Advice on crabapple

Javaman4373

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I have a dozen Sargeats Crabapples in our landscape, all propagated from one original planting (parent crab). parent crab.jpg

I have been seeking suitable pre-bonsai material from these trees and find that suitable candidates that would give trunk movement and taper are hard to find. I do have one root sprout that may be a candidate for collectiing. It is small and has twin trunks, but would be easily collected. root sprout.jpg

The best candidate is one of my transplants. It has a trunk that is about 13 inches to the first branch and I have not removed the sod at the base to see if there are nebari that would be useful. This plant does have some trunk movement and good possibilities for taper above the first branch. So my major question is: would it be best to air layer this on the trunk or dig it and keep the 13 inch trunk? I can envision how the taper could be further developed by judicious chops and perhaps the first branch would be best as a sacrificial branch. I think the taper is a bit better than the photos show.
 

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Javaman4373

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I will look over the big ones for a good candidate branch, I have 6 of them.
 

Shibui

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You are correct about suitable material being uncommon. Apples prefer to grow tall and straight so if you want short and bendy you will need to intervene.
I think 13 inches to the first branch is way too tall. layering may provide something for you but i would also keep an eye on the stump. I think that is where your best material will come from. You could try trunk chopping some of your other transplants. Cut way down low for the first chop.
Also try chopping some of the root suckers occasionally as they grow. Chops will encourage taper and bends in the trunk. In the absence of grazing animals chopping is usually the best way.
 
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I would chop back above that deadwood on the trunk in the tree you showed, and wait to see new sprouts. Too straight now unless straight is your design intent.

Otherwise. I agree looking for branches to layer is a better solution.
 

Javaman4373

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Thanks for the suggestions. I also thought the 13 inch trunk was too tall and straight, which is why I queried about doing an air layer further up that trunk. I suppose I could air layer it and also chop the trunk below the air layer when the top is severed. I will try some trunk chops on some of the root sprouts to see what develops. On the larger specimens, the interesting trunks/branches are quite big in diameter, 3-4 inches or a bit more. Do you think an air layer could be successful in such big material? There is quite a lot of motion in some trunks on the larger plants. Some of the root sprouts have trunks of around 2 inches in diameter. I assume such chops should be made in early spring.
 

leatherback

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big in diameter, 3-4 inches or a bit more. Do you think an air layer could be successful in such big material?
Think bigger, if you can.

Craps layer well and take the process without trouble. A 4-6 inch branch should be no problem.
The whole idea of layering branches is that you take one which provides you with a near-instant bonsai.
If you have the patience... Trim the to-be-layered branch over winter to the main branchlets you would like to use in your bonsai. THen let it go foer a season, perhaps adding a wire here or there to the new sprouts. Then in 2022 (!) layer the section off, which will have grown over large parts of the big cuts.
 

Shibui

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The biggest problem I have with layers is finding branches with bends and taper. Some look good on the larger tree but proportion is not so good when removed and the tree is smaller.
You can certainly layer thick branches but bigger is not always better. Monster bonsai are often just a pain in the back.

Trunk chops can be done almost any time. Spring and summer chops will respond quicker but autumn chops will also sprout new shoots next spring so not much difference.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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When you are uncertain of a "bonsai design" for most trees, the first 1/3rd of its height is the trunk with no branches, the second 1/3rd is the main branching, the final 1/3rd of its overall height is the fine twigs and leaves. This is a "generalized" tree, but the proportions do make for an attractive trees.

So given the above, if you were to harvest your 13 inches to the first branch trunk, the overall height that would work would be about 39 inches tall. Those new to bonsai would consider a 39 inch tall tree "Big", but really it is only in the lower range of "Omo" bonsai. Remember, most bonsai really do spend all their time as garden specimens, so a meter tall tree, 39 inches, is not overly large by Japanese standards. So the crab in your photos, would be acceptable for a meter tall bonsai.

However, this brings us to trunk diameter. The point of collecting trees, trunks and stumps from the landscape plantings or the wild is to get trunks already near the optimal diameter trunk to make a believable bonsai image. The ratio of height to diameter for "champion bonsai" tend to be in the range of 10 to 1 thru 4 to 1, with the extreme sumo styles being 1 to 1. Slender forest style trees might be 20 to 1.

So for your 39 inch tall crab apple, your ideal trunk diameter would be around 4 inches diameter on the slender side of proportions, to 10 inches diameter for an aged tree image.

Generally, when you are digging landscape trees you need to have 75% or more of the final diameter, to begin serious bonsai training. If you have less than that, the tree needs to go back into the growing bed to develop girth.

For even the smaller size bonsai, say 8 inches tall, you need a minimum of 1 to 2 inches in diameter to make even a slender tree image.

So where I am going with this is, Air layering the original tree much closer to where it begins branching would be best, but then potting it into a grow out container, or into the growing bed to develop a larger diameter trunk would be best. Or alternately, look for branches closer to 4 inches in diameter to air layer out of one of the trees on your property.

Just my thought.

You need movement in the first 1/3rd of the height of the bonsai. That first 4 inches or so of trunk needs to be interesting, or you need to prune movement into the trunk (via chopping back) and then let them grow out a couple years.
 

Javaman4373

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Thanks for the good advice Leo. I find the these crabapples to have a habit of a tangled mass of trunks and to produce major branches that grow out at right angles. Even if they start as a single trunk, they produce clusters of root sprouts near the base and later extending out from the main plant. I looked closely at mine and did not find any inspiring major branches to air layer. I have some photos of one, which has some movement, but then has an unattractive bifurcation. I guess one of the forks could be chopped off. This branch one could be airlayered right where a verticalbranch 1.jpgupper branch 1.jpgback branch 1.jpg branch has been chopped off, just below the ruler. Here is a second branch with movement, but it has long sections without smaller side branches. branch 2.jpg
I guess my best option is to work on the first smaller crab in the ground to build trunk girth and direct branch structure in preparation for a later airlayering above the base. I need a bit of practice to get the images inserted at the correct place in the text. Also, they have to be cropped to meet the limit in size for insertion into the post, which makes it harder to illustrate what is being described.
 
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Shibui

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At this stage you should be just looking for trunk lines. You can chop long sections and new side shoots will grow, some of them will become branches. Branching and unattractive bifurcation can give you taper when all except one branch are removed. If you leave the right one you also get attractive change of direction which will become bends in the trunk later. That second image looks like one of the better options if you just keep the front, right branch and then cut it short. First pic has a good bend but no taper.
The downside of large pruning is the scars it leaves buy apple does heal well if given the opportunity.
If you want a thick, dynamic tree with no scars you need to be prepared to develop right from the start and spend many years doing so.

Rather than just cropping images to meet the file size limits look for settings on the camera to reduce quality or file size when you take the shots. Post production some apps allow you to reduce file size rater than cropping the image size.
As for inserting try the preview button to see what you have created and make adjustments before posting a reply. Practice makes perfect.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Thanks for the good advice Leo. I find the these crabapples to have a habit of a tangled mass of trunks and to produce major branches that grow out at right angles. Even if they start as a single trunk, they produce clusters of root sprouts near the base and later extending out from the main plant. I looked closely at mine and did not find any inspiring major branches to air layer. I have some photos of one, which has some movement, but then has an unattractive bifurcation. I guess one of the forks could be chopped off. This branch one could be airlayered right where a verticalView attachment 339766View attachment 339767View attachment 339768 branch has been chopped off, just below the ruler. Here is a second branch with movement, but it has long sections without smaller side branches. View attachment 339769
I guess my best option is to work on the first smaller crab in the ground to build trunk girth and direct branch structure in preparation for a later airlayering above the base. I need a bit of practice to get the images inserted at the correct place in the text. Also, they have to be cropped to meet the limit in size for insertion into the post, which makes it harder to illustrate what is being described.

Number one, I would consider using the whole trunk, That scar from cutting off the upright will eventually heal, or can become a hollowed out hole (uro). If you have to air layer, do so below that cut scar. This will give you taper to the trunk. Notice that from below the cut scar, to above the cut scar there is a change in diameter of the trunk. That is the taper we like to see in bonsai trunks.

#2 and #4 both can be eventually made into decent trees without air layering. Or at least from the photos, I would not dismiss them entirely. #3 is a tangle mess in the photo, I would need to see it live in person to "salvage" a bonsai out of it.
 

Javaman4373

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Leo, just to clarify; in post 10 of this thread, photos 1,2,and 3, are the same branch. Photos 2 and 3 are of the bifurcation (tangled mess) that starts in the upper rt. corner of photo 1, opposite side views. Shibui suggested chopping that off and growing some new branches and reassessing whether to air layer that branch. I think your comment about the trunk being thicker below the cut off branch is a valid one. The 4th photo is a different branch/trunk. Branch in 4 is one of many trunks that emerge from a common base, so to use it, it would have to air layered. It is difficult to get photos that show perspective well, as what is closer to the lens looks bigger than in real life. Rather like showing off a caught fish by holding out in front of you. I will prune and let it grow next season and see what happens.
 
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