Dawn redwood ... opinions wanted

daudelus

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I have a dawn redwood volunteer seedling that I had been allowing to grow in its original spot for a couple seasons... some animal chewed it down to a nub last winter, so I dug it up and replanted it in a growing bed with some better compost... it has recovered from being an animal's meal well...
IMG_1431.JPG IMG_1432.JPG

You can see it is barely a half inch in diameter, and I plan to grow it out for several years in the ground. Because of the animal pruning, it has forked into two leaders...
My question to others would be... if this was your tree, would you introduce any movement in the trunk with wire while it is young, or would you keep it growing in a formal upright manner and work only on building a realistic taper? Also, regardless of the direction chosen, it seems best to eliminate one of the leaders, right?
I'm leaning toward a fairly straight trunk.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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It is young tree, infinite possibilities, each choice made now will limit future possibilities, until there's only one logical style to go with.

Dawn redwoods are very fast growing, easily 24 to 48 inches of additional height in one growing season. It won't take long to thicken the trunk (s). They lend themselves to formal and informal uprights. But most styles, except maybe cascade, are possible.

Dawn redwood is difficult to keep shohin size, best or at least easier closer to 3 feet tall when "finished", 2 to 5 feet is a doable range.

So what do you want?
Formal upright - single trunk, perfectly straight, no bends, all chop scars must be invisible from the front. A difficult style to do well.

Informal upright- put the bends in now while young, exaggerate them as when trunk thickens they will be less noticable.

Twin trunk, multiple trunks, dawn redwood can do this, can be tricky to do well. Subordinate trunks need to be noticably smaller in diameter, and either a third or two thirds the height of the main trunk. Wire in bends early, but remember all trunks need to look like they belong together. The forces of nature that bent one also bent the others.

If it were mine I'd go for informal upright, single trunk, and let it grow until diameter of trunk is over 3 inches, then chop it to 4 to 6 inches tall, then let next segment grow out until 2 inches diameter, then chop to 2 to 3 inches taller than first segment. "Build a Bonsai" 101.

Because dawn redwoods grow so fast, this detailed process can go quickly, 5 years you can have a decent tree.

For models to use as design templates,
the oldest dawn redwoods I've seen look like dry land bald cypress. Any style that a bald cypress or coast redwood can do can be done by dawn redwoods.
 

GGB

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I started pruning mine into a formal upright, my only formal actually, it was doing really well with it. But when I moved and dug it up it had a MASSIVE forked taproot. Cutting off 80/90% of the roots lead it to grow pretty slowly this year. I recommend digging it up every two years and managing those roots. lateral ones will give you flare and prevent you from having to weaken the tree with a drastic root chop.
 

daudelus

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I started pruning mine into a formal upright, my only formal actually, it was doing really well with it. But when I moved and dug it up it had a MASSIVE forked taproot. Cutting off 80/90% of the roots lead it to grow pretty slowly this year. I recommend digging it up every two years and managing those roots. lateral ones will give you flare and prevent you from having to weaken the tree with a drastic root chop.
Do you think planting it on a piece of tile would help also?
 

daudelus

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It is young tree, infinite possibilities, each choice made now will limit future possibilities, until there's only one logical style to go with.

Dawn redwoods are very fast growing, easily 24 to 48 inches of additional height in one growing season. It won't take long to thicken the trunk (s). They lend themselves to formal and informal uprights. But most styles, except maybe cascade, are possible.

Dawn redwood is difficult to keep shohin size, best or at least easier closer to 3 feet tall when "finished", 2 to 5 feet is a doable range.

So what do you want?
Formal upright - single trunk, perfectly straight, no bends, all chop scars must be invisible from the front. A difficult style to do well.

Informal upright- put the bends in now while young, exaggerate them as when trunk thickens they will be less noticable.

Twin trunk, multiple trunks, dawn redwood can do this, can be tricky to do well. Subordinate trunks need to be noticably smaller in diameter, and either a third or two thirds the height of the main trunk. Wire in bends early, but remember all trunks need to look like they belong together. The forces of nature that bent one also bent the others.

If it were mine I'd go for informal upright, single trunk, and let it grow until diameter of trunk is over 3 inches, then chop it to 4 to 6 inches tall, then let next segment grow out until 2 inches diameter, then chop to 2 to 3 inches taller than first segment. "Build a Bonsai" 101.

Because dawn redwoods grow so fast, this detailed process can go quickly, 5 years you can have a decent tree.

For models to use as design templates,
the oldest dawn redwoods I've seen look like dry land bald cypress. Any style that a bald cypress or coast redwood can do can be done by dawn redwoods.
I think I'm leaning toward formal upright... it's not something I have done previously...
 

GGB

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@daudelus planting on a tile is ALWAYS a great idea. I hate to admit that I don't do it as often as I should. My growing bed is completely over run so sometimes I have trouble digging a big enough hole haha. Looks like you have plenty of room in your growing bed, for now
 

GGB

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P.S glad to see your basil looks as shitty as mine haha. I've noticed that mine gets some kind of fungus the last few years. Weather here is crazy lately huh
 

daudelus

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P.S glad to see your basil looks as shitty as mine haha. I've noticed that mine gets some kind of fungus the last few years. Weather here is crazy lately huh
It gave us a lot of pesto this year! I haven't been diligent about trimming it back, so it flowered and looks like crap!
 
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clevetromba

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Do you think planting it on a piece of tile would help also?
I've had good luck developing nebari by planting on a tile. Also, you could build a cage over it with chicken wire or hardware cloth. In my yard the deer and ground hogs are ruthless so i keep all my trees inside a 7 foot tall fence with my vegetable garden.
 

Vance Wood

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I think I'm leaning toward formal upright... it's not something I have done previously...
I am sure at some point beyond where I have interjected this the subject may be approached. However addressing this when the idea is hot is better than wading through a bunch of stuff that distracts me. So----here it is for better or worse. The formal upright tends to be very poorly done and carelessly thought out. A formal upright by definition of the style must have a straight trunk, and in my research of the style any deviation form the parameter automatically puts the tree into the informal upright; it's kind of like putting a pig in a tuxedo. Most attempts at the FU at best look like a classic Christmas tree. This is OK if this is what you want but if you are looking for art it is unacceptable due to boredom. Most FUs have branching that is too long making the trunk look like a telephone pole or in most cases a flag pole.

This is where the illusions of bonsai techniques come into play. A formal upright to be artful and beautiful must have a dominating trunk made to look large with branches that reflect the age of the tree you are trying to represent. The branches should be ramified like you would see on the ends of a mature tree, that droop downwards as pulled by gravity, weather and their own weight. The horizontal spread of these branches at the longest, should not exceed two to three times the width of the trunk. This is what creates the illusion of age. Long branches mean young trees, short and ramified branches mean old centurion trees. This is the conundrum with this tree. It is my understanding that Dawn Redwood does not take kindly to being cut back to anything but lignified wood. This means that you have to really become serious about how to treat the tree in the beginning as to how you continually force the growth into the center of the tree.

I have not grown a Dawn Redwood so I cannot speak from experience but what I have posted above is true which should show you what you are up against. Keeping the tree tight and compact may become a problem. Also-----light exposure is in many ways important to the development of a particular style. Some trees will become leggy and limp, as the example in the beginning of the post, without a decent amount of sun exposure. I understand the circumstances of the tree's existence but at some point it will be necessary to do something more than think about it. Turning dreams into reality is the focus of bonsai.
 

KiwiPlantGuy

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I think I'm leaning toward formal upright... it's not something I have done previously...
Hi Daudelus,
I have some experience in Dawn Redwoods and these grow like mad and "back-bud" like Amazingly crazy. So trunk chops and regrowing branches is relatively easy.
Hope that helps
Charles
 

Vance Wood

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Hi Daudelus,
I have some experience in Dawn Redwoods and these grow like mad and "back-bud" like Amazingly crazy. So trunk chops and regrowing branches is relatively easy.
Hope that helps
Charles
I hope this is accurate because the information I got was the total opposite. You have to know your sources and lacking any personal experience, I quoted here information that was probably third generation from an erroneous original source.
 

coh

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I have about 11 dawn redwood plants growing out in pots and the ground, to use for a group planting eventually. I've been working on some of them for 5 or 6 years and am getting close to the point where I can start developing branches and dig them to transition to the container. What I've found is that, at least while they are relatively young, they will readily bud all over the trunk. When I chop I usually will cut just above an existing branch that can be used as the new leader as I feel that is safest, but they'd probably bud out below most any chop site.

As for formal uprights...I'm not sure how strict the "perfectly straight" requirement really is. I've seen trees that were categorized as formal upright (in exhibition books) that had some movement in the trunk, especially higher up. Maybe a purist would argue those weren't formal uprights but I would disagree, and anyway it's just a label - who really cares? If the tree feels like a formal upright, then to me it's a formal upright. I don't really go around to shows and categorize trees that way, I look to see if a tree invokes some kind of feeling and that's what matters to me.
 

GGB

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Yeah my experience has been you can chop the things to inches above soil level and they'll bud up like a maple or elm and just regrow. Mine are young too though, maybe that slows with age
 
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