This post is actually a progression of my forest projects that I started to present last year here: Ficus forest project – progression
As day light already lasts for at last 15-16 hours I considered it’s time to prune my ficus benjamina forests to promote back budding. For this process, I had a proactive approach as from last fall till now I continuously fertilized these trees to increase their strength – and in the same time preparing them for the heavy prune that I will show in this post. Simultaneos, I needed to clean the soil surface because as ficus trees grow, they drop the covers of the new leaves and these rot on the soil surface. In time, it creates an ugly black layer of dead material that, if kept indoors, it will mold, smell ugly and promote fungal issues.
Comparing to the pictures from the post I indicated in the begining you can see that there is quite some growth at this time.
Here is a closeup of the surface soil that is quite ugly and full of dirt and dead material from one season of growth.
Here is the second forest that I created last year. If you concentrate on the soil surface, you can see that here the black material is more aggressive and obvious. This tree as well had a very serious and vigorous growth for one season.
However, both forests are too large already and their branches overlap creating a barrier for the light reaching the lower branches. For this reason, as seen in the pictures, the development of the top of the canopy is more aggressive than of the bottom’s. This must be corrected by pruning now, on one hand, and by future back pruning of the top branches to encourage lower one’s development. Also, the height that the trees reached is over the one that I have envisioned so they will need to be reduced.
Hard pruning combined with partial defoliation was the approach that I did for these trees. For ficus trees, it is important to prune back in this case to 2 or 3 leaves to encourage ramification. A very important issue to consider is that not all the leaves will back bud, there are some that never back bud. A strategy to make sure you cut back to leaves that bud out is to let them start budding. I achieved this by fertilizing them as I already mentioned and letting the branches grow out. On any species of trees, a rule of thumb to promote back bud is to leave it grow long. If you do so, you can see when and where you have to prune, as back to the trunk as possible but always to an already existing bud that will ramify your tree. I cleaned the soil surface back to the clear clay particles that the trees are planted in. Now it remains to continue fertilizing, watering and keeping the trees in sunny condition.
If until now I left the trees to grow wild just to gather strength, from now on I will be more careful about ensuring its growth on the bottom branches and slower growth on the upper ones. This does not mean that I will prune back as soon as new branches appear on the top of the canopy, but I will decrease their growing power by cutting of leaves on these branches. This method ensures the energy distribution of the branches that have more leaves that those with fewer ones.
Hope this helps you and thanks for the visit!
I continue my journey of fall pruning with other two species besides Carpinus and Fagus trees, presented in the previous post. The time came to prune my Acer Campestre, or field maple and Robinia yamadori, all collected in spring 2017. These trees grew all year round quite well hopefully accumulating enough energy to push hard in 2018. This year I let them do their think and go as wild as they desired, being the first year after collection. As they went dormant, it is about time to prune them back hard, to start their structural design.
The first Field Maple pruned is in the images below, before and after pruning with an additional bird’s eye view to see the final canopy structure. It created many buds with very short internodes, and I hope that it will behave the same next year as well. As seen in the first image, all the branches grew strait, with no movement and a too high density of buds emerging from the same node. If not pruned, these buds will swell in spring and they will create in the branches thick nodes at their base. So, I considered important to start all over the entire structure, up to an extent of thick branches.
I cleared mostly the density of chaotic buds existing all over some branches by pruning back to old wood. Doing so, in 2018, as soon as they will start leafing out, I will wait till the new branches reach maturity and apply guide wires to give movement and place the new branches in the positions that I feel like it advantages canopy design.
In a bird’s eye view, one can see that the overall architecture of the new canopy is structurally in equilibrium around the tree, giving in the same time layers of the future growth.
Another maple that I pruned has a nice trunk that I liked from its beginnings but all the side branches were too strait with very long internodes. I gave it a lot of time to figure out what is the best way to obtain a nice canopy in the shortest period of time, but the only solution I found suitable was to prune back nearly all the branches to the main trunk and practically start from scratch the entire tree. Such operations, push back 3 to 4 years of development, but at least gives you the opportunity to renounce creating a bonsai on compromises.
So I did, I cut back drastically to the trunk. I left only some thin branches that I will take advantage of when creating the new canopy. I hope however that pruning so hard back will push out new buds and I will be careful in the spring, to leave only those to develop that are in the right positions. The rest of them, will be all removed as soon as they will be visible on the tree.
In the top view of the tree it can be seen that not much of the original structure remained. Also, when collecting this yamadori, it had a strange one-sided growing root system and this is the reason why it is placed in the contained so off center. I will repot the tree in 2019 Spring and then I will start removing from the length of the long one-sided root, trying to center the tree in the pot.
The second species that I pruned is the Robinia yamadori from my collection. This species in particular is quite tolerant to human intervention, responds well to pruning and to repotting. I let it grow wild all season to ensure a good root system in the pot as I have a special plan with this tree.
I pruned the right sided stubs and worked the cut to shape it close to a natural wound. I did not apply any healing paste to it because I want to let it dry out and die back at the surface. When pruning, I left on the tree only those branches that are in right position for the new canopy and in Spring 2018 I will change the angle of the trunk as exemplified in the picture below. For this I can do 2 things: either I do a parallel to the ground cut of the plastic container in this angle, either I repot the tree. If I will repot it, I will not remove all the soil, but I will remove only from the bottom and the top to be able to give it the proper angle, then I will move it back probably in a more flat container.
Another Robonia yamadori collected in Spring 2017 has a multi-trunk structure and had a quite vigorous growth this season. Only in one season, I think that its ceramic container is already full of roots as I had to cut many of them from the tray below the tree, spread out via the drainage holes.
During 2017, one of the trunks died and I was somehow glad it happened because this was facing directly the viewer from the considered front of the tree. I cut it back to an extent to leave a stub that I worked to look like a natural branch that broke. I also burned the wood and I am sure that in a few months especially after rain next year will age the stub it will look very natural. I tried to prune the tree in order to reach different layers and cut off all the branches that were growing directly to the inside of the canopy
In a top view of the tree, the three remaining trunks are very nicely distributed, somehow in an angle of 120 degrees, rounding upt the entire structure and advantaging it’s front view.
What I love most about Robinia species is that even small trees have this aged bark and even wounds or dead wood becomes fantastic when weather conditions influence their aspect in time. One important thing I would mention about Robinia is that they love direct sun and require a lot of water. During growing season, they can consume the water from the container on less than one day comparative to the other species that stay mois for 3 to 4 days.
In the previous post I presented the process of pruning my Carpinus shohin collection. To continue I chose to prune my Fagus Sylvastica trees. All of these were collected from the wild in Spring 2017. As seen in the Yamadori progression – spring to fall 2017 post, all these had a quite vigorous growth this year and all reached Autumn stabilized in their containers. When I collected these trees, I pruned them just enough to decrease their size, but I left on their branches as many buds as possible. Doing so, I wanted to make sure that when these buds will swell and open, the new leaves will promote new root growth in the pots to replace those lost during collection. Now, after a good growth season, it is time to start pruning hard to create the desired shape by going back closer to the trunk and the thick branches.
When pruning Fagus, or popularly called Beech, it is important to leave on the branch at least one bud to make sure that the branch will not die back. I was lucky with these trees, because even if small, there are many back buds on the thicker branches, so I was able to prune hard the trees.
The first tree had a very dense canopy with many buds on the new branches but too far from the thick wood. Also another problem was that at the point where the main trunk divides into two, in fact it divided into three. So, I pruned it back drastically and I created in fact two levels, one upper one that will be the new apex of the tree, and a lower one that will ensure an equilibrium over the entire structure. In a bird’s eye view it can be seen that the tree has an even distribution of the remaining branches. On their bark there are small buds that will give me next year a startup for a completely new ramification system.
A second Beech yamadori with more or less the same characteristics as the previous one needed a hard pruning to go back closer to the trunk and the thick branches. I simplified a lot its canopy and at the moment it is not so impressive as it was just before pruning. However, I will now be able to guide with wire the new growth from next year on, and by this I will take over the control of the canopy’s shape. Many times, it is needed to give up on a apparently nice design to reach a certain desired one.
The last Beech yamadori that I collected in the Spring had an up informal character or close to broom shape. The trunk-line has a semicircle shape and in my vision, I was thinking to mix the up informal character with the trunk shape, continuing it on one branch that needed to be moved in a proper position. The issue was that the branch was quite thick. Fagus wood is very hard to bent when it is thick and especially when it is dormant like it is already. Using thick wire around it is not a solution. However, I wound around this branch thick wire, but not no bent it with this wire, but to distribute the bending force evenly over the branch’s length. The bending itself was done by a pull-down wire hooked to the tip of the branch. Comparing the before and after pictures, one can see the huge displacement of the branch. If I would not apply that thick wire to distribute the bending force from the tip of the branch, I am absolutely positive that the branch would break. Doing so, I was able to displace it in a wide angle and it was a safe operation.
I kept however the general broom aspect of the branches in the canopy because I want to create the illusion of an umbrella shape apex of the tree.
As autumn is now already here for some time now, the leaves of my carpinus shohin trees got brown marking the end of this season and telling me that they went dormant till spring. Because I like to take my time when I prune my trees, I start pruning them from autumn gaining also space inside my cold shelter where I house the trees till temperatures are above freezing in spring.
Methodically I started this year with my smallest trees. These were all collected in March 2017. One season growth already established the trees in the pots and also gave me quite impressive elongation of the thin branches.
The tools that I use are classical bonsai pruners such as concave, knob, scissors and classical garden pruning scissors for very thick branches.
The first tree that I pruned is a multiple trunk with a very nice taper. This tree was extremely vigorous this year and it was mandatory to prune it in the summer too, even if this a habit that should be avoided in the first year after collecting from the wild. In the first picture is the tree before pruning and the next ones are after pruning, a front and bird’s eye view.
The real shohin carpinus trees that I have are quite small, they have a height of about 12-15cm and a diameter after pruning of about 20cm.
The next tree is my favorite one. I found it close to a field that often was visited by sheep and I thing its size is given by these continuously eating its new fresh growth year after year.I had to use thick wire to move thick branches into their final position. It was very challenging because carpinus wood is very hard to bent and I ha to put a lot of effort into it. But finally the branches reached their right position.
The last carpinus shogin is the smallest of all. I pruned it back quite hard to try and create dense ramification close to the main trunk. Hope that next year it will bud back on the remaining branches as expected.
I apply to all the cut wounds healing and callusing paste by this ensuring that water with diseases will not enter in the cut places and also this will increase the callusing process.