Field growing question

daniel

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When doing this on deciduous trees (stewartia, japanese snowbell, beech, hornbeam, maple), should one chop the tree every year to promote trunk thickness and low branch production or should I let it grow and grow and...? Thoughts and pointing me to any previously written articles on the subject would be appreciated! Thanks!

Daniel
 

Smoke

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I could write a book about field growing and the prattfalls of doing such...so rather than me write that amout of text, it might save more time by asking why you wish to field grow?

I mean the easy answer to your question is no, do not chop every year. That doesn't answer your question very well.

It also might serve alot to tell us a little about your bonsai experience as far as trees you now have, how long you been doing bonsai, and your ability in making trees from scratch. The answer to "those" questions will provide the information on moving forward with field growing.

Al
 

subnet_rx

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I would assume you would get the maximum amount of trunk growth from not doing anything to it. Of course, you may want to thin some branches or do other pruning maintenance when it comes to the general health of the tree.
 
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When doing this on deciduous trees (stewartia, japanese snowbell, beech, hornbeam, maple), should one chop the tree every year to promote trunk thickness and low branch production or should I let it grow and grow and...? Thoughts and pointing me to any previously written articles on the subject would be appreciated! Thanks!

Daniel

No, you do not chop every year, nor by any schedule.

Typically a tree is left in the ground until the trunk reaches the desired thickness, then it is chopped down to about 1/6 of the estimated finished height. This is based on a 6/1 ratio and may vary, depending on your personal desires. After this first chop, the tree is allowed to grow out once again until the new leader almost reaches the diameter of the trunk. At this time the new leader is chopped back and the process starts again. For broom styles, one waits until the new branches have thickened enough and then they in turn are cut back.

Here's the catch, during the waiting, every two years or so, the tree should be dug up, the roots trimmed back and worked on, and the tree replanted. This will slow the growth of the upper part, but failing to do this will lead to a tree that will need serious root work, just like a collected tree. balancing this out will enable easy lifting and a shorter time period from ground to bonsai pot.

Also, most growers will keep the tree at a manageable height, not allowing much growth over 6'

This can be time consuming, I have about 500 pines in the ground, I have to admit that they are in need of some work. I hacked back half last year, down to the lowest branch, these will need root management this year and the other half will need hack backs. Already a few have gotten away from me, they will make nice landscape trees. ;)



Will
 

TheSteve

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It really depends on the tree. You prune to induce taper or change direction of the trunk. If there is a suitable candidate for a leader (that is one whose diameter is enought to support the tree) then cut back. You'll also want to cut the leader back at this time as well. If you plant on a tile or somesuch then you won't actually have to lift the tree just ring it with a sharp shovel. There's alot to field growing and it's an incredible amount of work if you do it in any volume. I did root work on a couple hundred trees today with more than that on their way next weekend.
 

daniel

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I could write a book about field growing and the prattfalls of doing such...so rather than me write that amout of text, it might save more time by asking why you wish to field grow?

I mean the easy answer to your question is no, do not chop every year. That doesn't answer your question very well.

It also might serve alot to tell us a little about your bonsai experience as far as trees you now have, how long you been doing bonsai, and your ability in making trees from scratch. The answer to "those" questions will provide the information on moving forward with field growing.

Al

I want to do it for several reasons--first, it will allow me to space out my trees in terms of timing. I also don't mind the wait. We're only talking 5 trees here, no 'volume' by any means. Second, I really like to create something out of nothing. That, to me, is one of the really cool aspects of bonsai. Third is cost and availability. I'm not in to spending several hundred dollars per tree when I could do the same given a few years, some intense studying and help from the local club's 'elders.'

I guess I would be considered a 'newbie' by most. I've read volumes and have tinkered with trees for the past 5 or so years. Learned by killing and mangling many in the process. I haven't had much experience in working with a more experienced person, though. This has caused some weakness in my abilities, specifically the finer points like more intense branch ramification, nebari, etc. I'm learning more everyday by reading here and other sites, however.

At least that's a beginning. It's 3am here, I'm up for the Chinese GP (i'm a nut for that too), so I may not be thinking too clearly...:p

Daniel
 
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It really depends on the tree. You prune to induce taper or change direction of the trunk. If there is a suitable candidate for a leader (that is one whose diameter is enought to support the tree) then cut back. You'll also want to cut the leader back at this time as well. If you plant on a tile or somesuch then you won't actually have to lift the tree just ring it with a sharp shovel. There's alot to field growing and it's an incredible amount of work if you do it in any volume. I did root work on a couple hundred trees today with more than that on their way next weekend.

True, the techniques vary with species, you certainly do not want to cut back a pine below branches ;) Each tree is different, and each needs to be treated according to its own growth and needs. Spading works well and is a good quick way to hack back roots> Lifting allows you to flatten the root system, cut crossed roots, and remove thicker roots where needed. Of course it takes longer for full growth to kick in as opposed to spading. Circumstances dictate what is best for which trees and for your own schedule. Personally, I work my ground growing trees so that I do not have to "collect" them but instead, simply transplant them.
 

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True, the techniques vary with species, you certainly do not want to cut back a pine below branches ;) Each tree is different, and each needs to be treated according to its own growth and needs. Spading works well and is a good quick way to hack back roots> Lifting allows you to flatten the root system, cut crossed roots, and remove thicker roots where needed. Of course it takes longer for full growth to kick in as opposed to spading. Circumstances dictate what is best for which trees and for your own schedule. Personally, I work my ground growing trees so that I do not have to "collect" them but instead, simply transplant them.
Wish there was a in depth larger (or many smaller) articles on the different species and methods ;)
 

daniel

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I realize (and have read, some multiple times :p) that there are articles that go in depth on specific species of trees. That's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for specific instructions on field growing, ie/ step by step. I know there will be some variances, but for most deciduous, there is a core regimen that most will follow. That's what I'm looking for.

Daniel
 

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I want to do it for several reasons--first, it will allow me to space out my trees in terms of timing. I also don't mind the wait. We're only talking 5 trees here, no 'volume' by any means. Second, I really like to create something out of nothing. That, to me, is one of the really cool aspects of bonsai. Third is cost and availability. I'm not in to spending several hundred dollars per tree when I could do the same given a few years, some intense studying and help from the local club's 'elders.'

I guess I would be considered a 'newbie' by most. I've read volumes and have tinkered with trees for the past 5 or so years. Learned by killing and mangling many in the process. I haven't had much experience in working with a more experienced person, though. This has caused some weakness in my abilities, specifically the finer points like more intense branch ramification, nebari, etc. I'm learning more everyday by reading here and other sites, however.

At least that's a beginning. It's 3am here, I'm up for the Chinese GP (i'm a nut for that too), so I may not be thinking too clearly...:p

Daniel

Okay this may not sound right but I'll do my best. Growing five trees in the ground to get killer expensive trees is like trying to win the lottery without buying a ticket. I used to think the same way. Since I've been given the opportunity to help out with a friends tree farm I've found that not all trees are created equally. There are over 20,000 trees there. maybe 200 will ever be "world class". many more will be very good trees and several will be burned. Some of those trees will have 10 years of effort or more into them. I'm probably off on my assesments but what I'm trying to say is the odds aren't there with 5 trees. To get great roots, proper taper, survive the brutal processes they have to go through, and heal over without rotting makes for pretty shakey chances.
 

daniel

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Okay this may not sound right but I'll do my best. Growing five trees in the ground to get killer expensive trees is like trying to win the lottery without buying a ticket. I used to think the same way. Since I've been given the opportunity to help out with a friends tree farm I've found that not all trees are created equally. There are over 20,000 trees there. maybe 200 will ever be "world class". many more will be very good trees and several will be burned. Some of those trees will have 10 years of effort or more into them. I'm probably off on my assesments but what I'm trying to say is the odds aren't there with 5 trees. To get great roots, proper taper, survive the brutal processes they have to go through, and heal over without rotting makes for pretty shakey chances.

Woah, woah, woah...I'm not saying that they're going to be "world class" or "killer expensive." So, what you're basically saying is fork over the bucks, it's not worth trying to make your own? Not to sound harsh, but I'm not looking for perfect, but to put in my best effort in trying to "create my own" bonsai tree from a young tree. This is why I was asking for tips on field growing, because I want to do what is necessary (like planting on a tile, creating nebari by the tourniquet method, etc.) to create the best tree I could. Sure I could pay someone to filter trees out and find the perfect tree for me, have the nebari made for me by root pruning every 2 years, etc. But that's not too much fun in my mind. I'm much more of a hobbyist than that. I'm a tinkerer. I like to work on something and put it aside. If mother nature chooses not to let my tiny effort of 5 trees not work, then so be it.

I also have the benefit of a club that has cuttings/saplings/various states of trees going at any one point in time. At this point, they just don't have any hornbeams, zelkova or beech. For some reason, I'm curious about trying to grow some of these out.

Is this "impossibility" what most people see? Or, are there hobbyists like me out there that have made something like my endeavor work?

Daniel

PS--Unless I buy a share of someone's crop of trees, I can't manage many trees at once, as I have a medical condition that limits the amount of physical labor I could do.
 

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I'm not in to spending several hundred dollars per tree when I could do the same given a few years, some intense studying and help from the local club's 'elders.'
Daniel

This might be where I got that impression. Don't get me wrong any tree will be better for being in the ground awhile but these trees that cost several hundred dollars cost that for their attributes and hundreds died to whittle down to those trees. That's all I meant.
 
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Great stock, unless collected, all started in the ground at one time. Technically, so did every piece of collected stock.

I differ with TheSteve's numbers, there are Japanese growers who produce high quality stock on a consistent basis. So much so that it has been said that they burn lessor quality trees other than to release them on the market and drive prices down.


Will
 

JasonG

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I think what TheSteve is trying to say is not every tree you plant in the ground will have the attributes to become bonsai. Not every tree can become bonsai, as not every person can become a doctor.

When growing in the ground you will get some that just die, you will have some that critters will kill and you will have some that won't respond to heavy prunning and they will die. Want to kill tridents in the ground? Prune heavily in spring when rain is forcasted...kills them everytime. Prune them in summer and all is good.

At the farm we do have 20k+ trees in the ground, all on tiles for flat root systems (we produce killer root systems) and we do burn quite a few trees per year that just don't have what it takes to be good bonsai.

Field growing is not as easy as one thinks, it is expensive to do and a huge amount of work. Steve is finding this out first hand, it is not that much fun.

I say plant your trees and have fun, just don't expect them to all make it to bonsai. Nature has a way of messing with your plans, loL!!

Jason
 

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I differ with TheSteve's numbers, there are Japanese growers who produce high quality stock on a consistent basis. So much so that it has been said that they burn lessor quality trees other than to release them on the market and drive prices down.
Will

Yeah, the Japanese burn trees too....it is the same as here, except they really produce killer trees, while in America we are way behind what the Japanese can do in a field. We are learning though, and Oregon Bonsai has made some strategic partnerships recently with regards to field growing and species matched to certain artist's. The level bar has been raised.

Steves #'s are pretty close.....

Jason
 

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I want to do it for several reasons--first, it will allow me to space out my trees in terms of timing. I also don't mind the wait. We're only talking 5 trees here, no 'volume' by any means. Second, I really like to create something out of nothing. That, to me, is one of the really cool aspects of bonsai. Third is cost and availability. I'm not in to spending several hundred dollars per tree when I could do the same given a few years, some intense studying and help from the local club's 'elders.'

I guess I would be considered a 'newbie' by most. I've read volumes and have tinkered with trees for the past 5 or so years. Learned by killing and mangling many in the process. I haven't had much experience in working with a more experienced person, though. This has caused some weakness in my abilities, specifically the finer points like more intense branch ramification, nebari, etc. I'm learning more everyday by reading here and other sites, however.

At least that's a beginning. It's 3am here, I'm up for the Chinese GP (i'm a nut for that too), so I may not be thinking too clearly...:p


Daniel

That seems to be a good way to look at it. Just remember that everything you do in bonsai, making bonsai from nursery material, making bonsai from collected material, or making bonsai from field material will only be as good as the ability you posess at any given moment in time. In other words it takes a really great artist at making bonsai to be a discriminating artist at growing bonsai. Growing good material makes use of the same basic functions of making good bonsai from nursery material. The only difference being that the chopping process you talk about will be able to begin on the nursery material given it's larger size, while the chopping process on your field grown material may be three to five years in the future, and be limited by what you grew out.

15 years ago when nurseries in my neck of the woods still had 10 gallon San Jose junipers I could spend all day looking thru blocks of 100 plants and still never find a plant to buy. I still do that every time I go to Muranaka's in Nipomo, Ca.

Also remember that as you get better what you thought was good 3 years ago will seem immature and juvinile now. You will have put three years growth into something that you were not ready to do. This is all with the intention of making something really good so if you don't care so much about that, then I say just have fun and plant some stock and learn by doing. That is sometimes the best teacher anyway.
 

daniel

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Also remember that as you get better what you thought was good 3 years ago will seem immature and juvinile now.

This is the absolute truth. I am at this point now. I would like to think I'm pretty good at visualization--seeing the "tree within." It's the small things like jason said about not pruning tridents before it rains in the spring, that's what I need to learn. I'm learning a lot of things like this on nearly a pretty daily basis by reading articles.

I want to clarify something. When TheSteve points out that "I wanted to grow a tree worth hundreds of dollars..." what I was meaning was growing (according to one field-grower I've seen) a "stump in a squat pot." In the beginning, I'm looking to grow a trunk and roots. That's what I have learned to focus on. Once the trunk and nebari are complete, branches can and will come.

Back to the original focus of this post--can someone point me to a complete article or write up of field growing for amateurs? :rolleyes:

Daniel
 

TheSteve

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I hope my posts didn't put a damper on things here. I did say and still say trees are better off in the ground. The techniques do vary from tree to tree and it would be hard to just post a over all care plan but if you remember to prune for a change in direction or to promote taper you won't go too wrong. The tree will make it fairly obvious but should it not then just pick a leader. If there aren't any obvious reasons for one over another then it doesn't matter which one anyway. Don't visualize a grand scheme but work with the tree as it develops. You may prune it back to a certain branch once only to have it pop a bud you like better a couple years later and you'll change it all over again. Be as fluid with your design as the tree is.
 
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