Collected red spruce (picea rubens) - repotting question

Cosmos

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I collected this small tree last October in Nova Scotia, under a power line. As you can guess from the first picture, collection was quite easy as the tree was growing precariously in clay-like sandy soil. I only had to cut about 3-4 longer roots to dislodge it, so I got almost a perfectly intact root ball.

I did not have the option at the time to put it in a proper fast-draining substrate, so I decided to let it overwinter in its native soil in my cold shelter back in Montréal.

The tree was looking vigorous at collection, and hasn't changed at all. Lots of branches (in fact, the tree has around 4 subtrunks/apexes) with good amounts of buds, only a few weak budless branches. What I like about it is the trunk/bark full of character (very miniature looking old bark, a shari, etc.) and the super tight, light green foliage. Also, interesting thing, the top looks to have been cut by a machine, maybe a chainsaw. What the root system looks like at this time is a mystery. It is obviously very-sided.

The last 4 pictures are from today.

So I want to repot it this spring, but I don't know about timing. The buds are not moving at all. Should I wait a few days and hope to see the buds push? I've read that spruce trees often don't grow much, if at all, after collection. I'm ready to accept that, so should I put it in substrate (DE, perlite and oil-dry mix) ASAP? It is sitting in very heavy soil right now, and the weather looks really wet for the next week.

BONUS QUESTION 1: if you think I should repot now (it is going in a nursery container, I am not rushing this tree at all), should I select one where the rootball is snug, or should I overpot it? My feeling is that I should remove what I can from the native soil, but only very minimally disturb the roots.

BONUS QUESTION 2: about styling. Should I repot it at the angle it was growing in (trunk at 45 degrees), or should I straighten it up to try and develop roots all around the base.
 

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Cosmos

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Any spruce expert here? Or experimented conifer collectors? Any help is appreciated.
 

0soyoung

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No claim of being a spruce expert, just a Mr. KnowItAll.

First, don't do anything until after the buds have popped, extended and hardened new growth. This will have happened by early July if it going to happen. Maybe not until next year, but once this condition is met, you can repot, not before. The newly hardened foliage is very productive and will power root recovery. Yes, I mean: repot it around or in August! I prefer summer (after the summer solstice and before the autumnal equinox) for repotting all conifers.

Over potting isn't a
 

Cosmos

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No claim of being a spruce expert, just a Mr. KnowItAll.

First, don't do anything until after the buds have popped, extended and hardened new growth. This will have happened by early July if it going to happen. Maybe not until next year, but once this condition is met, you can repot, not before. The newly hardened foliage is very productive and will power root recovery. Yes, I mean: repot it around or in August! I prefer summer (after the summer solstice and before the autumnal equinox) for repotting all conifers.

Over potting isn't a
Thanks for your reply. So essentially, I treat this tree like nursery stock until there is a full flush of new hardened growth on it. Any precautions about watering? The native soil is heavy and not very draining, but at the least the pot is tall.

Over potting isn't a... good idea I'd guess? ;)
 

0soyoung

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Overpotting isn't an issue per se, just choose a pot that is 'too deep'. This gives you some margin to avoid 'over watering'.

I accidentally posted and then tried to edit and exceeded the time limit. So I offer the following for extra credit.

I have dug bird's nest spruce from a landscape planting in August, washed the roots bare and potted it in my favorite inorganic substrate with no real ill effects. Just clean out the roots on one side one year and the other side the next (the Half Bare Root routine) if you prefer. But again, don't do any of this until after buds have extended and hardened.

You will need to decide for yourself how to position it in the pot. IMHO, a peg rising perpendicularly from the surface is mundane. It is kind of interesting with a broom style or a formal upright. Brooms are for exhibiting one's skills at producing ramification; formal uprights are an exhibition of another kind of horticultural tour de force with conifers. You will not be doing either of these, so, you will want to plant it on some angle - bonsai is always easier with a tilted/slanted trunk. However, you've got at least a couple of months to contemplate what about this tree you likely want to show off as a bonsai (e.g., bark, a trunk line, a branch line, dead wood) - plant it in an appropriate posture. I seldom get it right on the first stab - I doubt that most do either. Things will change as it develops and a different view, a different slant, etc. better shows the tree's interesting features. So it gets 'an attitude adjustment' again sometime in the future. But what you choose will affect its future development so just choose a position that makes it most interesting now.
 

Cosmos

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Thanks a lot 0soyoung, I was very close to repotting this week but I will postpone this until late summer as you recommend. End of August makes sense for the climate here, days are still hot but rarely scorching, and nights are cooler. The half-bareroot method seems smart.

In the meantime, should I blast this tree with full sun or treat it as a recovering tree and shade it partially? I can place it so that it gets 10+hours of direct sun.
 

Cosmos

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Update: Over the last 2-3 weeks, there's been a progressive yellowing (browning) of needles around the tree. See photos.

It is getting morning sun, getting watered properly, good air circulation. I would say about 20-30% of the needles seem to be affected as of today. I can't seem to find a real pattern, it seems to occur all along some branches, or on the tip.

What could it indicate? What should I do?
 

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sorce

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WP is pretty set on using the smallest container it will fit in.

Johann Agrees!

I'll be jammin 2 or 3 into shit "too small" this summer.

Let it rest!

Sorce
 
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Update: Over the last 2-3 weeks, there's been a progressive yellowing (browning) of needles around the tree. See photos.

It is getting morning sun, getting watered properly, good air circulation. I would say about 20-30% of the needles seem to be affected as of today. I can't seem to find a real pattern, it seems to occur all along some branches, or on the tip.

What could it indicate? What should I do?
To raise some bad knows. It's possible there is not enough roots to support the foliage and the tree is slowly dying. I've had that happened before. Plant survived first year but second year it went on to die. Just something to keep in mind so you don't get your hopes up too high. :/
 

Cosmos

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Let it rest!
Will do, but keep a close eye still. I can provide the tree with favourable conditions over the next few weeks, so I'll see how it goes.

To raise some bad knows. It's possible there is not enough roots to support the foliage and the tree is slowly dying. I've had that happened before. Plant survived first year but second year it went on to die. Just something to keep in mind so you don't get your hopes up too high. :/
Thanks for your input. As much I like the tree, I knew there was a risk collecting it that late, and our winter has been very harsh too (lows of -30 celsius).
 

Cosmos

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Another one for the cemetary. It was never to become a very good bonsai in my hands, but I would have liked it to survive, it has a nice wild feel to it.

IMG_20180616_115244.jpg
 

Wilson

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Another one for the cemetary. It was never to become a very good bonsai in my hands, but I would have liked it to survive, it has a nice wild feel to it.

View attachment 197030
This past winter was one of the worst for us in Québec. I have spoken with a bunch of folks, from neighbours, to nursery workers, all agree it was one of our worst! Here in the eastern townships, we have huge temperature swings. It would go up to 10° then down to -40 and ice storms. Sadly I think any hope for reliable winter temps are a thing of the past. I seem to want to store more and more trees at Yves place for the winter.
 

Cosmos

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Yes, quite the nightmarish winter we had. Not the winter to collect trees late in the fall for sure, especially not since it was exceptionnally warm until late October.

I also lost a boxwood that I foolishly repotted in late September... I'm done with boxwood, they can have great shapes but I don't think they can survive our winters in pots... even those planted in the ground are often half-dead come spring.
 

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