Ginkgo biloba ‘Mariken’ Air Layer

This is a very dwarf and dense variety of Ginkgo that I picked up at a specialized nursery for a good price. I keep telling myself that I will not buy nursery material unless it is exceptional but it is tough to live by this rule!

Ginkgo biloba 'Mariken'. If the layer is successful, this tree will quickly develop into a simple but attractive shohin.

Anyway, like most dwarf conifers, this specimen is grafted  – and the graft is very ugly. I knew this when I bought it, so air layering was definitely part of the plan.

Graft showing massive reverse taper below the bulge.

I have air layered a number of trees successfully in the past, and normally start the process in the late spring after the leaves have just hardened off. Of course, there is more than one way to do things in bonsai, and Graham Potter made a video which does a great job of summarizing his approach to air layering. The video can be watched here.

A summary of the key points of his process is as follows:

  • Start the layer in the early spring, when the tree is just beginning to show signs of activity.
  • Cut away a ring of bark, and scrape away all of the white phloem tissue until you have reached the sapwood below
  • Clean cut the top of the ring with a sharp knife
  • Rooting hormone doesn’t really help
  • Pack the sphagnum moss tightly against the trunk. Good contact between the moss and the trunk is important.

I am keen to try Graham’s approach, because starting the layer as early as possible will give it more time to develop in our short growing season.

The one time I tried a Ginkgo air layer, it failed. The tree bridged the ring wound – probably because I did not scrape away the phloem. When I re-opened the wound, the tree died. However, I know that Ginkgo are conducive to air layering because a friend of mine has layered a pretty chunky branch of a specimen Ginkgo yard tree.

The ring wound after scraping away the white phloem tissue.

The completed layer, packed tight up against the trunk.

Hopefully this tree continues to bud out and shows some roots soon!

8 Responses

  1. Andrew

    Good post. Electrical tape in picture? Acer palm. ‘Rhode Island Red’ is now in full leaf. What do you think? Is it to late to air layer this year?

    March 30, 2012 at 7:44 am

    • Hey Andrew! Yup its just electrical tape to make a tight seal at the top.

      I’m sure its fine to start the layer now but in the past I’ve only done them when the leaves have hardened off. Not sure why this is recommended… it may have something to do with transpiration, or might have no basis at all. If it were my tree, I would wait til the leaves have hardened. Thanks for the comment!

      March 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

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  3. Sam

    love your blog, great trees and very informative and just very fun to read. I was wondering if you could tell me from which nursery did you purchase this tree. I also live in the GTA, thank you and also marry Christmas and happy holidays.

    December 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

    • Hi Sam, I purchased this from Connon’s nursery which is out near Hamilton. They have a retail location in Waterdown although I’m not completely sure if they have Mariken there.

      p.s. this tree died in the summer. The wildtype root stock sent up a strong shoot and the mariken top died off. I’ve had really bad luck air layering ginkgo.

      January 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm

      • Cory

        What do you think was the reason for the failure? I am wanting to ground layer a Ginkgo and was planning on doing it as soon as bud break. Would you advise against this and wait until the new growth hardens off?

        February 27, 2013 at 7:26 pm

        • Hi Cory. Not exactly sure why it failed. I think it had something to do with the graft. The wildtype ginkgo below the graft/layer sent up a strong adventitious shoot and after that the mariken top died.

          In other words, the tree is still alive but everything above the layer is dead and it is no longer mariken. The rootstock took over. Maybe the tree sacrificed the “wounded”, weaker grafted top for the stronger wildtype base.

          As for best time to layer… most people either recommend before bud break, or once they have hardened off. Both work. As for which works better, I doubt anyone really knows i.e. has the evidence to back it up (although lots of people seem to think they know).

          Graham Potter’s layering video on youtube is worth a watch.

          And ginkgo definitely CAN be layered. I just seem to have a hard time with it.

          February 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm

  4. Sam

    Thank you for your reply. I have not yet had the chance of visiting Connon’s nursery. Too bad the tree died but I have seen you other Ginko and she is beautiful specially in the pot its sitting in 🙂

    May 3, 2013 at 8:39 am

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