larch raw material

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larch raw material

Post  alberello on Thu Feb 11, 2016 2:08 pm

Hi everybody,

I have been thinking weather it would be better to do some drastic pruning on my japanese larch now instead later in the year.
I wonder if anyone can answer a few questions on pruning:

Looking at the tree there are thicker branches at the top and less thick branches towards the base of the tree. How do I choose the ones to retain and the ones to cut back?
How far back can I cut a brach?
There are lots of buds along the branches, larches produce either non-extending spurs or extending shoots, where should I cut to have ramification?
When bending thicker branches should I use raffia?
Here is a picture of the tree:


Last edited by alberello on Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:54 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: larch raw material

Post  chadley999 on Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:05 am

IF this tree were mine, I would have no problem pruning back this time of year. The first thing I would do, is choose which branches I wanted to keep based on their positions. Regardless of size, I would choose the best placed branches and leave only one branch at each specific height. After selecting which branches to retain, the rest of the branches would be removed. After removing all unnecessary branches I would wire some shape into the ones remaining. At this point i would do nothing else but let it grow, keeping an eye to make sure the wire does not cut in. Once the branches had reached the desired thickness, most likely a year or more, I would cut back all the branches to establish the primary silhouette.

Someone correct me if i am wrong, but i believe larches back bud very well. Haven't worked with japanese larch but I have worked with american larch, I hear they're mostly the same in this regard.

What you have here is referred to as a bean pole larch. Have you considered cutting it back and wiring up a branch as a new leader to help establish some better taper? Hard to see, but the nebari appears to flare nicely at the base.

There is a book by Nick Lenz called Bonsai From the Wild. I would say about 1/3 of it is devoted to larches. I would recommend it to everyone and its a great resource

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Re: larch raw material

Post  chadley999 on Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:06 am

One more thing, I would try and avoid selecting the larger branches near the top as it will be hard to beef up the lower ones in comparison

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Re: larch raw material

Post  Marty Weiser on Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:55 am

I agree with cutting off all of the heavy branches, unless you plan to use one as a new leader and cut the trunk above it to create a dramatic change of direction. If you plan to keep the trunk more or less as it is, I would then trim into a very roughly conical shape to restrain the upper branches and allow the lower branches the thicken. It will then be clean enough so that you can truly assess the potential of the branches for selection and training as discussed above.

I have found that Japanese larch, L. kaempferi buds back quite well. Even back onto a trunk of this size if there are branches nearby. It probably won't bud back below the lower branches so keep those.

Now someone will probably suggest cutting it back to one of the lower branches and growing it out for a few years. Not my suggestion for this tree, but what I have been doing with some in the ground - let them grow to about 2 meters over a couple of years, cut back severely, repeat with some root pruning and/or lifting and serious root pruning. Results so far are mixed, but there are a couple that are looking OK.

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Re: larch raw material

Post  leatherback on Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:20 am

Marty Weiser wrote:
I have found that Japanese larch, L. kaempferi buds back quite well. Even back onto a trunk of this size if there are branches nearby. It probably won't bud back below the lower branches so keep those.

Interesting.. Here in Western Europe, Larches are said to have a complete lack of backbudding; Always keep buds near the trunk, or you need to do grafting.

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Re: larch raw material

Post  chris on Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:19 pm

Hi, if you are going to the Swindon show bring it with you and we can style it together, I love working on Larch and its much easier to understand things in the flesh so to speak

Regards Chris

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Re: larch raw material

Post  redmoon on Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:55 pm

Hello alberello,
Colin Lewis wrote a fine illustrated article on cultivating Larix for bonsai. It may be published somewhere else (anyone?) but it's in Bonsai Today issue 79 pg. 43. One notable difference between Japanese larch and the rest. Japanese larch are less tolerant of wet soils. As far as styling, a search here will bring up what others have done. You'll notice most (if not all) trees have their branches wired flat. In my opinion this is a mistake. Being deciduous and possessing foliage that's shall we say, not really in harmony with an old tree, we should consider basing the design on how larch looks during the winter. Those perfectly wired flat pads look sad with no foliage on them to my eye. Just a thought. Good luck!

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Re: larch raw material

Post  alberello on Sat Feb 27, 2016 12:15 pm

Hi all,
Here is the larch first styling.
I cut a couple of heavy branches and jined the top.
I bent down the lower branches and reduced lenghts cutting last year growth.
Any comments, suggestions are welcomed.


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Re: larch raw material

Post  Leo Schordje on Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:07 pm

Great thing about larches is their wood remains flexible for many years.

For a first go, nice job. I would just get it growing this year. Don't remove much more. Sun, water, fertilizer and get some good growth on it.

Larches do not back bud on old wood. So you do want to keep some branches short and young in many places in order to have choices in the future. They definitely don't back bud on the trunk below where the branches start. (well, there may be the rare exception, but it will be an exception, can't count on it) Branches will back bud somewhat, enough you can plan on it to a degree. But if a branch becomes mature, say 5 year old wood or older, the old wood won't back bud.

I personally would have made different choices of branches to keep, but I am only looking at a photo. We all learn by doing, and I applaud that you took the plunge and went forward.

The tree has had its "one major stress per year'', so grow it out this summer, see how it responds, take notes and use the time to learn more about how larch grow and behave. Not a bad start, just not the direction I would have gone.

Definitely seek out the Nick Lenz book. Read and re-read the larch chapters.

I would look for a wider, shallower container for training, but don't repot until 2017 or 2018. Leave it alone for the rest of this year.

Nice start.

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Re: larch raw material

Post  alberello on Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:44 pm

Thank you very much for your comments.
This is my first attempt on raw material, I kept looking and looking at the tree and could not make up my mind on which way to go.
As a matter of curiosity what would you have done?
I do have the book, though sometime there isn't anything better then practice and guidance from an experience person that can actually see the tree.
Hopefully I have left enough branches for future options.
The tree is in sphagnum moss and I won't re-pot it until next year.
If you have anymore suggestions in how to style the tree please let me know.

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Re: larch raw material

Post  chadley999 on Tue Mar 01, 2016 1:46 am

What you've got should be lots of branches. It will be fine in sphagnum, that's what they grow in the bog. I know its not in the bog now, but it wont hurt a year imo. But you should definitely work in some bonsai soil during the next repot.

I also agree with Leo on selecting a new pot. Kent is in the UK if i'm not mistaken shouldn't be too hard to find a training pot.

Kaizen bonsai comes to mind

http://www.kaizenbonsai.com/shop

Im sure others will give you more options.

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Re: larch raw material

Post  Leo Schordje on Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:09 pm

Not being able to see the tree in 3D, I hesitate to try to do a design. I'll make suggestions, but you actually have the tree in front of you, so if anything I suggest doesn't sound right, or you don't think it would work, then ignore my advice and trust yourself. I have some trees of my own that I have gotten advice on from "experts" and some I keep to myself, with the thought that what I've done is all my own.

Basically if it were mine, I would have kept all the smaller branches, and only have cut off some of the thick ones high up in the tree. To my eye, the branch you chose as the new apex is too thick. You were not able to bend the base of the branch, giving you an odd transition to the upper part. If it were mine, I would have used a thin branch for the new apex, and bent that up, In time you could make the entire chop and transition to the new apex almost invisible. But that would have taken a number of years to disappear.

But you now have the tree as is. I spent half an hour looking for an image to illustrate what I mean, but came up short. I'll keep looking, check out various collector's blogs, there are photos of what I am talking about. I would keep your current apex with the horizontal jog, and have it grow so that it looks like a branchlet from the horizontal branch took over as the apex, rather than bending the horizontal branch to vertical. Trees actually do this in nature. When I find an example I'll post.

Your tree is pleasant as it, Just keep it growing for this year. Since larches stay flexible, you can re-design it again in a couple years when a different idea comes to mind. In the mean time, this is not bad, and for a first style. Great.

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Re: larch raw material

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