It’s not time to dig trees yet, certainly not Sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua), but it’s not a bad time to scout for specimens to dig when the time comes. Here are a few that I expect to lift in 2018.


This one volunteered four or five years ago, and I finally chopped it earlier this year to begin stunting it. Sweetgums like to grow straight and tall, and very fast, so you have to be prepared to rein in that growth or the tree can get away from you quickly. By this I mean the trunk will lose its taper, usually by the time the tree gets to be about six to ten feet tall. Up until that magic moment, you can harvest nice upright specimens with subtle but suitable taper and create a nice apical tapering transition.

This one has a 2″ trunk base at the soil level. Most likely it has nice radial roots as well, but I’ll know more about that this coming May. When I chopped it earlier this year, it produced two strong new leaders. Today it was time to eliminate one and chop the other. I like the one I’m looking at in this photo.



Here I’ve sawed off the leader in back, leaving a stub that will be reduced in spring. I don’t want to chance cutting it flush now; the tree may object and die back at the bottom edge of the cut. By leaving the stub, I can carve down this coming spring and the tree should respond by throwing buds near that fresh cut. Then I’m assured of proper healing.

You can see I also chopped the new leader down. I also left this leader long, as it won’t bud right at the chop but rather at an internode below the chop. I can remove that stub next spring once I have a new leader going.

The trunk of this tree is just over 1″ at the transition point, by the way, which is 14″ above the soil surface. This will allow me to finish out this specimen at about 18-20″. I plan to train the tree in the typical Sweetgum columnar style. It’s actually just beginning the process of barking up, so that will lend a lot of character to the trunk.


Here’s another specimen I chopped recently. Also with a 2″ base, this one got chopped at 10″ above the soil to a new leader. I need this leader to continue running, in order to make the tapering transition look right. Although the photo doesn’t show it, the trunk is about 1″ across at the transition point. Nice taper in another nice upright specimen. The bark on this one is also starting to roughen up.



Finally, here’s a triple-trunk specimen that volunteered two or three years ago. I didn’t chop it to the ground or anything, it just decided that three trunks were better than one. I like its appearance, and I think it’ll make a nice bonsai starting in 2018.

Let me know what you think.