Crab trunk chops - what should I expect?

Jessf

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I bought a crab and I'm thinking about trunk chopping. I've trunk chopped my maple and Scheff with success, but I'm not sure what to expect with the crab.

how soon should I see buds? Should I water heavily and keep in shade after the chop?

thanks for your help
 

mat

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I have no experience with crabs, but watering anything with no leaves heavily doesn't sound like a good idea, especially when it's in the shade. Try to keep it moist but not wet, I'd say.
 

jk_lewis

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Well, you're in Canada and I'm in North Carolina. I dug up and chopped a large crabapple last yar, and this year it is coveed with sprouts that are growing rapidly. But I cut in winter and it went through one of my long growing seasons. I's suggest it's a bit late to expect much from a chop now in your area.

And yes, plants with no branches do not need a lot of water.
 

coh

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Here's another data point from someone pretty close to you (Rochester NY area...almost Canada). I trunk-chopped a 3" crabapple (in the ground) on May 31, 2010. I cut it below all the active growth, so there were no leaves remaining. I don't know exactly when it started sprouting, but by the end of June I had in my notes: "vigorous growth, many shoots". I didn't count the number of shoots, but there were at least 2 dozen. By the end of the summer many of them were roughly a foot in length.

Now, your tree is in a pot and has much less of a root system so I don't know how that would affect the results (plus your growing season is at least a little shorter than ours). If you do chop it, I'd think you'd want to keep it in the sun (to stimulate buds) but be careful not to over-water, since there will be no leaves taking up water for a while. Also, make sure that you chop above any graft that may be present (many of the store-bought crabs are grafted).

Chris
 

Jessf

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There is a graft. One of the many things I looked at before making the purchase. The grower said the root stock was of the same variant so there's no ugly change in bark and I shouldn't have any mystery suckers sprouting from the base.

Is there another reason to avoid cutting below the graft?

our growing season doesn't officially start until the May 24 weekend and we've had nothing but rain and cold leading up to that, it's delayed a lot of growers.

The pot is massive, takes two people to lift (or one foolish person with a back of steel).

The base of the tree is about 4" in diameter.

so roughly a month from cutting is a good time expectation. Probably several weeks in I should see some sprouts.

The tree is currently in the pot on the north side of the house, so not in direct sunlight. I may move it into the sun to see what happens.
 
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coh

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At what point are you in terms of growing season? We had a cold wet spring but right now, iris are blooming and peonies are just starting, as are early roses and blackberries. I assume the crabapple is well into its spring growth, right? Regardless, I can't think of any reason why it shouldn't be getting a lot of sun right now.

As for the graft - I have no idea what the nursery person meant by "same variant". Obviously the rootstock will be different from the top, otherwise there's no reason to graft. If you chop below the graft you'll be getting the "rootstock surprise". It could produce a decent tree, but not what you paid for. Maybe others here know what kinds of rootstock are used for crabapples, but I have no idea. How high is the graft above the soil line? Is the current soil line at the top of the root mass, or do you have to dig down to get to surface roots?

Another route to consider would be to let it grow this season and take some air layers off the top (how tall is the tree?), then chop next spring. Or just plant it in the ground and use the layers for future bonsai, depending on where the graft is and how it looks.

Chris
 

Jessf

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I believe the message was that both the top and bottom are from the same species of crab apple so whether I cut above or below the graft I should have the same tree. Often another fruit bearing tree is used, but not in this case, or so I'm told.

"The most common root stock used to graft to are; M. x robusta, M. sieboldii and also where hardiness issues come into play M. baccata."
http://www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/chiwonlee/plsc368/student/papers03/avick/crabapple.htm

The graft appears to be 8" above the soil line, I'd like to cut 5" above the graft. The tops of the roots are around 1" below the soil level.
 
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They are all malus, of course (same genus), and the rootstock could, I suppose, even be the same species as the top, but if it were the same variety, then, as Chris said, there would be no point in the graft. Very unlikely.
 

Jessf

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wouldn't it make sense though to have root stock that's well established then to graft the tops, all at the same height so you end up with uniformity in height throughout the batch?

If it is two different varieties of apple, would the difference in bark be obvious? There's enough tree below the graft that I could cut below there and be fine. The trunk is already developing nice taper because of the graft so it would be nice to not have to cut it off. I also don't want a franken-tree and would be willing to sacrifice the existing taper and begin anew.
 

coh

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Can you post a pic or two showing the lower trunk and graft? That might help people advise you. Did you buy this particular tree because of the leaf/flower/fruit type? If so, then you definitely don't want to chop below the graft.
 

Jessf

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I post a pic when I get a chance. I picked this tree simply because it was a crabapple. Leaf, flower and fruit weren't a high priority, though perhaps they should have been.
 

kevin

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I have a bunch of different varieties of crabapples, grown from cuttings and airlayers, growing in the ground, and I live in Canada! I live a couple hours east of Guelph, and you're right it has been a slow start to the season, by at least a month.
I would avoid using a grafted tree for bonsai, most crabapples when chopped back that hard will throw sucker shoots even from below the graft, these will be the understock, which may not have the same disease resistance, leaf or flower type, plus the graft union unless you grow it into a larger trunk tree will more than likely grow into a ugly bulge.
I've purchased grafted trees only to use them for airlayers, so I plant them in the ground and pre-wire branches while they are young. This gives them some nice movement early on, which is something also that you don't often find with grafted trees. As cutting or airlayers they grow extremely fast after being planted in the ground after a couple of years to get established, even faster, I would say, than the grafted trees. My airlayers in ground have caught up in trunk size after only three years to the parent tree, and while this might seem longer than just a quick trunk chop, you would be looking at the same time to develop your tree.
Hope this helps.
 

Jessf

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I have a bunch of different varieties of crabapples, grown from cuttings and airlayers, growing in the ground, and I live in Canada! I live a couple hours east of Guelph, and you're right it has been a slow start to the season, by at least a month.
I would avoid using a grafted tree for bonsai, most crabapples when chopped back that hard will throw sucker shoots even from below the graft, these will be the understock, which may not have the same disease resistance, leaf or flower type, plus the graft union unless you grow it into a larger trunk tree will more than likely grow into a ugly bulge.
I've purchased grafted trees only to use them for airlayers, so I plant them in the ground and pre-wire branches while they are young. This gives them some nice movement early on, which is something also that you don't often find with grafted trees. As cutting or airlayers they grow extremely fast after being planted in the ground after a couple of years to get established, even faster, I would say, than the grafted trees. My airlayers in ground have caught up in trunk size after only three years to the parent tree, and while this might seem longer than just a quick trunk chop, you would be looking at the same time to develop your tree.
Hope this helps.
Finally, another Canuck! lol. I've taken everyone's suggestions into account, and I've made my cut well above the graft. I want to see what happens. If I get some suckers below the graft I may cut the rest of the graft off. I'm not sure that the tree was of the dwarf variety as it was 10' when I bought it. Perhaps the root stock will grow as quickly as the top might. time will tell.
 

Jessf

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nope!

maybe this weekend. I have to keep my trees at my parents house as they're the only people close enough with a large enough backyard.
 

Jessf

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bud confirmed!





I find it hard to tell from the photos where the graft union actually is, and where this bud is in relation to it.

ang thoughts on that? can anyone tell?
 
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rockm

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It's a nicely done graft, but the union is kind of obvious. See the circular (ish) pruning scar on the right side of the trunk--near where your pic of the new bud is? There's only half a scar there. The graft union runs through the scar and down a bit in front.

FWIW, trees are usually grafted to hold scions (upper grafted portion) of a more ornamental or fruiting variety than the stock (lower, rooted portion). There is no point economically in grafting the same species onto the same root stock. It would cost the nursery a lot more to make the same tree it could produce by simply planting it out and letting it grow for a few seasons.

There are SOMETIMES very different bark characteristics between the scion and stock of some grafted trees. That's not the case here. Whoever did the graft did a nice job. If this were my tree, I wouldn't really mind the graft since it's pretty incospicuous. I'd pay more attention to those ugly, disorganized surface roots. That situation will only get worse as time goes by.

Next spring, you might start reducing the rootmass. Apples are extremely tough and you can reduce their roots pretty drastically at first repotting. Some people even bareroot apples and reduce roots by 80 percent. That's a pretty drastic approach, though. Since you're new, you might want to take things a bit slower.
 

Jessf

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It's a nicely done graft, but the union is kind of obvious. See the circular (ish) pruning scar on the right side of the trunk--near where your pic of the new bud is? There's only half a scar there. The graft union runs through the scar and down a bit in front.

FWIW, trees are usually grafted to hold scions (upper grafted portion) of a more ornamental or fruiting variety than the stock (lower, rooted portion). There is no point economically in grafting the same species onto the same root stock. It would cost the nursery a lot more to make the same tree it could produce by simply planting it out and letting it grow for a few seasons.

There are SOMETIMES very different bark characteristics between the scion and stock of some grafted trees. That's not the case here. Whoever did the graft did a nice job. If this were my tree, I wouldn't really mind the graft since it's pretty incospicuous. I'd pay more attention to those ugly, disorganized surface roots. That situation will only get worse as time goes by.

Next spring, you might start reducing the rootmass. Apples are extremely tough and you can reduce their roots pretty drastically at first repotting. Some people even bareroot apples and reduce roots by 80 percent. That's a pretty drastic approach, though. Since you're new, you might want to take things a bit slower.

those three roots in front, yeah, they're going. I'm debating whether to apply a wire tourniquet above the 3roots, and bury the tree deeper to begin anew with the surface roots. I need to get a clearer picture of what the rest of existing nebari is doing before I make that decision. I may just clip the 3 roots and let the scars heal.

Is it too late in the season to plant in the ground? I'm zone 5a-5b.

My only concern with the graft is growing a consistent tree throughout. Because the union is as high as it is, I'm tempted to cut below the graft, but I'm unsure what root stock this is. If it's apple root stock, then I might be inclined to let it grow, cut the graft off, and end up with a consistent tree with no mystery branches.
 
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rockm

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The grat is not all that high on the trunk. It's definitely workable as is.

The straighforward approach that would allow you to keep the trunk (which has pretty decent taper that would be lost if you cut below the graft and would take another ten years to build back in) would be to just rub off new buds that develop below the graft mark. Work only the scion portion to develop your branches. There is plenty of room for branching above the graft line. The scion was grafted on for a reason, most likely because it has showier(or more reliable) flowers than the stock--typical for commerical crabs.

Just cut the ugly roots off. You don't need to be that gentle with an apple.
 
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