Spring Coming Slowly, But the Work Must Go On

This year Spring has been dragging its feet. May is just around the corner, yet the temperature is still hanging around 2 degrees Celsius. As long as it doesn’t drop to freezing, the trees are all going onto the bench. I’ve moved all my trees from my porch to the backyard bench.

Some of the buds on the trees are swelling up and ready to pop. So, it’s also the perfect time for repotting and pruning.

Over the weekend, the TBS was having a weekend workshop. I took advantage of it, and did some work on my trees. Namely, I worked on this cherry. This cherry tree really have nothing much going for it, so I decided to experiment with bending and air-layering. When I brought the tree in, many people were doubting that the branches can be bent, but with some raffia, heavy wire, and some muscle, the tree is bent into shape. I also air-layered the trunk to separate it into another tree. Originally I was just going to trunk chop it, but why forgo an excellent chance to experiment?

Cherry Tree Wired and Air-Layered

I also brought along this huge apple tree to work on. I was looking at the tree in the morning, and decided to select a new front. So, out came the saw and chopped it to shape. When I brought it in, a senior member commented that the old front was better. But I know my trees best. 🙂

Apple Pruned and Wired

After I was done pulling up the new leader, and wiring the companion tree, it was obvious that this is the better front for the tree. I guess from his perspective, he was looking for “instant bonsai”. But I know well that I would rather spend the time to develop a better front, than to settle for a faster sub-optimal result.

I also repotted a few trees, since they were sitting in some pretty crappy medium that decomposed to dust. From left to right, they are the apple tree, larch, and cotoneaster. I had to prune the roots of the apple dramatically, since it was growing in a large colander and had plenty of roots. The larch went back into it’s own pot with new soil. The cotoneaster had the base of the root ball reduced dramatically. It had a few large roots that I took a saw to and reduced its height. In due time, the reduced height of the root ball would make it easier for the tree to fit into a pot.

I also decided on the front for my Hawthorne, I had to cut off the back side of the trunk as it was distracting the view. The cut was made behind the leader. As I cut more of these heavy trees, I’m getting better at finding the best angle to cut such that the scar is not visible, and creates a taper.

Of course, nothing goes to waste, the part that was removed from the plant is also potted up with some rooting hormone. The hope is that it’ll also develop into a new Hawthorne. The huge cutting is now sitting in a colander under the bench.

Advertisements

Initial Styling of Apple

This apple tree was acquired from a farm April 2016, after a year in the ground, I’ve now got it in a colander. The new buds on the apple tree are very prone to aphid attacks. So I wanted to reduce the foliage a bit, and to find the actual tree in the bush.

After inspecting the tree in detail, my original plan of having it as a windswept tree won’t work well. This is due to the fact that it has a very straight trunk with no taper. I’ve decided instead to just make it a slanted tree. The trunk will display pretty amazing tapering, and I’ll end up with a big stump. A big stump is good, since I can always grow out the branches, and the branches will be of proportionate size, making it more compelling as an ancient tree.

I first marked up the cut line using chalk, then proceeded to cutting with a reciprocating saw. The saw makes quick work of the pruning, but one would have to be careful not to let the blade run astray.

After some big cuts, I applied cutting paste to the exposed cambium, then just let it sit on the branch to recover. Doing heavy pruning in mid summer is probably not a good idea… but I have a feeling the tree will handle it just fine. Come next spring, I’ll do more pruning to whip it more into shape.

Apple Tree Initial Styling

The two apple trees I collected last year have survived the collection, and they were sitting in my front lawn (in the ground) ever since they were collected last year. I got some very big colanders to put the trees into. Since I want the trees to develop a massive root mass, growing them in colanders is the only way to go. If past experience serves me right, by the end of the growing season, the pot will be filled with new roots.

Potting up the trees into colanders also allows me to put the trees in my south facing backyard, such that they can get full sun, while keeping them safe from the ravaging rabbits.

I won’t be doing anything with the windswept apple, but I’ll be doing some initial styling with the triple trunk apple (on the right, in the picture above).

I decided to use this side as the front, as it provides better taper near the roots, and the deadwood also provides some interesting texture. The smaller trunk on the left is problematic though, since it’s a very straight trunk shooting to the left. I still want to keep this trunk, as it compliments the main trunk well. The trunk is of a certain girth, so bending it is out of the question. These apple trees are very resilient to abuse, so, I’ve decided to go ahead and bend this trunk anyways. Before actually bending it, there’s a few things I want to do to help the bend. First, I cut slits along the trunk to allow for bending. The slits go in the inner curve of the bend.

A wider slit allows for a tighter bend, a smaller slits are for more gradual bends. When a branch is bent, the cambium layer on the outer curve tend to stretch and potentially crack. To avoid/reduce damage to the cambium layer, I proceeded to wrap the trunk with raffia. After wrapping it raffia, I bent the secondary trunk towards the main trunk and then secure it along the main trunk. The hope is that this trunk will continue to develop and heal over. Hopefully next year, I’ll be able to release the constraints, and the trunk will be set in place.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the bend. I might keep this tree as a triple trunk. The main trunk might potentially be reduced in height in the future. It really depends on what back budding I get to work into a new leader.

Collected Trees Recovery

The trees collected in April are now sitting in my front lawn, recovering from the lost of leaves and roots. The apple trees started putting out new buds in May. On the other hand, the Hawthorne has been slow in putting out buds. In mid to late June, the Hawthorne finally put out some buds. There were some low buds that got attacked by the rabbit, but sufficient buds remain for the tree to be healthy. I’m pretty confident these trees will continue to survive until next Spring. At which time, I will be digging them up, and putting them into a colander to further develop as bonsai next year. In particular, I have great hopes for the windswept apple tree. The Hawthorne will be interesting for me from a personal learning perspective, as this is my first Hawthorne tree. I’m still having a tough time figuring out the front for the Hawthorne, but I’m hoping it’ll come to me after I get it into a pot (colander).

Here’s the windswept apple. Looking to plant it with the left side lower (imagine photo rotate counter clockwise).Windswept Apple

The multi-trunk apple. I think I might end up cutting off some of the trunks, as it might look more like a clump style. Will decide later on to see where the actual tree is…

Multi-trunk Apple

The dual trunk Hawthorne. This might end up to be the side, I’m struggling to see where’s the front, but it’ll come to me next year.

Hawthorne