Archive for June, 2013

Larch Forest Cutting

This larch forest has been mine for less than a year and needs work in several areas: 1) pot selection, 2) positioning of trunks, 3) secondary branch structure. All of this year’s cutting will be done with branch development in mind. Keep in mind that larch are best appreciated in the winter, like most deciduous trees.

The issues with the branch structure can be seen below. I think this larch was over-pinched i.e. new growth was completely removed resulting in stubby looking branches with very little secondary branching. This gives the branches an awkward look and leaves very little to build pads from.

Pinching is useful on larch but more so for refined trees. This forest is still early in its development. Many branches on the tree need to be much longer, especially those on the outside of the forest, and in the upper areas of the tallest trunks. Pinching is counter-productive to this development.

    Winter image showing branch structure that leaves much to be desired.

Winter image showing branch structure that leaves much to be desired.

To attempt to remedy this, I have let the new growth extend into the late spring.

    Letting the tree grow a bit in spring leaves us something to work with. Care must be taken not to let this growth get too strong, or the branches will thicken excessively. This tree was not fertilized in the spring, but was fertilized in the week leading up to this cutting session.

Letting the tree grow a bit in spring leaves us something to work with. Care must be taken not to let this growth get too strong, or the branches will thicken excessively. This tree was not fertilized in the spring, but was fertilized in the week leading up to this cutting session.

Instead of pinching it all off indiscriminately, I nipped back the growing tips with scissors to slow their extension and leave something that can be wired in late winter 2014. In general, strong shoots were cut back more than weak shoots. Further detailed cutting will be left for the winter when the tree is bare.

    A branch after cutting. New growth is not removed completely, but is instead shortened to reduce vigour and promote back budding. These new shoots will be wired next spring.

A branch after cutting. New growth is not removed completely, but is instead shortened to reduce vigour and promote back budding. These new shoots will be wired next spring.

 

After cutting. This process will probably have to be repeated once more this season. Most branches have already developed another tier of ramification which would have been lost if the new growth was all pinched off.

After cutting. This process will probably have to be repeated once more this season. Most branches have already developed another tier of ramification which would have been lost if the new growth was all pinched off.


American Hornbeam Forest Update

This forest was assembled almost exactly three months ago. It began to flush out nicely but then developed some health issues – the leaves were damaged and discoloured, and the new growth was weak. It was definitely not a pest issue. I am pretty sure the problem was a pH imbalance brought on by the moss I covered the soil with. Well, not the moss exactly, but the grey stone dust in which the moss was growing (it was collected from a gravel lot).

Who knows. I was too lazy to actually research the issue, and the tree never really seemed to be fatally ill. Whatever the problem was, it went away and the tree has been growing strongly for the last few weeks. Unfortunately the earlier problems kept me from cutting back the spring shoots, which means the tree is already behind schedule in terms of ramification development.

Today I cut off all the ugly damaged leaves and cut back the growing tips. I think complete defoliation may be appropriate for this species but I am still just getting acquainted with it, so maybe next year once I have a better feeling for what it is capable of.

Damaged leaves.

Damaged leaves.

    After leaf and shoot cutting. Damn birds been in my moss. I live in a treeless cookie-cutter suburb so squirrels are not a problem. But man, there are birds everywhere.

After leaf and shoot cutting. Damn birds been in my moss. I live in a treeless cookie-cutter suburb so squirrels are not a problem. But man, there are birds everywhere.

 


Toronto Bonsai Society Show/Sale + Larch Needle Plucking

The Toronto Bonsai Society Spring Show and Sale is being held June 15 & 16 at Toronto Botanical Gardens in the Garden Hall. This event has been happening for decades and is surely the largest and most consistent annual exhibition of bonsai in the GTA. The sales tables are a great place to pick up pots, bonsai, pre-bonsai, tools, and books. I’ve bought several trees from TBS shows/sales, including the one below which I am currently prepping for the show.

With their vigorous summer growth, larch develop needles in all sizes and all directions, and the same goes for shoots (although less-so with mature larches). Two simple things can be done to minimize the wayward bushiness of a summer larch – reducing spring fertilization, and needle plucking. Reducing fertilization is pretty self explanatory – if you are trying to “bonsai” your larch (instead of develop the branches/trunk) don’t fertilize it until the spring growth hardens off.

Needle plucking is self explanatory as well – try to make your larch look like a Japanese white pine. This involves plucking (by hand) all downward growing needles to clearly define the underside of the foliage pads. Downward growing buds/shoots should be cut with scissors. Excess horizontal needles can also be plucked, although be careful not to remove all the needles from a growing center. Also, needles that are growing along the branches in between buds should be plucked, although these are usually only an issue on young (1-2 year old) branches.

Branch before plucking

Branch before plucking

After plucking downward needles

After plucking downward needles

Summer wire application on larches should be minimal unless you are something of a masochist (larch are best wired in spring as the buds start to colour up). However when prepping a tree for show there is nothing wrong with wiring  the odd branch, again with the goal of defining the underside of the foliage pads.

    Branch looking a little droopy.

Branch looking a little droopy.

After minor adjustment with wire.

After minor adjustment with wire.

After work

After work