If you recall last summer I posted about 5 sad little trees that a friend of mine had along the side of his driveway. My plan was to transplant two in the fall and the remaining this spring. Over the winter I was in contact with Peter Tea and he gave me some great recommendations. His thoughts were to get the trees out of the ground and into grow boxes as soon as possible and to trim away any dead material to open the tree up to air and light and possibly get some back-budding going. The two that I took in the fall of last year had to go back into the ground because I simply did not have big enough grow boxes. As well, they were probably the two that were in the worst shape which is why I chose them first. You can read more about those here.
This weekend I had the chance to take the rest of the trees. Two small ones and one big one which had the most growth and seemed to be in the best health. After carefully observing all of them, I came to the conclusion that this was not going to be an easy journey. All trees were weak and suffering from some sort of scale which I will have to treat later on this season.
This one is in a little worse shape than it’s twin. However there is some back budding that I see going on. It’s like it knew I was coming to get it in the spring and got all excited and decided to back bud to look its best. 😀 You think I’m crazy but trees are people too!
Not sure if you can see the little flashes of green but thats the back budding that is going on. My guess is that the tree will either bud more or stop budding from the transplant. If I’m lucky and treat it carefully this summer we might see this again next year.
It’s also got a nice thick trunk on it. My guess is that these two trees are 8-9 years of age.
This tree is in better shape. Upon first glance it is a twin trunk that turns triple. I’d imagine in the future once it is strong enough I will be reducing it back to two. It also is back budding and hopefully will perform well this year. I would put it at about 8-9 years as well, although it is hard to tell because of the multi-trunk.
So that’s those ones.
The last of the five trees is this one. This tree is probably about 15 – 20 years old. The trunk is about 3 inches in thickness.
At some point this tree back budded at the trunk creating this multi trunk configuration around one main trunk. The main trunk is mostly dead with some old growth about half way down from the apex. As you can see the tallest pads of growth are slightly brown, these are growing highest up on the main trunk. Any suggestions on what I should do about these multi trunks?
After pruning back most of the dead wood you can also start to see this trees potential to be a truly great bonsai. This tree has truly tested my phobia of spiders, since I started working on it Sunday morning, I probably squished about 30 spiders by the end of the day. Some dangling down in front of my face, some crawling up my tools or down the branches I’ve got a grip of. Yuk! Yuk! Yuk! Needless to say I scrubbed this puppy clean with some soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
After pruning a full garbage bag of dead material off, I also decided to do some initial styling with guy wires.
I really like the contrast between the dead wood and the flash of green that makes up the new growth. Just a tip if you are going to collect conifers in the spring, do it just before the new growth has fully come out. If you are going to prune don’t prune any live parts of the tree until fall and until you know the tree is strong enough to handle it. When I began pruning these trees, the way I gauged where the tree was still alive was if I had pruned an area and seen sap flow, I know that is where I needed to stop. For this large tree it was about half way down the trunk. The two smaller trees were a lot harder since they had both dead and alive branches all over. So watch for sap flow.
Another thing to consider is styling and wiring should typically be done in the fall/winter. In my case I styled a little bit with guy wires, not for aesthetic reasons but to open the tree up and let light in to promote back budding. Since the new growth is so vigorous and the tree is weakened, I didn’t want to prune away any new growth. By pulling the pads down, I was able to allow light and airflow through the tree.
About a month from now I will start to lightly fertilize to gain strength. Come fall, I will spend extensive time wiring and will leave the wire on for a considerable amount of time. Picea glauca is very stubborn. Their branches are practically rubber and will take several years to set. Yes yes, I know what you are thinking. These are the “trap trees” of bonsai. To be perfectly honest with you, what else have I got to grow up here in zone 3b, work with me here. Peter seems to think they have some potential so I’m not giving up!
Thanks to all of you for reading, I would love more advice on these trees and suggestions so please feel free to let me know what you think!!!