to direct energy to the top of the tree and lose lower branches?  

There ya go!

This is basically what happens when one thickens pines. It is well documented in thickening JBPs. One lets an apical shoot go. The other branches are all lower and grow only weakly. The sacrifice shoot is often 6 feet tall or so before its lopped off to make a shohin pine (the process is repeated to create trunk taper). Meanwhile the lower branches have only grown a few inches in length (and may even die if they don't get sufficient light).

There are a lot of biochemical subtleties in 'correlative inhibition' but it is very similar to what we recognize on all trees - the foliage is only near the branch tips. In simple terms, the flow of auxin from the meristem (tips) and foliage inhibits the release of buds closer to to the roots.

It all boils down to something quite simple: if you want to grow the lowest branches you must minimize the foliage above and then regrow it when the lower branches have bcome as large as you want them to be, Remember those old beginner bonsai books? The tell you to grow the tree, the chop it and wire up a branch. Now you know why or have relearned why. Shocked

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Fri Oct 02, 2015 3:33 pm

Thanks Osoyoung, but I'm still a little confused. I thought that's what I HAD been doing. I haven't been cutting back the lower branches for 2 years now, I've only been cutting back the upper branches. The lower branches initial were growing vigorously, but now the vigor seems to be reducing.

Are you saying that's I'm not cutting them back enough? I'm cutting back each shoot to two growing tips each time to reduce as much as possible. I don't think the tree will back bud so I'm not sure how much more I can do. I suppose I could thin them out a bit more....

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  0soyoung on Fri Oct 02, 2015 7:46 pm

bottasegreta wrote:Are you saying that's I'm not cutting them back enough?

Yes. There's way too much foliage (and way too many apical meristems) 'up top'.

Again, if you really want to grow those lower branches, you will need to reduce the amount of foliage above them. Bear in mind that you can regrow the top just like they tell us in the beginner bonsai books (wire up a shoot/branch) once your lower branches are as thick as you want. Even though it won't back bud, these trees grow at terminal buds on each little thread of foliage and over time this will turn woody, just like thuja, juniperus, and chamaecyparis.

When you trim some of the foliage, you do cause the auxin flow to drop. This releases buds and then you've got replaced those auxin producers. As they grow the auxin production rises and this increased flow down the trunk discourages bud release (i.e., new growth) on the lower branches. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Fri Oct 02, 2015 8:59 pm

Awesome. I will thin it out and see how it goes. Thanks so much for the insight.

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Oct 04, 2015 6:11 pm

Looks like the kind of development work that would be better using ground growing techniques.
You can keep the colander, just enter it into a much larger expanse of prepared soil.

Normally wood has to age anywhere from 25 to 50 years to get stable driftwood otherwise, you run the risk of rotting wood.
There is also the Phoenix graft bit.
Yes, also wood hardeners, but...............
Laters.
Khaimraj

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Sun Oct 04, 2015 6:28 pm

I'm not averse to using wood hardener. Won't lime sulphur slow down wood rot as well?

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Re: Redirecting/Balancing Energy: Unexpected Consequences

Post  bottasegreta on Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:58 pm

Update: So since I originally posted the topic, there have been some developments. One of the branches -- or more correctly, one "branchlet" -- about halfway up the back of the tree has completely died. This seemed to rule out root problems, and didn't really fit with my original suspicion that the pruning strategy was causing the die-back. My wife, who is a licensed horticulturalist, took a look at the tree and with her very discerning eye spotted several small black disc-shaped objects on the tree. Upon removal they appeared to be emerging from between the scales of the foliage where they were attached by fine white threads. It seems very likely they are fruiting bodies of a fungus. They were no more prevalent on the dead branch than anywhere else but they were more prevalent on the lower branches than the crown. A bit of googling suggests this is Phomopsis, or "juniper tip blight" which can infect all species of the family Cupresseceae, including Cupressus arizonica, the Arizona Cypress. The fungus tends to infect the lower branches first and cause die back at the tips which can spread: all consistent with this tree's appearance. I am still trying to get a good bead on how to treat. It's not clear that any particular fungicide will work. First recommendation seems to be to cut back to a couple inches of live wood, so jinning these branches now might actually cure it. In the mean time I'm keeping the foliage dry and keeping it in a well ventilated area with full sun (business as usual).

Anyone have any experience to share on this? I will post a picture of the dead branchlet when it gets a little brighter out. My camera phone can't focus on the small spores so I will take them with me to the lab and try to snap a picture with a microscope.

Thanks everyone for your help already, you guys are great!

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