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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hackberry forest revisited

Today I want to revisit the forest planting of Hackberries that we started in February. If you remember we started with 27 Hackberries of various ages and sizes. Here is what they looked like before we started any work.
We trimmed the roots and the tops of the trees very hard and got them all planted into this shallow pot. This is what it looked like when it was first planted on the day before Valentines Day.
In just three short months every tree has exploded with new growth. All 27 tree have survived the bare rooting and transplanting and are growing like gangbusters. Here is the planting before any of todays work.
As you can see the leaves are rather large at this point but after a couple of years in the pot I expect they'll reduce in size to less than a 1/2 inch in length. The goal today is to get all the new growth cut back, cut out any unnecessary branches and to lay out the frame work for the future.
After a little trimming you can start to see the individual trees again. Here is the way it looked about halfway through the trimming.
I'm shortening all the branches, removing any that are crossing or growing into other trunks and generally building the base of the future outline. I'm cutting the branches shorter than I want them to be so that I can build movement and secondary branching through pruning. By paying attention to where I cut I can control the direction of the new growth thereby putting movement into the branches. This is know as the clip and grow method of shaping a tree.  Doing it this way creates very natural looking movement in the branches. Another benefit of the pruning is that it will stimulate buds at the bases of the leaves to start to grow and form secondary branching.
One of the benefits of using  hackberry for a forest planting is that you can build a network of branches and twigs that will reduce in size in a fairly short amount of time.
After the trimming this is what we have.
For the rest of this year I will let things grow until the branches have seven to nine sets of leaves than cut it back to the first or second leaf growing in the right direction.  I'll probably do this another 4-5 times before the growing season ends. This will create movement and branching. It will also insure good root growth so that the trees are all solid and stable in the pot.
Next year I'll start working on healing the scars on the trunks from branch removal and will continue on branch and apex development. If the trees respond to this first pruning strongly I may defoliate the whole forest in late July and force it to grow a new smaller set of leaves. As long as the tree is healthy it can stand total defoliation at least once and maybe even twice in a year. Defoliating not only causes smaller leaves but it also encourages  branching as well.
I'm very pleased with the progress of this planting and can envision it in a winter silhouette show inside of five years.
I hope you enjoyed the update on the forest planting. In my next post I will be doing an air layer on a redwood which is another of my long term projects I intend to chronicle in this blog. If anyone has any questions or  comments , as always I welcome them.

Just a note - on July 1st the price of all Japanese bonsai tools and wire is being raised by my importer 15%. So if you're thinking about buying any tools now is the time before the price increase. Until next time....


  1. I've enjoyed reading about your progression on this project. You mentioned in you post that "Next year I'll start working on healing the scars on the trunks from branch removal". How were you planning on healing the scars? Thanks!

  2. Thanks. Basicaly by carving the deadwood so that it allows scar tissue to roll over the cuts. I should be doing a post on this soon.