Fatty Podocarpus, or "don't laugh at my (dead)wood"

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Hildale, UT, USA
For the record, that...ahem...deadwood in the front was there before this podocarpus came to me. It feels a bit immature of me (which I NEVER am) to point it out but hey, I figured a preemptive strike is usually the best tactic.

Anyway, on to the tree.

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I did some conservative trimming today to expose the lower trunks. This has grown very densely under bright LED's. Here is an alternative front:

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^^^ I like this side because it displays all of the trunks, and shows the best movement in the leftmost trunk. The lowest branch on the left, by the way, is coming from the trunk behind that one.

Here are a few more views:

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^^^ Here you can see one of the hardest challenges with this tree. There is a large trunk right in the middle that very quickly subdivides into four smaller sub-trunks - three of them going straight up the middle of the clump and the fourth...well, that's the one sticking out the side there. I can't decide whether to cut off everything and carve the main trunk down more or less, or just cut off two of the remaining sub-trunks and keep the other. With that option, the center would be somewhat congested, but removing everything I am afraid might leave it looking awkwardly hollow in the middle, and violate a cardinal rule by leaving an even number of trunks.

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^^^ The back seems pretty busy and uninteresting...but maybe another alternative front?

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^^^ This side is a bit strange, with the back-left trunk curving toward the front, and no branches on the outside profile above those first two.

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^^^ This could even work for a front, except that one of the larger trunks is hidden from view, right in the middle.

I am really itching to get a first styling on this guy. But then, I kind of want to wait until I move closer to a local club to get some in-person help. Does anyone feel inclined to give me a push in any particular direction?


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Leo in N E Illinois

Imperial Masterpiece
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on the IL-WI border, a mile from ''da Lake''
Well, outside of the zone 9 and warmer "tropics", you normally do not see Podocarpus with such dense foliage. Excellent. You have the unusual problem of too much to work with rather than the common problem of having not enough there to work with.

My eyes kept getting confused trying to trace out trunks to figure out what your best lines would be. If this were mine, I definitely would want to find a way to use more of what you have rather than prune away too much. A clump style is the route I would go. Definitely keep an odd number of trunks. In general the trunks to keep will be the outside trunks. BUT if your largest trunk is in the middle, you might want to keep it.

Because my "old eye" can not make sense of the photos, I strongly suggest you keep this healthy until you can get it in front of someone with more experience, and an hour or two of time on their hands. There is a lot to sort through. So I would consider waiting until you could bring it to a club meeting, especially if you have a club with some high caliber bonsai artists.

Definitely, most of the keepers will be on the "outside" of the clump. But you will need to take your time, and use a piece of chalk. Practice marking the trunk lines to keep. Try to visualize the trunks to remove. A piece of cloth draped over or around the trunk you want to remove will help you visualize it. Mark with chalk. Erase chalk marks, mark up again in a different arrangement. Figure it out. With that dense a branch structure don't expect good suggestions from photos on the internet. This one needs to be seen in 3D.

Draw, play with photo editing. Contemplate. Do no cutting for several months. Either get help, or wait until a plan becomes obvious.

I have a boxwood that sits on my bench. I did some pruning 10 years ago. I still have not figured out the next move. Eventually I will prune it again. In the mean time, every month or two I take a serious look at it. I move around the tag that marks the possible front. In time inspiration will eventually come. I have enough other trees I can set it aside and forget about it to let it grow and develop character on its own. Point of the digression is, many people will sit on a piece of material for a year or two or more, before deciding what the style should be. Move too quick and you will regret it.

Dense, bushy podocarpus are not common once you get north of Florida.


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Eugene, OR
Personally would try to reduce to 3 trunks preferring outer most crooked of distressingly straight ones obvious in pictures. Dead stub might have been interesting trunk if still alive.
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