2019-season BC-yamadori mega-thread :D

Zach Smith

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[edited-in: btw I meant to ask, the dead spots on the nebari/buttressing, what happened is that accidental knicks from collection? I've hurt good nebari that way myself unfortunately :/ ]

I get what you mean in a sense, however while the point is to ultimately get it into a pot (as a long-term / final point), there's the mid-term development where you'd want maximal growth and unrestricted roots is part of optimizing that, I do get something home and sever it so the new root-growth isn't coming-off of some thick root 6" below the substrate-level or something, actually here's a couple pics of a first trip's bounty from this past week to show what I mean:
View attachment 224815 View attachment 224816

View attachment 224817
[^sorry for the ugly mess, the garden is in the middle of a massive re-organization at the moment and is "in process" at the moment...read: very ugly besides the trees ;D Also, 1st picture is just-home, before cleaning-up & pruning the root masses, the on-table pic is how they came out of the truck-bed :) ]

I wish I could get-away with simply cutting a root-mass and "slip potting" that, w/o disturbance, into a container @home, the problem I find is that BC's from a swamp seem to *require* bare-rooting due to how much crap (debris and, mostly, just other plants' roots intermingled in the BC's root-mass) is in there that, if left, would quickly deteriorate and cause a flood of decomposition cycles in the container!

How long do you spend when searching for a BC, on average, before finding one you're thinking is worth collection? Would love to hear your answer on this as well as @BillsBayou @Zach Smith @Mellow Mullet @rockm and....damnit I can't remember the last person who does a lot of BC's here....damnit I hope I can remember before my 20min window to edit closes ;P I'm aware that time isn't the best barometer here as the density of an area would influence that tremendously, I guess I'm just curious if you guys - if in a bc-dominated swamp - tend to spend 1-10min, or 20-45min, locating any particular BC you plan to collect (ie I know sometimes you'll find one immediately, other times it gets dark on you before you find anything, just hoping to get an idea of average times if in full-sun searching a bc-dense swamp :) )
The question about how long you spend searching for BC before finding one worth collecting is a bit misleading. What I mean by that is: if you happen upon a good collecting ground, it's literally a few minutes. If you find yourself in an area with BC, but they are not good material, then you might not find anything. It's all about the growing environment and the population of specimens. I have been to areas where you can collect 10 nice large specimens in a half-hour, and areas where you dig one because you'd feel stupid going home empty-handed. Again, it's all about the growing environment and population. (This does not include drive time. If you live down the road from a good collecting area, awesome; if you live two hours away, then add four hours to the half-hour of actual work. Call it what you will, time-wise.)

I have never found slip-potting BC from the ground to be a winning strategy. They tend to grow with swamp grasses and other plants intermingled in the roots, so cleaning up thoroughly is always an imperative. I have also found that trees with more fibrous roots tend to recover more slowly than those without. Not sure why this is.
 

BillsBayou

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How long do you spend when searching for a BC, on average, before finding one you're thinking is worth collection?
This depends on the area. I've been visiting my usual collecting spot for 25 years and there are still trees to find. I just adjust my entry point. The trick is how to be selective. I can find a dozen trees in a few hours, but if I want better quality trees, I may only find 2 or 3.

If you know exactly what you want, it gets easier. Otherwise, like me, you'll be out there investigating everything, marking everything, and collecting nothing. Somewhere after 3 hours of wandering around, I have to tell myself to stop fooling around and start digging.

Last year, I told a friend that I was out there looking for freaks. I came home with three very bizarre looking trees. The worst of them was actually so diseased/damaged that it never sprouted. It felt like I had an easy time finding them because I knew what I wanted. My friend, Dennis, collected several trees that fit within his range of preference. It was a pretty easy trip.
 
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I know I've responded but have thought about this a good deal since then:
I don't get the whole uppot and another pot etc etc. Isn't the whole point to get it into a small pot??? Well when collecting it cut the base back too I mean all of these went from the ground or 60+ gal containers directly into small containers. When I start a BC from scratch it looks like a giant toothpick. It goes into the smallest container I can get it in. I get plenty of growth and branching. The branching on the one I showed is 3yrs from a stump and just was cut back very hard, probably had double the branching seen.
Here's the thing- I see "in development" and "in refinement" as two very distinct stages, the former is solely to grow-out and the latter is a lot prettier/more fun, but a 'giant toothpick' (I like that, going to use it or rather going to try and stop myself from using it whenever I see a fresh, straight yamadori!) is not even close to its refinement stage / is needing Development so fast growth is a prime factor, no? And for fast growth, with all other things the same (pH, fert etc etc), the more room you give the roots, the faster the top develops....I messed-up my first proper season of growing-out all my Developing 'pre-bonsai' by using far too-small containers, even hand-made a ton of concrete(mortar really) pots that I can't use at all as I don't have any trees that I can look at and think "this is ready for a smaller pot, for reduced growth-rates"

In the same way that if I showed you a tiny 1/2" thick BC seedling in a container, that you'd say "that needs to go in-ground and develop a trunk", I guess I have trouble seeing how the early stages of developing stock - especially larger/thicker stuff - have *any* substantial difference relative to someone growing-out a trunk, I mean when you get the BC home as a giant toothpick you have to grow-out convincing primaries and the 'recipe' for this is the same as for growing out trunks IE growth as un-restricted as possible!

And re root-mass size-concerns, you said "Isn't the whole point to get it into a small pot?", which is a fair worry, but in the same way that we can go and sever the toothpick from the vast majority of its old/mature roots in the wild, we can also cut-back roots as a matter of practice in the garden, in fact I'm planning to put some of my larger in-development specimen back into the ground to get faster growth, the plan being to use tiles beneath them to prevent any straight-downward root-growth, with an accompanying, annual root-prune (planning to just use a shovel +/- sawzall and just carve straight down into the earth around 'the perimeter' of the tiles, leaving me a cubed root-mass underground that'd then ramify instead of extend. Twice annually may be necessary w/ stuff like BC's or bougies, would expect closer to 2yrs on crape myrtles, 1yr on ficus etc)

If my plan is to make a toothpick into a refined bonsai then fast growth is the only thing standing between me and a further-along tree so larger containers (or ground-growing) are par for that course IMO- would very much like to hear disagreements to this or even devil's-advocate arguments as the thought is influencing how I approach this growing-season, putting at least several of my more important specimen into a raised-bed that I'm designing now for this purpose (I've got the idea in my head that I can do a raised-bed type of grow to easily control excessive root-mass while also - most of the time - getting in-ground growth-rates, basically just use a long blade to sever anything under the bed every ~year or even twice annually for the fastest growers!)

I'm too lazy to go traipsing around in wet mucky cypress stands. I've know some young guys that like to dig em. I get what I want and help them out with their trees. They spend hours and hours looking though. They collect on a several hundred acre property where they know the property owner. They walk around it all the time hunting trees and animals.
ROFL!! I feel the same but it's the only way I can work w/ BC's so I pretend I'm not a young guy who dislikes it! It is fun but at the same time it beats the hell out of you, I can't do a swamp trip w/o feeling like I had competed athletically or went snowboarding, it's usually a half or whole day thing for me and am sore for days afterward...this year I've got a bit of extra help from my custom BC-saw ;D

20190131_143523.jpg
 

SU2

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Well, speaking for me, in my neck of the woods, it takes probably an hour per tree. The water level in the swamp here is about at sea level and that has risen perhaps 20" in my lifetime. This is partly due to land subsidence and partly to actual sea level rise. Anyway, the sections of swamps that used to dry somewhat every year, are flooded all year now. Young cypress trees need at least several months or a couple of years of growing time before they tolerate flooding. The young trees only find those conditions around the edges of the swamps now. So I have to walk a lot of "edges" to find trees. Having a fair bit of trees available, I tend to be a bit picky..............so I go through a bunch of trees to find the right one.

But to go and collect a run-of-the-mill cypress with a 3" to 4" base ............... 45 minutes ..........from leaving home, driving, finding, collecting, and potting up. I'm pretty lucky in that respect.
Jesus 20" is insane!!! Going to have to google re 'land subsidence' but that's an insane rise! And am surprised I'd never heard that before re young BC's needing time before tolerating flooding, so it's fair to say that natural BC propagation occurs at water's-edge and never in fully-flooded areas right? Can see that, just never heard it and think it's neat!

And...45min?!? Dayumn :D That's awesome, I think my best is closer to 1.5hrs if I were to try and guess it (haven't done a single-tree collection this year just (2) multi-tree trips, and last year was a whole other circumstance so it'd be 3-4x longer), 15-25min minimum at the swamp to get into it and find something in the ~1-2' waters, 15min of prepping the roots at home and another 20min rummaging around through substrates & containers to get it potted-up!!

Do you happen to have albums? Would love to see some of your older ones!! Oh and was hoping to ask this to veteran BC-hunters like you / @BillsBayou / @Zach Smith - do you use the hose on its roots when prepping for container? I've always used the hose to clean roots, in fact I'd almost want to say I find it pretty essential if I'm to confidently pot-up something w/o fear of substantial quantities of dead bio-mass going in amongst the roots, but yesterday I was re-reading a section of Harry Harrington's ebook (hmm, maybe just the bootleg is ebook...in any case!) and he'd advised against this- very very curious what you guys' thoughts on this are!! If I didn't have the hose there's no way I could get all the crap out, I mean when I get home with a BC there's about as many roots that don't belong to the specimen as there are roots that do, I use my fingers & the hose to gently go through all the tangles & twists, I have a root-rake and root-hook and use neither, the hose & my fingers have always felt optimal (til I read Harry's advisement against it!)
 

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This depends on the area. I've been visiting my usual collecting spot for 25 years and there are still trees to find. I just adjust my entry point. The trick is how to be selective. I can find a dozen trees in a few hours, but if I want better quality trees, I may only find 2 or 3.
Well put! I actually went wandering around an unknown swamp last week (big area behind a defunct/bankrupt business, so bank-owned most likely, has been abandoned/un-watched since I first saw the place years ago) and it was unlike the ones nearby my house, mine are all 'true' swamps ie you're walking in water the second you enter them, but this one was half swamp and half mucky-woods, it didn't have the same tree density but being able to see the bases w/o them being underwater made an immense difference!! I think my timeline matches yours, a dozen in a few hours or 2-3 if looking for better ones (that's actually pretty spot-on for my last trip, would say I was in the swamp between 2-3hrs and got (2) BC's & (1) Maple)


If you know exactly what you want, it gets easier. Otherwise, like me, you'll be out there investigating everything, marking everything, and collecting nothing. Somewhere after 3 hours of wandering around, I have to tell myself to stop fooling around and start digging.
Yup!!!! I'm usually trying to fit it in after working, most of my trips end that way ie "okay it's going to be too dark to mess around in 1hr, you'd better get what you've marked before you lose track of it!!!"

Last year, I told a friend that I was out there looking for freaks. I came home with three very bizarre looking trees. The worst of them was actually so diseased/damaged that it never sprouted. It felt like I had an easy time finding them because I knew what I wanted. My friend, Dennis, collected several trees that fit within his range of preference. It was a pretty easy trip.
How did you know where to look for freaks? I think that's a pretty good 'yardstick' because it's basically 'character' (am guessing you prefer aesthetically pleasing freaks of course haha ;D ), I've had that same mindset this year myself IE either real potential as a more 'standard' trunk, or a unique/freak/'character' trunk that I think I can do something fun with like this one:
20190201_094426.jpg

Going to do a flat top off to the left-side but I imagine that's the obvious enough move for this one - maybe not, am certainly open to styling thoughts!!! Actually on that note & while I've got your ear, I want to say thanks for your contributions to this art (I've been watching all your videos again and they're just golden, the 'briseuse ecouter' or whatever one is just insane but I guess 20+yrs can do that ;D ), and wanted to ask your thoughts on a 'tough choice' situation- I think I messed-up and chose my leader(s) too-high up on the trunk on my 2nd BC from last year, so while I was planning to go into this year and let those top leaders grow, now I'm thinking I need to trunk-chop back down, lower, to the next set of branches (or even down 2 sets of branches)....what would you do with this guy in terms of choosing & growing leader-primaries / apical primaries?
20190108_192905.jpg 20190108_193013.jpg
I feel like the leaders I chose were far too-high, also my anchoring inward of the branch was dumb and should've been done to the opposite side, I think (was intending a flat-top that'd be on the opposite side of the tree, looking at it bare though I feel it was the wrong choice), I'd love to keep it obviously after growing it for a season but if I've gotta chop that trunk back I'd rather do it sooner than later (I don't mean today I just mean before the season gets going...I do see you doing work on yours in videos in Jan., but am guessing you'd consider it 'more optimal' to wait a lil longer- or maybe not? I was planning to work my (2) 1-yr-old BC's in about a month or whenever they started to visibly 'wake up', though at the same time I have a *ton* of material (non-BC) to work at the same time so I should probably err on the side of before bud-break than after!)
Planning to cut every side-primary in half to promote back-budding as well as directing most growth to the top-leader on this one:
20190108_200003.jpg
, as cutting the sides while leaving the top-primary un-touched should give it a massive boost in growth, am actually considering this one as a candidate for in-ground growing this season, want to close that chop-wound!! [btw that's un-cured GE Silicone #2 in there, I just scooped-out most of it with my finger the other day...I used their clear version for my BC's this year and it seems more solid but, after finding that the white silicone never cured, I've switched to Dap 30min cure caulk...do you just use whatever you'd normally use on deadwood? Am very curious if you've completed deadwood-preservation trials with the various acrylic/epoxy/etc products you'd mentioned wanting to try on separate BC-deadwood in a video, especially if you went and 'cut' the epoxy yourself I'd love to know what worked best :D ]
 

SU2

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Your F'ing avatar!!!!!! I hate you!!! I swore I saw the .gif for a second but couldn't reproduce it so I wrote it off as having watched enough videos of yours that I just had a brain-hiccup, told myself maybe I didn't see your face there...well played sir!!!! :D
 

BillsBayou

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Your F'ing avatar!!!!!! I hate you!!! I swore I saw the .gif for a second but couldn't reproduce it so I wrote it off as having watched enough videos of yours that I just had a brain-hiccup, told myself maybe I didn't see your face there...well played sir!!!! :D
You must be on drugs. You didn't see anything.
 

BillsBayou

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Insane. I have no idea what to do with something like that. Your best bet is to let it grow out and let it tell you what it can do.

As for your other trees, I think the cuts are just fine at the heights you chose. Keep letting them grow out and training them upwards.

Here's my process for choosing a leader on larger trees (note 1):
When I collect the tree, if I am carrying the trees out rather than using a sled, I cut it very high in the swamp. The root ball is heavy and I need to balance it on my shoulder.
When I get it home and the root ball is clean, I examine the taper of the trunk and how it relates to the base (note 2). I make a best guess as to where an optimal leader will sprout. Then I cut about 4-5 inches above that. This allows for dry/die-back of a few inches with room for something to happen in the area where I hope to get a twig started.
When a twig sprouts I can either carve down to that new leader in the summer, or I'll wait until the next year. It depends on the vigor of the tree. Stronger trees can be carved sooner.

note 1: Larger is defined as being 3 or more inches across at 24-inches above the soil line
note 2: The trunk may have "tendons" or other texture that aids in discovering a chop point. Even though the trunk is growing straight up, the texture may tell you to look for a leader off to the left or right of center. It's an artistic decision.

Smaller trees can just be chopped whereever you wish. The branch you select as the new leader will fatten up quickly and make up for any errors of judgement. It's the larger trees that remind you that you screwed up.
 

Joe Dupre'

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Jesus 20" is insane!!! Going to have to google re 'land subsidence' but that's an insane rise! And am surprised I'd never heard that before re young BC's needing time before tolerating flooding, so it's fair to say that natural BC propagation occurs at water's-edge and never in fully-flooded areas right? Can see that, just never heard it and think it's neat!

And...45min?!? Dayumn :D That's awesome, I think my best is closer to 1.5hrs if I were to try and guess it (haven't done a single-tree collection this year just (2) multi-tree trips, and last year was a whole other circumstance so it'd be 3-4x longer), 15-25min minimum at the swamp to get into it and find something in the ~1-2' waters, 15min of prepping the roots at home and another 20min rummaging around through substrates & containers to get it potted-up!!

Do you happen to have albums? Would love to see some of your older ones!! Oh and was hoping to ask this to veteran BC-hunters like you / @BillsBayou / @Zach Smith - do you use the hose on its roots when prepping for container? I've always used the hose to clean roots, in fact I'd almost want to say I find it pretty essential if I'm to confidently pot-up something w/o fear of substantial quantities of dead bio-mass going in amongst the roots, but yesterday I was re-reading a section of Harry Harrington's ebook (hmm, maybe just the bootleg is ebook...in any case!) and he'd advised against this- very very curious what you guys' thoughts on this are!! If I didn't have the hose there's no way I could get all the crap out, I mean when I get home with a BC there's about as many roots that don't belong to the specimen as there are roots that do, I use my fingers & the hose to gently go through all the tangles & twists, I have a root-rake and root-hook and use neither, the hose & my fingers have always felt optimal (til I read Harry's advisement against it!)

I used to do a bit of hunting in my younger days and hunted "ridges" for squirrels and deer. Now, we call any land higher than 10" ( yes.. inches ) above swamp level a ridge around here. Live oaks and other high land trees would grow there and would flood for a couple of months every year. Over the years the water came up higher and stayed longer until the ridges are reverting back to swamp.........huge live oaks are dying out. This is due mainly to the Mississippi Delta settling due to natural compaction. Very evident when you're just a few inches above sea level.

Re: hosing off roots. I always hose off roots of every tree except evergreen conifers.........BC especially. Much of the root balls here tend to be down in the blue clay layer and you almost have to hose it out.

No albums but here are a few BC ....... all about 3 years from collection. The one on the right has 7 trunk chops to help make taper. The dogleg one has a "knee" of a sort. It came up just like you see it. My biggest is the one shown earlier in this post at 8 months from collection. The hollow one in the middle is a pretty fair representation of REALLY old cypress trees here. They don't usually have a huge flared buttress.

100_2181.JPG
 

SU2

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[was re-reading the thread before posting and realized I missed yours which sucks as I'd written a reply so it's either in a tab somewhere unknown or got closed before submission :p Thanks as always for the reply man!!]
The question about how long you spend searching for BC before finding one worth collecting is a bit misleading. What I mean by that is: if you happen upon a good collecting ground, it's literally a few minutes. If you find yourself in an area with BC, but they are not good material, then you might not find anything. It's all about the growing environment and the population of specimens. I have been to areas where you can collect 10 nice large specimens in a half-hour, and areas where you dig one because you'd feel stupid going home empty-handed. Again, it's all about the growing environment and population. (This does not include drive time. If you live down the road from a good collecting area, awesome; if you live two hours away, then add four hours to the half-hour of actual work. Call it what you will, time-wise.)

I have never found slip-potting BC from the ground to be a winning strategy. They tend to grow with swamp grasses and other plants intermingled in the roots, so cleaning up thoroughly is always an imperative. I have also found that trees with more fibrous roots tend to recover more slowly than those without. Not sure why this is.
I see what you mean about the Q being misleading, am glad I asked though as this type of thing didn't occur to me and you're certainly right, I have two 'major' collection grounds I'm able to go to in my area (w/o going 'out of bounds' lol) and you're so right- 1 has great stuff and the other is 'meh', it's not that there's not variety and almost any shape you could conceive **but** they all have significantly thicker bark (deeper fissured bark is cool for sure but I've found lower success % when they have to back-bud through that...have actually thought of a wounding strategy to instigate budding in such specimen, IE slicing some thin strips of bark off and then just gently removing a few mm's-thick strip of cambium, maybe a few inches tall, then seal that cut w/o over-sealing past it, I do expect the innate urge of the tree to repair the area - which would be covered and not really harmful - would also instigate budding around the wounded site)

You're very right though, I think I'm going to stick to my better swamp exclusively, I know that feeling of "you dig one anyway because you don't wanna go home empty-handed" lol, has happened to me once this year out of 3 trips so far and it was in that swamp (just got a big beast, has nice taper and a fat base but nothing 'special' just solid bc stock, was totally a 'this is the best you're gonna find before sunset, lift it now!' situation!!!

[Let me rephrase the Q for you because I'd love to hear your thoughts- what's the longest you'd spend wandering around if there were already "solid/good" specimen all around you? Have you ever been somewhere and passed-over good stock searching - and finding - something really wonderful by continuing a search when you'd already found A- materials?]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have never found slip-potting BC from the ground to be a winning strategy. They tend to grow with swamp grasses and other plants intermingled in the roots, so cleaning up thoroughly is always an imperative. I have also found that trees with more fibrous roots tend to recover more slowly than those without. Not sure why this is.
I'm VERY glad you caught this part- I fully agree with you but very eager to hear your thoughts on using a hose here! Harry Harrington advises against it in his book, but I've done it for a while with seeming-success (I had ~50% success on BC's last year - my first year - but there were other factors that I know were big parts of that fail-rate), I know bougies & crapes tolerate it just fine and FWIW Harry wasn't speaking about BC's he was speaking in-general....for me, my fingers + hose are the only practical way to gently get a root-mass 'ready for potting'!!

And the 'more fibrous roots = slower recovery' thing is weird, it makes sense with what I've seen though in that my fastest one last year was the one that had the smallest (almost non-existent!) root-mass:
a.jpg
[wow I had/have this guy buried deep enough that that thin side root is mostly-covered with substrate&mulching, forgot I did have some flare at the base :D For context, ^ that guy was my first-ever collected BC, was from Feb 3rd last winter and is now sporting a big fat leader and ready for another round of growth!!!]

[edited-in: Feel it's worth mentioning to anyone reading who's not a collector but, pretty obviously, this is a messed-up collection in that I ruined good surface-roots/nebari with how I collected it, I guess I can blame that on first-time swamp collecting but whatever the reason, the right-side surface root is cut and could've otherwise been great, I did realize the problem upon collection of course and I planted it deep in its pot in hopes that it puts out enough shoots from the edges of that cut that, in time, I'll be able to salvage it by having grown such a thick mass of roots right from its end!!]
 

Zach Smith

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Let's see if I can answer both questions. What's the longest time I spend searching with solid specimens all around? A few minutes maybe. What about using a hose to wash off BC after collecting? I do it every time. It doesn't hurt the tree, and it clears out the swamp grasses and other roots I don't want. And I wash off everything else I collect with a hose, deciduous and broadleaf evergreen alike. Never evergreen conifers, but I rarely collect those.

Here's an example of post-collection prep for a BC:

Cypress2-9-19-2.JPG
All washed off and trimmed up, ready for a pot. That is a knee in back, actually connected to the trunk. Hopefully it grows from the cut end.
 
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Insane. I have no idea what to do with something like that. Your best bet is to let it grow out and let it tell you what it can do.
Haha insane is a good word here!! It was just so unique and IMO the lines aren't ugly just unusual/uncharcteristic (something I don't have any problems with, I know some like more 'traditional' stuff but of the BC's posted to this thread one of my favorites is the left-most, sharply-bent trunk posted in #29 by @Joe Dupre' ), however I've got a bit of a hang-up on how you're phrasing this- growing-out is just the thing popping like 50-75 branches all over, at least in my limited experience it's been safe to assume you can get a bud in any 2"x2" area on the trunking, so coming-up with design ideas right now (just vague ones) seems as practical as it'd be if I waited 5mo for it to be a bush in fact at that point the lines are obscured making it harder in that respect! Would love your thoughts on this because I found that branch-selection was requisite early-on due to over-abundant back-budding, maybe this isn't always the case (I only had 2 good BC's last year so very limited experience) Would also love your thoughts on, **specifically**, when/how to consider the practice of removing excessive & redundant shoots, like you don't want to have 100 branches on your trunk at the end of year 1 - cut-marks leave massive bulges on these trunks - last year I did a few large branch-removal sessions which I think was sub-optimal, this year I intend to remove them more gradually / over-time as they're coming out IE if I've got 3 within the same square inch then 2 are getting rubbed-off (obviously keeping overall vigor as top-priority and being as conservative as possible, just don't want to find myself like this again at the end of May:


a.jpg

I'd realized around this time that I was late in removing redundant shoots and, upon doing so, the remainder sped-up their growth very quickly (which of course makes sense if the cambium is only able to push so much upwards, I know it's a 2-way street from roots-to-shoots and that removing any will lower overall growth but I'll happily take a 10% growth-reduction overall to have my chosen branches be much thicker than they'd otherwise be!), would be a different story if after a branch-removal I didn't see the remaining branches just take-off but that's what happened so I suspect that doing removals gradually over the season is the best approach as it truly minimizes stress to the tree + scarring while leaving it generally un-bothered to simply push growth in the shoots you've chosen, obviously leaving more than you do expect you'd ultimately need!

As for your other trees, I think the cuts are just fine at the heights you chose. Keep letting them grow out and training them upwards.
Great thank you! Though...upwards? I guess I'd thought it was better to aim horizontally with BC branches, wow this is pretty embarrassing.... whether it's the top-primaries/leaders that I'm trying to make into the beginnings of a flat top, or just side branching, I'd always thought I should be fighting their apical dominance and aiming horizontal....yikes now I'm worried about whether I've ruined any by setting branches lower!

Here's my process for choosing a leader on larger trees (note 1):
When I collect the tree, if I am carrying the trees out rather than using a sled, I cut it very high in the swamp. The root ball is heavy and I need to balance it on my shoulder.
When I get it home and the root ball is clean, I examine the taper of the trunk and how it relates to the base (note 2). I make a best guess as to where an optimal leader will sprout. Then I cut about 4-5 inches above that. This allows for dry/die-back of a few inches with room for something to happen in the area where I hope to get a twig started.
When a twig sprouts I can either carve down to that new leader in the summer, or I'll wait until the next year. It depends on the vigor of the tree. Stronger trees can be carved sooner.
Very good, have been migrating my approach closer to something like this so am happy to see it stated explicitly by you, I've had such luck w/ back-budding on the two from last year that I had this feeling (at first) this year of "will just choose tops based on where I want the top" (which I did last year, and was lucky enough not to face problems over), but I think you're more right than your statement even explains because you mention how leaving that extra trunking on 'allows for some drying/die-back above where you wanted the branch' but it's more than that, you're not just giving yourself a safety-margin but - and I'm not a studied botanist but would bet my kidneys - the resources/nutes in that top section will be utilized to some degree even if it's just the extra moisture held in there, if you've got a 4" 'cap' above your chosen spot/leader-location then you've got a great buffer, in the past days while thinking about this I've actually thought of collecting even taller trunks and just wrapping the top 0.5' with plastic so I can prevent budding but keep that 'buffer' of insulation/fluids/possibly-nutrients in that extra area above my chosen leader-location! Further, this kind of approach would leave you always reserving the option to have a large jin from the top (think it's called something different when it's coming straight from the tip of the trunking, 'jin' should convey what I mean!)


Smaller trees can just be chopped whereever you wish. The branch you select as the new leader will fatten up quickly and make up for any errors of judgement. It's the larger trees that remind you that you screwed up.
Yet another statement that I kinda already grasped on some subconscious level but am far better for having heard explicitly, have seen this myself and know exactly what you mean - with that in-mind I think it's fair to say my idea of excessively-tall trunks (at first) is one that is just FAR more important on fatter materials, on thinner/younger specimen they do just bud everywhere.....would it be fair to say that your statement here is less referring to 'small and large' but more to 'thick/deeply-fissured bark versus the thinner reddish bark'? The latter seems to bud any&everywhere, whereas the former buds far more sparsely (and weeks later it seems) since it has to bud-through that thick craggy bark! Eager to hear your thoughts but for now am defaulting to at least an extra 6" tall trunk on anything that's predominantly the duller, craggy/fissured bark and more like 1-3" on smooth/reddish barks (or 'older & younger'!)

I hate to sound like a broken-record but thanks again for everything, your videos are such an invaluable resource to me this time of the year that I am truly indebted to you, you're a real credit to this art/hobby man!!!
 

rockm

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[View attachment 226614
All washed off and trimmed up, ready for a pot. That is a knee in back, actually connected to the trunk. Hopefully it grows from the cut end.[/QUOTE]
When in doubt about collecting Southern U.S. natives, ALWAYS take Zach's advice. :) He's been digging trees for a very long time, especially BC. I bought my first BC from him over 20 years ago. It's still in the backyard.

The other veterans advice is spot on. I just use Zach as the "go to" for advice;)
 
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SU2

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Let's see if I can answer both questions. What's the longest time I spend searching with solid specimens all around? A few minutes maybe. What about using a hose to wash off BC after collecting? I do it every time. It doesn't hurt the tree, and it clears out the swamp grasses and other roots I don't want. And I wash off everything else I collect with a hose, deciduous and broadleaf evergreen alike. Never evergreen conifers, but I rarely collect those.

Here's an example of post-collection prep for a BC:


All washed off and trimmed up, ready for a pot. That is a knee in back, actually connected to the trunk. Hopefully it grows from the cut end.
Awesome thanks man!!! I wish I had a swamp where I could hunt like that, my densest areas still require 1min+ searching for each specimen that's even possibly within size-restraints!

Re hosing- Thank You!!!!! That is great I knew it was OK for boug's&myrtles, and had never had issue doing it on other stuff, although upon reading Harrington's advisement against it and pondering it I started thinking "maybe it's more of a coniferous thing, as they tend to have less resilient roots", and BC's are coniferous after all, so am stoked to hear a pro is using a hose because I couldn't imagine having to do away with hosing!!

Out of curiosity, what evergreen conifers do you get to collect up there? I've been hoping to find a candidate for central FL collection, am comfortable w/ a long ride / day-trip if needed but really just can't get a species-name to learn to search for! Also curios if your swamps have Maples like mine do, I've grabbed two of them this year and the first has already popped a bud (first yamadori of the year to :D ) and has a ton ready-to-pop (actually it's the second that popped, the first just has a ton of 'pimples' and is ready to pop, it had thicker bark than the 2nd one and was collected just days prior)

You mention the knee being 'actually connected to the trunk", may I ask how common it is that someone would even entertain the idea of knees that weren't attached directly? Just the concept of it is new to me, having seen an ebay listing for "BC knees" posted to some thread here, they were hundreds $$ and I was looking at the ad thinking "w/o the connected&corresponding tree, this cannot photosynthesize and will just slowly die"....what use on earth is there for unattached knees, do people approach-graft them or something?
 

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[hate making a new post before I've caught-up but gotta get this out for a trip tomorrow and unsure I'll be caught-up :p ]

Stupid Q: does high/low tide influence the water level in swamps? Am thinking maybe it does due to the water table, maybe it doesn't due to it, yknow, not being the ocean lol!! My swamps are within maybe 2mile of the ocean if that matters! Just figured it'd be worth making my trips during low-tide to better scout trunks, and tomorrow it's on/off rain so a perfect collecting day, want to setup my time based on the tide if it actually matters, if it saves me a foot (or even 1/2'!) of wading-height in my 1-2' deep swamps ;D
 

rockm

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"although upon reading Harrington's advisement against it"

Harrington is in the U.K

He's not working with North American native species nor climates. Different ball of wax...His videos might inspire, but any specifics on species care, collection, etc. will have some, or a lot, of trouble on this side of the Atlantic.
 

JoeH

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[hate making a new post before I've caught-up but gotta get this out for a trip tomorrow and unsure I'll be caught-up :p ]

Stupid Q: does high/low tide influence the water level in swamps? Am thinking maybe it does due to the water table, maybe it doesn't due to it, yknow, not being the ocean lol!! My swamps are within maybe 2mile of the ocean if that matters! Just figured it'd be worth making my trips during low-tide to better scout trunks, and tomorrow it's on/off rain so a perfect collecting day, want to setup my time based on the tide if it actually matters, if it saves me a foot (or even 1/2'!) of wading-height in my 1-2' deep swamps ;D
No it does not. Rain and drought do.
 

Zach Smith

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Awesome thanks man!!! I wish I had a swamp where I could hunt like that, my densest areas still require 1min+ searching for each specimen that's even possibly within size-restraints!

Re hosing- Thank You!!!!! That is great I knew it was OK for boug's&myrtles, and had never had issue doing it on other stuff, although upon reading Harrington's advisement against it and pondering it I started thinking "maybe it's more of a coniferous thing, as they tend to have less resilient roots", and BC's are coniferous after all, so am stoked to hear a pro is using a hose because I couldn't imagine having to do away with hosing!!

Out of curiosity, what evergreen conifers do you get to collect up there? I've been hoping to find a candidate for central FL collection, am comfortable w/ a long ride / day-trip if needed but really just can't get a species-name to learn to search for! Also curios if your swamps have Maples like mine do, I've grabbed two of them this year and the first has already popped a bud (first yamadori of the year to :D ) and has a ton ready-to-pop (actually it's the second that popped, the first just has a ton of 'pimples' and is ready to pop, it had thicker bark than the 2nd one and was collected just days prior)

You mention the knee being 'actually connected to the trunk", may I ask how common it is that someone would even entertain the idea of knees that weren't attached directly? Just the concept of it is new to me, having seen an ebay listing for "BC knees" posted to some thread here, they were hundreds $$ and I was looking at the ad thinking "w/o the connected&corresponding tree, this cannot photosynthesize and will just slowly die"....what use on earth is there for unattached knees, do people approach-graft them or something?
Evergreen conifer: Loblolly pine. Swamp maple is tricky to collect and get past year three without the tree rotting out from the top down to the ground on one side. When I say knee connected to the trunk, that's a bit misleading I suppose. Usually when I find a tree with a knee or knee-like growth it's directly off a large buttressing root. And they're on larger specimens. For a tree as small as the one in the photo, to even have a knee is almost unheard of in my experience in the places I've dug Cypress. But this knee is on an otherwise slender root snaking its way off the trunk. Very odd, but cool if it makes it.
 

SU2

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When in doubt about collecting Southern U.S. natives, ALWAYS take Zach's advice. :) He's been digging trees for a very long time, especially BC. I bought my first BC from him over 20 years ago. It's still in the backyard.
Pic? I'm still trying to get an idea about ramification & primary-girth over time, hope that doesn't sound like "judgemental" I'm just curious how it's looking **if** you've already got jpg's at-hand on the desktop, otherwise no prob there are plenty of other pics/albums! :)
The other veterans advice is spot on. I just use Zach as the "go to" for advice;)
Thanks I appreciate that, I'd been seeing zach and bill as the two most-knowledgeable guys re Bald Cypress Bonsai, well, basically on earth....there's two others I know of as 'big dogs' here but they are either not publicly-communicating (so far as I've found!) or maybe even not with us anymore sadly (again, just speculation as I know the names but no idea where they are), and that's vaughn(sp?) banting(sp?) and guy guidry(sp?), though so far as I can see Bill was learning directly from them (or Guidry at least) and while I'm unsure of zach's history it's just incredibly obvious he's got *very* deep experience & knowledge on BC's! It's pretty amazing to be able to talk to them IRL on these message boards being they're the "top pro's" of my favorite activity (the whole bc collection&grow-out is my favorite bonsai-practice so far I think), especially being able to be a bug on the wall - even more actually - at Bill's garden by watching his youtubes!!! Have re-watched them all in the past month (coffee+youtube is a daily ritual for me ;) ) and there's just nothing besides real-life that can beat videos like his, from swamping to styling! I think it'd be splitting hairs & silly-wasteful to even try discerning their relative abilities, though I'd die to see a BonsaiSouth youtube channel (pokes @Zach Smith repeatedly ;) ) to get more info, hell I'd be psyched to see a long-term progression entry for a BC on his site (there's great stuff there, including BC's naturally, but the progress-albums section has no BC's, and prog.albums or developed BC's with-dates are what I'm seeking, want an idea how 5yrs, 10yrs and 20yrs will look especially after hearing enough anecdotes about "BC's don't ramify well"!)

While the following is from @Mellow Mullet 's site or a post here (I'm pretty sure!), I think it's a good example for something I wanted to ask you re timing (I'm trying to find the thread I'd stumbled-into where you were talking seasonal-timing, you'd made a comment specifically about erring to later something like 'if it feels too early, it probably is'), this is timing-of-prune, specifically when to hard-prune a leader-primary? I struggle with this on all of my specimen garden-wide, I started out moronically trimming everything way too often but now that I'm holding-off I want to get an idea *when* the right time is for a new primary's hard-pruning! So, what do you think of his timing here:
Bald cypress aBeing developed 2 trunk-chops.jpg
I guess I'd wager that it's a smidge too-early ('smidge' isn't a word, go figure..), I've been putting a ton of thought into this as I see the primaries' shape&girth as being pretty-darn-vital to the final specimen (a duh!) so it's often on-mind, I've been thinking that a primary should be allowed to run free (or w/ the most minimal cuts if necessary for practical reasons ie spacing) until it's at least 85% of its final intended-girth, what do you think about that? Very very interested to hear your thoughts here as it's not 'timing of year' but timing for the specimen's 'development phase', also gg find that thread to see if you've updated there as I'm dead-center of spring-budding here, hell I just noticed yesterday that one of my more recently-collected BC's had >10 buds that'd broken the skin (and both Maples are budding) so I'm counting now as "ideal" for collection, and for styling (if applicable obviously!) and re-potting BC's, for ficus it's already time / too-late as I've got a good fist-ful of leaves on mine that grew this past week that're all coming off, need to do that asap before I waste any more resources! And Crapes are just waking up, most have some spring-growth so it seems pretty ideal to work them now as well :D
 

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Too late to edit (damn 20min timer!) but wanted to add something re Mellow's leader-pruning in ^that pic- I'm very surprised at lack of roll-over, to be fair it could have more than the pic shows due to caulking* but I guess I would've thought a primary that thick would close or almost-close the wounding, yet that wounding (again, could be much further along I can't tell from the pic!) seems more on-par with a year-1 hole than a 'primary almost at-girth' hole doesn't it? Whether or not you had any pics of your 20y/o specimen to share I would love to hear a description of its apex and whether the wound has closed entirely & tapered well/smoothly into the trunking :D

*caulking....I never used wound-pasting and still think it's probably of very minor benefit but have been doing it w/ the giant cut-tops of collected BC's, at any rate I wanted to ask for reco's for products from you & others for stuff I can stick in my caulking gun that actually will cure on a BC!! I've found GE's silicone#2, both white & clear versions, to never fully cure on a BC-wounding :/ I've been using DAP 20min-cure caulking as it's the only thing that'll go-off and cure entirely but that stuff is 'flakey'/degrades, I very much dislike the idea of knowing some % of that water-resistant chemical-mix is going to be bathing my roots at some point over the next year lol, maybe the best approach is to merely remove the pastes once vigorous growth is present?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I was just misting my BC's (every AM, afternoon and evening!) and checking out the buds, all but one of mine are showing 'under-skin pimples' or have budded already, however I've got one that's a newer one (2wks to the day, collected Feb.3rd) and it's the most-profuse budder of the entire year's collectings so far - what do you think of the idea of "covering" the top ~2-6" of a trunk **if and when** you'd intentionally brought home too-tall a trunk, for reasons of survivability-%, but it's now budding profusely and you want to restrict budding to the bottom 85% of the trunking? Am considering just zip-tying a rag or bag in-place over the areas to be 'blocked', I want the trunking there for 'buffer' for safety/vigor but I don't want all those prominent, top-level buds that grow so much faster to be growing from what is, in the end, most-definitely a portion of trunking that'll be cut-off! Maybe just leave it exposed, but rub buds off as they occur? Some of my trunks are ridiculously tall and I dislike the idea of removing the excess just yet but don't want to waste a year growing big leaders from these guys' tops just to cut them off next year, I consider that 'a mistake' in fact one of my BC's from last year was, I strongly suspect, setup with too-high primaries and is going to need to be re-done this season :/
20190108_200907.jpg
[pic is from late-fall/mid-winter, before full leaf-drop, neither of my 2 BC's from last year have woken yet this year]

The primaries, aside from me being blind enough to think anchoring inward was smarter than anchoring outward, are so high-up on the trunk that, in any sketch of "final phases" I can draw, the resultant piece is just far too-tall :( Unsure just yet but pretty sure I gotta cut that trunk back several inches and then let primaries #3-5 (from the top downward) become the new leaders/top-primaries, so much wasted growth (guess I'll skin it so I can reserve ability to make deadwood features up there!!)
 

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