The maples are going gangbusters right now. Some have been cut back a couple of times already. This sort of rapid growth is not only common, but essential with collected trees that are in the recovery process. The faster the recovery growth, the faster you can design your tree. Simple stuff.
You get a lot of bang for your buck during spring, with newly collected trees. Once they take off, you’re able to take advantage of strong growth all over the tree to accomplish the goals you have at that particular time. Deciduous trees harvested from the wild are typically trunk-chopped and potted, and typically don’t have any branching at all. We variously describe them as trunks, stumps or even the humorous “stick in a pot.”
You’ve seen this Boxelder before. I had the advantage when it was collected of an alternative leader emerging low on the trunk, and this I knew would save me development time, possibly even a year’s worth. I spotted an appropriately placed bud on this leader, then nurtered it as it grew out tenuously. As you can see in this photo, that tenuous bud cum shoot is now over two feet long and thickening rapidly. I have no intention of cutting it back any time soon. Every inch it grows helps thicken the section of new trunk below it. This is exactly what you want when working a trunk chop.
Now let’s move over to Swamp maples. We collected several this year so I could expand on my learning experiment/adventure with the species. This one is a nice twin-trunk, and like the other maples has put on all of this branch growth since the tree first started budding back in late February.
Today’s chore: selective pruning. I have way more shoots than I’m going to need, so there’s no point in keeping the extra. This is a way you direct energy in your trees. By removing unwanted growth, the tree tends to redistribute its energy to what’s left. Not that they won’t rebud where you take off branches, which is almost always going to happen, you just give the remaining branches a chance to outpace them and get better established (while you rub off those insistent buds when they pop out). In time the battle ends, and those buds that pushed early on stay dormant.
As you can see, I reduced the recovery growth on the smaller trunk dramatically. I have two internodes below the pruning mark, and both will likely sprout buds. I want the lowest one, but I left myself two chances because that’s the smart thing to do.
On the larger trunk, I just pruned away shoots that won’t be needed, and shortened the strong right-hand shoot near the apex so it doesn’t overwhelm the others. The leader I want is the highest shoot on the left near the apex.
Here’s the Swamp maple I wrote about recently. As you probably remember, my whole plan with this tree was to develop it as quickly as I could and rush it into a pot. My goal in this is to try and gain a better understanding of how to successfully collect, develop and maintain this species without losing specimens to fungal attack. My thinking has centered around the concept that there’s some factor in the native soil that is vital to the tree’s survival.
So here’s the tree is a reasonably oversized pot, a nice Byron Myrick oval. I did have to remove a little of the tap root that came home with the tree, but that shouldn’t affect things too dramatically. There’s still a lot of native muck surrounding the roots.
The branches are overlong, but this will be corrected once they thicken up some more. I have internodes closer to the trunk whose buds will activate once I do the pruning – hopefully by late summer.
I don’t expect to know if I’ve been successful for a couple of years, but if everything works out I will have cut years off the development of this tree as a bonsai.
For now, we wait.