Part of my bonsai journey, and perhaps yours as well, has been to try new things from time to time – and sometimes things that don’t make a lot of sense when you first undertake them. Take for example “collecting out of season.” I think we’re all familiar with the admonition to only collect trees during dormancy, in other words winter. While this principle is hard to argue with, it is also not universal. Years ago I figured out that it’s best to collect sweetgums in May, because the survival rate is higher. I learned from local experts that water-elms are best collected in July and August.
A couple of years ago, on a whim, I decided to lift a water oak on my own property in summer. The tree survived, which led me to branch out to willow oak, which also survived. I found that these species can be collected into August. This year I decided it was time to try lifting a live oak, Quercus virginiana, in summer, so in July I dug this tree from my growing bed.
I decided to leave the foliage you see on the tree and to place it in the shade. In a few days the edges of the leaves began browning, so I went ahead and cut them mostly off – I was careful not to cut too close to the petioles, in order to not damage the dormant buds in the leaf axils. Then I waited.
It took a couple of weeks, but finally some buds started swelling. If you look closely enough you can see the new shoots just about to start pushing. As I mentioned in the earlier post on this tree, I do need to cut the leaders back hard – but that is not a task to be done this year. The tree needs to get established in its nursery pot first, which means I wait until next spring to cut. The good news is, live oak grows with surprising vigor in a pot. For a tree that can live several hundred years, it’s not something you’d expect. But I’m all for vigorous growth, so I’m not complaining for a second.
If you’re interested in live oak for bonsai let me know. I plan to offer some for sale next year, and will be happy to put your name on my live oak “wish list.”