Beginner Pyracantha, kinda messy not sure what to do in spring

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The first pic shows it looking pretty vigorous, I think. I couldn't see into the pot very well when I was at the nursery. Looking down into it I saw thick branches and what looked like a fat, flared base, felt chonky when I grabbed it.
When I got it home I clipped back the long shoots to the canopy so I could get close to it then cut back the nursery pot to the soil line so I could see the base.
The tree looks like it was growing healthy based off the top, but the base turned out to be exposed root, that looks rotted/dead to me.
Also think i boofed this selection pretty hard considering all the four largest branches are growing from the same spot creating reverse taper.
I've read these don't heal over from large cuts so don't know if just chopping off the large branches that I don't want to reduce to a single trunk is viable.
The other thing I considered was chopping it low, since I want a shohin tree anyway, but I'm too inexperienced to even know if the base is salvageable.
 

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Here are some more pics, the branches are growing weird so need lots of angles to show where they are coming out of the base. the first branch curves back and down, the skinniest lower branch could be wired as it does move. all the other lower branches are about an inch thick.
 

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Maybe it would be best to just take a bunch of air layers?
It would seem most common way to layer is to strip a ring of bark then wrap in plastic with medium.
I have also read of a turnicate method where wire is wrapped around and tightened until it cuts through the bark then also wrapped with plastic bag holding rooting medium. I bring up this method because I read that it causes the layered section to bulge creating a hershey kiss type flare. I think this Peter Macasieb, @maria kapra, pyracantha may have been developed this way. (pictured below) I really like these potbelly trees, I don't want all my trees to look like this but i think they are cute, almost more a caricature of a tree.
The fattest part of the tree is just below where all the main branches are growing from so I had considered doing a layer there, then I would also have the weird base left to try and grow. However now I don't know if that suggested layer would be a good exercise since I would still need to chop some of the larger branches and be left with huge chop marks on the most visible part of the trunk.
So maybe I should just take my layers higher up and experiment with the two different methods?
Is it possible to clean up the base, possibly ground layer to develop new roots? not worth the effort?
Try to take it back to the nursery to exchange for a better piece of material?
 

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Wires_Guy_wires

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Do the wounds always need healing, or can deadwood be a feature?
Have you tried different angles?

I would have kept those interior branches that are now stubs, because they can give you a smaller tree. Right now you're left with bare primary branches with some foliage up top, where could have been secondaries not far from the trunk. That's part of the learning process. No worries.

I know nothing about pyracantha but I do know that it doesn't hurt anyone or anything to put a tree out in the yard and ignore it for a while. New growth will give you new options. Air layering right now is out of the question anyways, since it's winter.

I guess my advice boils down to: don't rush it. This tree will tell you where it wants to go when you're both ready. And when in doubt, do the chop, accept it instead of regretting it and go forward.
 
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Do the wounds always need healing, or can deadwood be a feature?
Have you tried different angles?

I would have kept those interior branches that are now stubs, because they can give you a smaller tree. Right now you're left with bare primary branches with some foliage up top, where could have been secondaries not far from the trunk. That's part of the learning process. No worries.

I know nothing about pyracantha but I do know that it doesn't hurt anyone or anything to put a tree out in the yard and ignore it for a while. New growth will give you new options. Air layering right now is out of the question anyways, since it's winter.

I guess my advice boils down to: don't rush it. This tree will tell you where it wants to go when you're both ready. And when in doubt, do the chop, accept it instead of regretting it and go forward.
Hey thank you so much for the thoughtful, detailed response and suggestions.

I don't know a whole lot, anything, about dead wood yet. I just read in another pyracantha thread on here that big cuts don't totally heal but there was no mention of utilizing dead wood strategically. I will deep dive that topic as soon as I'm done.

I see lots of options in the material but was unsure if the base of the tree was usable or if cutting off the thick side branches would ruin it.

I'm not the one that removed the interior branches. The photo below shows the cuts I made, in red. The blue line marks the soil level which is where I cut. Should I have not done that?
Basically all the green in the previous photos was the only part of the plant exposed, the rest of the tree (2/3's?) was below the rim of the nursery pot.

I think if I make my cuts in the late winter, before new growth starts, then it should back bud?
If I just let it sit in the yard for another season won't the larger branches continue to grow and make the reverse taper worse while additionally sending energy to the tips instead of encouraging growth where I need it?

Best Regards-Ham
 

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Wires_Guy_wires

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Again, I don't know pyracantha but I would have made the same cuts; reducing it to at least a compacted and scaled tree.
In picture 2633 and 2639 I see some nice lines for a future tree trunk. I don't know how well these plants back bud, so my personal approach would be to do some cuts before spring and see what happens. Reverse taper gets bigger if all branches are allowed to run free, but since you've done some cutbacks already I think that there wouldn't be much swelling next year. Either way, it was there already and it'll be a challenge to hide/obscure/reduce.

I've seen a bunch of pyracantha or lookalikes in the dunes near the sea. I do remember some gnarly deadwood, not the pretty kind like in junipers or pines though, but certainly diminished parts of what used to be trees.
 

Shibui

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There are usually lots of different options in any tree and this one has plenty of different possible style bonsai.
Personally I would work toward a small sized bonsai which would mean chopping most of the upper tree and waiting for new shoots on the remaining trunk. That strategy can be unpredictable as pyracantha sometimes don't bud on the chopped trunk but grow from lower instead.
I actually like the abrupt bend but I think it would look better when the tree is tilted as shown.
pyracantha.JPG

The roots are probably still active. When they are uncovered they start to develop bark which is why they appear black. They are a bit tangled but that could be a feature for a tree with dynamic bends. You may be able to untangle them at a repotting but just covering them up to the base of the trunk will remove the visual impact if you don't like the look. Ground layering would get a wider, neater nebari.

None of this is instant. Pyracantha is relatively slow growing so I'd be looking at a 3-5 year development plan for this tree.
 
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There are usually lots of different options in any tree and this one has plenty of different possible style bonsai.
Personally I would work toward a small sized bonsai which would mean chopping most of the upper tree and waiting for new shoots on the remaining trunk. That strategy can be unpredictable as pyracantha sometimes don't bud on the chopped trunk but grow from lower instead.
I actually like the abrupt bend but I think it would look better when the tree is tilted as shown.
View attachment 342337

The roots are probably still active. When they are uncovered they start to develop bark which is why they appear black. They are a bit tangled but that could be a feature for a tree with dynamic bends. You may be able to untangle them at a repotting but just covering them up to the base of the trunk will remove the visual impact if you don't like the look. Ground layering would get a wider, neater nebari.
I like what you did there. I'll add that to the list. If the roots are just barking and not rotting, i think it could balance all the other wounds I'm going to need to cover.
Thanks for the input, mate! (when I lived in Costa Rica, the locals said "mai" all the time. apparently this slangs origin came from the mispronunciation of 'mate' learned from Australian surfers.)
None of this is instant. Pyracantha is relatively slow growing so I'd be looking at a 3-5 year development plan for this tree
Really? That doest seem like a long time.
 

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There are usually lots of different options in any tree and this one has plenty of different possible style bonsai.
Personally I would work toward a small sized bonsai which would mean chopping most of the upper tree and waiting for new shoots on the remaining trunk. That strategy can be unpredictable as pyracantha sometimes don't bud on the chopped trunk but grow from lower instead.
I actually like the abrupt bend but I think it would look better when the tree is tilted as shown.
View attachment 342337

The roots are probably still active. When they are uncovered they start to develop bark which is why they appear black. They are a bit tangled but that could be a feature for a tree with dynamic bends. You may be able to untangle them at a repotting but just covering them up to the base of the trunk will remove the visual impact if you don't like the look. Ground layering would get a wider, neater nebari.

None of this is instant. Pyracantha is relatively slow growing so I'd be looking at a 3-5 year development plan for this tree.
I wonder if it's a location thing. I found my pyracantha developed rather quickly. In a year...it was looking less like the bones I bought with growth looking like pre-bonsai. Bought in 2016...
pyracantha rough stock.jpg
One year later...
pyracantha one year.jpg

I've had fun with this species on my bench. I found I look back at this one...and am amazed at progression images.
161338217_4030168077004164_3945856798746083046_n (2).jpg
 
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I've said this before but i love your trees Darlene. I decided to practice wiring on this tree and several others that I had planned to chop. You may be able to see in the photos that one of the branches was broken. I have been checking all my trees lately for new buds/signs of life. after reading post from @Cadillactaste i went outside and found two new buds, both are growing on broken branches. I'm learning a lot about chopping, i need to start being more brave. all the new growth is budding at the tips of my cuts but i have been leaving too much because i was worried about die-back.
anyway, I also used the top of a nursery container i had cut to wrap around the base. i then filled it with rando size pumice and chunks of SUPERMOSS. I'm hoping it will fill up with roots. i'm excited to watch this guy grow and thinking about going back to the nursery to grab a couple more of these dudes. $25 seems cheap for these size pyracantha. every other local nursery i have been to range from $30-$80 for pencil thin plants and a lot of them have been trained to grow straight up tied to a bamboo stick.
 

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Cadillactaste

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I've said this before but i love your trees Darlene. I decided to practice wiring on this tree and several others that I had planned to chop. You may be able to see in the photos that one of the branches was broken. I have been checking all my trees lately for new buds/signs of life. after reading post from @Cadillactaste i went outside and found two new buds, both are growing on broken branches. I'm learning a lot about chopping, i need to start being more brave. all the new growth is budding at the tips of my cuts but i have been leaving too much because i was worried about die-back.
anyway, I also used the top of a nursery container i had cut to wrap around the base. i then filled it with rando size pumice and chunks of SUPERMOSS. I'm hoping it will fill up with roots. i'm excited to watch this guy grow and thinking about going back to the nursery to grab a couple more of these dudes. $25 seems cheap for these size pyracantha. every other local nursery i have been to range from $30-$80 for pencil thin plants and a lot of them have been trained to grow straight up tied to a bamboo stick.
Ahhh you are to kind, thank you.

The only thing I can think to suggest is cut paste. I'm a stickler on using it.

I also on early stages of development...I removed flower buds to encourage more energy toward building the tree. Then when I was happy with an area. Permit a few flowers to set so I could enjoy the berries..the berries to me are better than flowers for viewing.

Good of you to practice wire...it ups the game with adding controlled movement into our material.

I absolutely love pyracantha...they offer so much to one who has then on their bench.
 

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Pyracantha are slow to thicken up, but fast to ramify. You can cut back and grow out several times in the growing season. So cutting branches back hard will probably lead to a shorter, ramified tree pretty quickly. Pyracantha do not heal over large cuts easily. So you need to plan on big cuts being disguised by foliage, or carved into a feature.
 

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I wonder if it's a location thing. I found my pyracantha developed rather quickly. In a year...it was looking less like the bones I bought with growth looking like pre-bonsai.
Probably more of a time and effort thing I think.
As mentioned by @BrianBay9 cut back several times a year can lead to ramified tree pretty quickly. Here, most are lucky to get cut once a year. Some now have better bonsai and have moved to the more intensive development phase so should start to improve much quicker.

Has anyone noticed a tendency for the final bud closer to pruning cut to stay dormant while one lower down takes off and grows like crazy? Makes pruning for direction hit and miss.
 

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Probably more of a time and effort thing I think.
As mentioned by @BrianBay9 cut back several times a year can lead to ramified tree pretty quickly. Here, most are lucky to get cut once a year. Some now have better bonsai and have moved to the more intensive development phase so should start to improve much quicker.

Has anyone noticed a tendency for the final bud closer to pruning cut to stay dormant while one lower down takes off and grows like crazy? Makes pruning for direction hit and miss.
Post #14 from Brian Van Fleet has helped me develop mine. Following his guidance...I've not paid much attention to the directional cut as much. Oh sure, we still attempt as much. But its not what I keep my eye on to be honest. Wiring and following his direction. That's where I've gotten mine development from.
 
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These are from today, June 17, getting bushy. Now that I see how it grows I think I need to remove more, cut the heavy stubs back further and remove the large branch I left.
I also used a chopped nursery pot to raise the soil level aroun the base of the trunk. I filled it with pumice and sphagnum, not sure if this will get me new roots.
 

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This is where my cuts would be. The branch circled in yellow was broken when I wired it. I think it’s too long and thick with the scale of the tree, but it’s loose enough to bend due to the break. There are two little branches positioned on both sides of the branch behind where I want to cut.
 

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Cadillactaste

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I'm sorry...I just can't grasp what you intend to do. A break is a weakened area in a branch. So I tend to try to bring the break together and allow the tree to heal. Doesn't sound like you did that...but, are happy with the outcome.
 
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I was just saying I’m going to hack it off. There’s two little buddies further back to take it’s place and should give me better taper.
Sorry I wasn’t more clear, I was doing this while unloading cement blocks from my truck and feeding children etc.
 

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