crabapple - trunk development questions

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crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  coh on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:28 am

I've got some plants that I'm growing in the ground for (possible) eventual bonsai use. I've read a lot about the process, but am still pretty inexperienced...so I wanted to post this and see what people might do at this point. The process seems so simple when you read about it - but then putting all the info into practice becomes confusing!

The particular tree in question is a crabapple - variety "Mary Potter". I got the tree from Evergreen Garden Works in fall 2007 as a rooted cutting in a 2.25" pot. I grew it in a pot for a little over a year but then realized it needed to go into the ground to put on some girth - so it was planted sometime in 2009 and basically allowed to grow wild. I just dug it up earlier this week...managed to get a decent rootball and it is going back in the ground for a couple more years (at least).

Here is a series of images of the lower trunk area:

View 1: distance across the white line at the trunk base is about 2.5". The base width varies with viewing angle, this is actually the skinniest viewpoint.



View 2: I think this may eventually offer the most options for a possible front. The questions I have are (1) have I allowed these low sacrifice branches to become too large (will removal scars heal over in my lifetime), and (2) should I remove one or more of them before replanting the tree? I'm thinking an eventual trunk line could run up along either of the white lines marked "1" and "2", and that I should probably remove branch "X" now...but keep branch "Y". I don't think I should keep both X and Y because of potential reverse taper development.



The remaining views are less interesting to me but I'll show them for completeness...maybe someone else will see something.





Tips, suggestions, criticisms all welcome. If you think I've done something wrong to this point (allowing sacrifices to get too large, for example), let me know. I've got many other trees that have been planted out more recently, so I'd like to avoid duplicating mistakes!

Many thanks,


coh
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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  drgonzo on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:40 am

Chris
I would at least remove X before replanting but leave the two lowest sacrificials in place. Tough to really tell from a photo. I would also Leave the tree in the ground until you see mature bark, Apples heal scars reasonably well and the more scarred they are the more rugged and ancient they look...scars (in my opinion) are a good thing on an apple. I wouldn't think too hard about a leader yet until I had a big chuck of beef with good bark. Also your nebari will more than likely determine your front and thus where your leader might be.

Good to see some of you're projects in the works!
-Jay



Last edited by drgonzo on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:45 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  Poink88 on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:43 am

I'd be waiting for the input as well.

Based on what I can see, I actually like the last pic as a front. Not sure yet which branch will remain but I like the nebari on that the most.

May I ask why you dug it up only to be returned? scratch

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  coh on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:47 am

Jay,

Thanks for your suggestions! I definitely want the trunk to have some "features" (scars, knot holes, whatever) and decent bark, but don't want the trunk to get too large. Getting this thing out of the ground reminded me that my back is my weak point. Don't think I want the base to be much more than 4". Maybe 5...

How would you treat those removed branches? Cut leaving a stump for now, cut flush, or cut flush and slightly hollow out the wound?

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  coh on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:53 am

Dario, I dug up the tree mainly to prune the roots. It's generally recommended to do this periodically for field-grown trees, because the roots tend to wander far and wide and get too thick. This way, you keep the roots under control and start the establishment of a good feeder root system near the trunk...which will make the final "collection" and potting simpler. At least, that's what I've heard.

There really isn't much (if any) "nebari" visible at this point. There are large roots that originate from somewhere...so there might be something buried. But I don't want to disturb the root mass any more than necessary right now. I'll replant it on a board with an inch or two of soil below...hopefully this will encourage the feeder roots to fill in. Then next time I dig I can try to expose larger roots/nebari that may be lurking under there.

Well, that's the plan, anyway! If anyone thinks I'm doing something wrong, please let me know!

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  bucknbonsai on Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:08 am

coh, i wouldnt wait to search for what roots you have in there, I would get any bad roots out as soon as you can. My trees that Ive gotten from evergreen gardenworks are healthy but ive noticed that in those small pots they arrive in that a lot of the roots circle or cross under the trunk. When I planted them (even with a board under them) they looked pretty good at first but this year when digging them up I realized that the slightly poor nebari had become accentuated with field growing and were now clearly poor and that I had to remove very large portions of the rootball to get appropriate nebari. You might as well do it now, especially since getting rid of bad roots will help your good roots thicken even faster.

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  tom tynan on Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:24 am

I think you have done a very good job creating the trunk; the sacriface branches are low - building mass - and you have multiple options about possible fronts. Most of the sacriface branches will have to go - simply because they are too straight. When you cut them backflush to the trunk the wounds will take time too close and although they will look knarly the callus will be significant. You may want to try the following - cut the long branches back and leave a live stub anywhere from 3" to 6" long. Make sure there are some good buds low on the branches. What you want to do is get a bunch of new buds on the live stubs - some of these may even be in the area where the branches meet the trunk - around the future wound site. You let these buds break and get strong - then next year you cut the stubs back to the trunk. Use the small branches that have popped on the trunk to help you close the wound. If you can get at least 2 buds on either side of the scar (or near the scar) - then you will close the wound cleaner and faster. At some point you have to choose between trunk mass and good taper - you have reached that point if you keep going for mass - then it will be harder to create taper. Like I said - good job as a grower - now comes the fun part.....Tom

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  coh on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:48 pm

Tom,

Thanks for your suggestion - I will try that approach and see what kind of budding I get around the stub(s).

Buck,

Thanks for your thoughts...I agree that some of his plants come with very tangled roots. I do clean them up before planting, but since this one was planted back in 2009 (I didn't know as much then) I'm not sure how good of a job I did. Still not sure I want to disturb that remaining root ball very much right now...maybe I'll plan to dig it up in a year and tackle that (rather than waiting 2 years). Or I'll probe around some once I've got the tree settled back into the ground...just don't want the remaining root mass to fall apart before it gets re-planted.

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  drgonzo on Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:59 pm

Chris
I dont mean to hijack your thread but I just wanted you to know after digging THIS apple up yesterday I (literally) feel your pain brother.
-Jay

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  drgonzo on Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:01 pm

coh wrote:- I will try that approach and see what kind of budding I get around the stub(s).

Actually the Apple should bud rather well from the branch collar, thats a great technique and I'll be trying that myself in future, what a great Idea Tom.
-Jay

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  coh on Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:10 pm

Jay,

Assuming your posted age is correct, I've got an additional 14 years of wear and tear on my back! The back did hold up pretty well, considering. The problem with my crabapple was that it was in a growing bed surrounded by other trees, so I had to be careful of them...led to some awkward positioning while I was trying to get it out of there.

That's some great bark on your tree...hard to tell from the photos, how do the surface roots look?

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  drgonzo on Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:38 pm

coh wrote:Jay,

I've got an additional 14 years of wear and tear on my back!

That's some great bark on your tree...hard to tell from the photos, how do the surface roots look?

As Indiana Jones once said "it's not the years, its the milage." Laughing

Don't know about the roots yet, though it was lifted from pretty boggy clay ground so I'm hopeful things are near the surface. It was all I could do to get this one and the Serviceberry behind it out of the ground yesterday. My back is in rough shape today.
-Jay

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  Poink88 on Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:07 pm

coh wrote:Dario, I dug up the tree mainly to prune the roots. It's generally recommended to do this periodically for field-grown trees, because the roots tend to wander far and wide and get too thick. This way, you keep the roots under control and start the establishment of a good feeder root system near the trunk...which will make the final "collection" and potting simpler. At least, that's what I've heard.

There really isn't much (if any) "nebari" visible at this point. There are large roots that originate from somewhere...so there might be something buried. But I don't want to disturb the root mass any more than necessary right now. I'll replant it on a board with an inch or two of soil below...hopefully this will encourage the feeder roots to fill in. Then next time I dig I can try to expose larger roots/nebari that may be lurking under there.

Well, that's the plan, anyway! If anyone thinks I'm doing something wrong, please let me know!
I got you. I still think I see better nebari on the last photo Wink.

Question. Assuming you already have a tile under to begin with, would you still dig it up or is there an advantage by cutting say opposite quarters of the roots (half total) and then do the other half after a few months? I am just wondering if doing it all while the tree is dormant is better or having half intact at a time will reduce the shock. Thank you.

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crab apple trunk develoment ouestions

Post  moyogijohn on Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:30 pm

CHRIS,, I Won,t say too much bou if you have the trunk size you want..why not cut all the branches you do not want?? would that not give the roots all their engry to grow the apex and smaller branches??? just thinking.. good luck take care john

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  coh on Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:49 am

Poink88 wrote:Question. Assuming you already have a tile under to begin with, would you still dig it up or is there an advantage by cutting say opposite quarters of the roots (half total) and then do the other half after a few months? I am just wondering if doing it all while the tree is dormant is better or having half intact at a time will reduce the shock. Thank you.

I really don't know the answer to that. I did "prepare" this tree by cutting around the root mass...did this gradually starting in the summer and finishing in the fall. When I dug the tree I found I had missed many of the larger roots that went downward. Now, I didn't plant this tree on a tile back in 2009...I did put a flat rock under the trunk, but it was pretty small and doesn't appear to have had much impact.

I'm guessing that even with a larger tile, roots will tend to go down to the tile, run along the tile surface, then dive downward as soon as they find the edge. So unless you're certain of cutting those, it might be better to actually dig the whole thing up to make sure those roots aren't getting too large. I've generally heard recommendations to do this every 2 or 3 years in most cases, but I don't have enough experience to say what works and what doesn't. Maybe others who've been doing this longer can chime in.

For what it's worth, I've also been told by one well known/respected bonsai artist that "tiles don't work". Haven't had a chance to follow up to find out why he feels that way (maybe in June at the national exhibition). So, as with most things, there are a range of opinions and experiences.

Edit to correct statement - I was told "tiles work poorly". Will definitely be following up on that to find out why that person feels that way.


Last edited by coh on Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:05 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: crabapple - trunk development questions

Post  coh on Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:53 am

moyogijohn wrote:CHRIS,, I Won,t say too much bou if you have the trunk size you want..why not cut all the branches you do not want?? would that not give the roots all their engry to grow the apex and smaller branches??? just thinking.. good luck take care john

John,

I don't quite have the trunk size I want...almost but not quite. Also, the digging process has essentially removed a large amount of the total root mass of the tree. I have removed one of the large "sacrifice" branches but, for now, I'd rather leave most of the top so the tree can recover and build back the root system. I think removing lots of the top now and forcing new buds would add additional stress. At least, that's my thinking...could be wrong! Will re-evaluate next spring.

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