Giant sequoia pruning

Syedabrar

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I need some advice, as I am new to bonsai, I got this giant sequoia from a nursery online, I live in east coast, I want to create a bonsai out of it. I understand it will be years before it becomes a bonsai. But I want to start the wait in a good direction. Attached are the images. should I chop the trunk from the red mark and use the new growing bud as new leader? Or try to reduce the branches from the top and wait if it create any more new buds near bottom as there are not many branches. This is 36 inches in height and 1-1/4 trunk width, 8 x 8 root ball. Any suggestion are highly appreciated, also is it a right time to just put it in a bigger container without pruning any roots.6828F320-484F-4388-B9AA-B9133E7F6DD6.jpeg1A9DF327-7AEF-4EC8-B795-47A2F1171583.jpeg Thanks in Advance.
 

0soyoung

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Yah, I think that is where I would like to chop it too. But first, I would like to fiddle with the foliage to see how it 'paddifies'. Species with this thread-like foliage are usually treated by amputating thread tips as this is where the major auxin production occurs (the tips). One can also trim or thin out green threads to reduce density. Thus, once one understands how it works, one can tune the foliage appearance to their desire between a Brillo pad and floppy/dangling theads. I expect it to be similar to juniper foliage in this respect.

I would like to spend part. or even all of this coming season fiddling with the apical foliage to see how this works. I'd like to know if, say, mowing the apical foliage in spring produces any/some/lots of back budding on the trunk. I can try other things with the other apical branches as what I do to one largely won't affect the others. For me, it is worth 'wasting a season' this way. I mean, worst case, the trunk just gets a little thicker while I fiddle - right? On the other hand, you might be able to learn what you need to know before the summer solstice (to guide your future development plans) and proceed with chopping it, instead of waiting until spring 2021. If it will readily back bud, chopping ought to give you some more shoots below your planned chop site.

This brings us to the next big question. What kind of trunk are you wanting to make? Right now you have an arrow-straight trunk coming right out of the ground. When you chop it, you will still have an arrow straight trunk coming out of the ground, to that sprig of foliage just below where you are intending to chop. While it is young, you will be able to put some wire on it to direct it where you want the nest trunk section to be going - straight right/left/down/up or some kind of curvy line going right/left/down/up. The conventional thing would be to wire it up and continue the trunk vertical trunk line, but it will become tapering because the trunk below won't thick much at all until this shoot is nearly as thick. Doing anything else will make a rather odd looking trunk that is a cylinder that comes straight up out of the ground and then abruptly does something different. But, if you chop gives you more shoots below, you've got lots and lots of other possibilities, I think.

It looks to me that you 'up potted' this tree from its original nursery pot. That ought to be okay for another year or two. Hopefully you loosened the roots from the soil surface when you did this. Otherwise the roots may circle around and not grow into the new soil. At any rate, given what I advised you above, I would not attempt to repot it this coming spring. You could, wait another year or, repot after the coming summer solstice, say Aug/Sep 2020. Whenever you get up the nerve, I suggest that you do a half bare root (HBR) repot which is removing the nursery soil from only one side of the trunk. With most species one can just do a full bare root and the tree will be fine. But HBR is safer for all species.

So think about fiddle with foliage in spring and then doing a summer HBR. Chop spring 2021.

That is about as far as I can think it through with you now.
 

Syedabrar

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Thank you for taking the time and writing amazing suggestions. Really appreciate it. Since I am a beginner and I really like your idea of spending some or entire 2020 season while fiddling with the foliage and understanding how it behaves and grows, which will give me confidence in 2021 to decide if I have to chop it or see any other possibility.

Regarding trunk shape, if end up chopping the trunk, I would like to wire that new bud shoot just below the decided chop point and move it right or left and try to give a windswept movement.

The pot picture of this tree is the stock photo from online nursery. I will be receiving the tree in few days. And I don’t know if it is root bound or not. That I have to inspect once it arrives. Since it is winter and I will not do anything with roots or change the pot. As you suggested I will do HBR in aug/sep.

Really appreciate your ideas, it really helped me, I have got to know about more possibilities, before your reply I was only thinking of chopping it. Once I get the tree, I will add more clear pictures from all the angles.

thanks again.
 

Woocash

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This place really is a goldmine. Kudos @0soyoung. Some great advice about the benefits of patience there. I mean sure, chop the top, hope for buds and learn nothing (not aimed at you @Syedabrar, just beginner mentality in general). Alternatively, wait, tinker, watch and learn. It may be the only time for years you have the same quantity of foliage to mess around with.
 

PaulH

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While there are many, many tree species that can be made into nice bonsai, there is a good reason why you almost never see giant redwood bonsai. Not that many of us haven't tried in the past. They seem to always die back from any branch cutting and sometimes even from wiring. Coast redwood and Dawn redwood are much more suitable for bonsai.
If anyone can prove me wrong please post a photo.
 

Syedabrar

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@PaulH
I agree with you that it has high tendency to die back. People have tried with success. Below is one example from bonsai empire website.


 

rockm

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Your location is critical. If you are in areas that get a harsh winter such as Zone 7 and below, this species is going to die on you at some point, unless you have a frost-free or relatively frost-free overwintering location for it. If you're in the South, with warmer winters, hot humid summers don't do it any good either.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@Syedabrar
You found the "ultimate references" in that Craig Cousins, the artist in the Bonsai Empire article has (had) one of the best known sequoia bonsai. Notice, that neither the Bonsai Empire article, nor the giant-sequoia.com website mention "Trunk CHopping" a sequoia. I believe trunk chopping would be ill advised.

If your tree was mine, I would keep it tall, I would not attempt reducing the height as you initially proposed. They are giant trees, and even as bonsai tend to be large trees.

However if you do want to reduce the height, I suggest you "jinn" the top, rather than cut it off. Remove the bark from the point at which you intended to cut at, and strip the bark of upwards to the top.. Allow the created deadwood to dry out, then reduce and carve the deadwood feature to fit with the scale and design of your future tree. Initially start with deadwood feature being much longer than the design calls for, you can always reduce the deadwood later. It is difficult to add the deadwood back if you cut it too short initially.

The reason to create deadwood instead of a typical pruning chop is that the wound healing and growth pattern of sequoia is similar to juniper, and for that matter bald cypress, dawn redwood and coast redwood.

Flush cuts do not heal over very rapidly at all. Decades are needed. Slowly as the trunk expands, it may cover the wound where a branch or trunk was cut flush, but usually the wound remains. Callus does not roll over the flush cut the way it would in an apple tree or an oak tree. In junipers, we handle this by creating deadwood features, jin, as the wound would otherwise always be there, the tool marks of the flush cut stump always being a reminder that the "hand of man" was used to create the image. Deadwood features can be made to look natural enough that the "hand of man" is disguised. In bald cypress and dawn redwood, such flush cuts are carved deeper to create "uro" or hollows in the trunk. I haven't work with coast redwood, so I am not very familiar with their wound healing pattern, but because of their relationship with the others, I assume they respond like bald cypress and dawn redwood.

So if you do want to reduce the height, don't "trunk chop", instead create a long jin (deadwood feature).
 

Syedabrar

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Your location is critical. If you are in areas that get a harsh winter such as Zone 7 and below, this species is going to die on you at some point, unless you have a frost-free or relatively frost-free overwintering location for it. If you're in the South, with warmer winters, hot humid summers don't do it any good either.
I live in zone 6, and yes i have that in mind to overwinter this during harsh winter condition. Thank you.
 

Syedabrar

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@Syedabrar
You found the "ultimate references" in that Craig Cousins, the artist in the Bonsai Empire article has (had) one of the best known sequoia bonsai. Notice, that neither the Bonsai Empire article, nor the giant-sequoia.com website mention "Trunk CHopping" a sequoia. I believe trunk chopping would be ill advised.

If your tree was mine, I would keep it tall, I would not attempt reducing the height as you initially proposed. They are giant trees, and even as bonsai tend to be large trees.

However if you do want to reduce the height, I suggest you "jinn" the top, rather than cut it off. Remove the bark from the point at which you intended to cut at, and strip the bark of upwards to the top.. Allow the created deadwood to dry out, then reduce and carve the deadwood feature to fit with the scale and design of your future tree. Initially start with deadwood feature being much longer than the design calls for, you can always reduce the deadwood later. It is difficult to add the deadwood back if you cut it too short initially.

The reason to create deadwood instead of a typical pruning chop is that the wound healing and growth pattern of sequoia is similar to juniper, and for that matter bald cypress, dawn redwood and coast redwood.

Flush cuts do not heal over very rapidly at all. Decades are needed. Slowly as the trunk expands, it may cover the wound where a branch or trunk was cut flush, but usually the wound remains. Callus does not roll over the flush cut the way it would in an apple tree or an oak tree. In junipers, we handle this by creating deadwood features, jin, as the wound would otherwise always be there, the tool marks of the flush cut stump always being a reminder that the "hand of man" was used to create the image. Deadwood features can be made to look natural enough that the "hand of man" is disguised. In bald cypress and dawn redwood, such flush cuts are carved deeper to create "uro" or hollows in the trunk. I haven't work with coast redwood, so I am not very familiar with their wound healing pattern, but because of their relationship with the others, I assume they respond like bald cypress and dawn redwood.

So if you do want to reduce the height, don't "trunk chop", instead create a long jin (deadwood feature).
Thank @Leo in N E Illinois for your input, giant-sequoia website have a page for trunk topping, i have provided the link below.
I had the idea in the back of my head to jin the trunk, but i was not sure, how i should start the jin and which direction to start it with. I think with you guys help, i think i am getting into right direction and seeing more possibilities and designs. As @0soyoung advised to fiddle with this season and understand the tree growing pattern, then following season i would definitely think about creating a jin from the top to the point where i wanted to chop. But this thought process bring the question to my mind that, in the next season when i plan to create jin, what direction would that bud (the one below the red mark in picture) show grow? Will that become a leader? What direction i should grow this bud so if i Jin in future, how tree would look? I think may be this season monitoring the tree and doing nothing will help me understand it more. Thank you so much for your advise.
Link:
 

electronfusion

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Any updates? Did it get chopped, or partly jinned this winter? If neither, maybe you could "split the difference" between keeping/chopping the top, by vertically splitting it, and removing the side of the top that lines up with the first branch, but leaving the other side? That would add taper, deadwood, and leave at least one branch feeding the roots on the one side, and some other high branches feeding the roots on the other side.
 

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sorce

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Damn! Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
 

PA_Penjing

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A wooded lot in Exton PA?! I have good news, you can dig up an Eastern Red Cedar that looks very similar to that sequoia (and probably more branching) for free. It will be fully frost tolerant with similar folaige and growth habit without die back problems. AND it will be a frustrating lesser seen tree just like the sequoia haha. Just busting your chops of course, though what I said is true. If you have this species because it means something special to you than ERC won't scratch that itch. I have a friend who spent decades tissue cloning giant sequoia for his yard and couldn't get them to survive here. Maybe you can come up with a winter set up that works but the odds are stacked highly against you. I say go big or go home, chop the thing and see what you can do while it's green.
welcome to the site, happy to see the influx of PA enthusiasts
 

PA_Penjing

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I hope that commet above is taken in good spirits. I spent years trying to grow south eastern trees and was met with lackluster growth and results. Our climate is fairly unique to our area. Very hot summers and very cold winters. Far as I can tell, the mid atlantic/northeast US is only similar to central/northern china.

Obviously we can grow trees from all over the world but heat stress and cold tolerance needs to be considered every day of the season that isn't similar. Same with rainfall and humidity. Personally phasing out anyhting not native to my area, invasive to my area, or growing in super similar clients elsewhere. I know it sounds boring but it works well for me.
You aren't me, that's just me trying to help you in case you are "like" me
 

Ruddigger

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Your location is critical. If you are in areas that get a harsh winter such as Zone 7 and below, this species is going to die on you at some point, unless you have a frost-free or relatively frost-free overwintering location for it.

Giant Sequoia grow high in the mountains. They arent frost free in nature, they grow in zones 6-8, with heavy snow.
 

PA_Penjing

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Giant Sequoia grow high in the mountains. They arent frost free in nature, they grow in zones 6-8, with heavy snow.
That's the crazy part. My first thought is that the heavy blanket of snow actually insulates the roots, and then maybe being in a pot exposes the fragile roots, similar to how trident are zone 5 trees with fragile roots in zone 6 pot culture. BUT my friend Patrick's trees would all die in the winter despite being planted in the ground. On top of the fact that I have never in my life seen a Giant sequoia planted in PA, NJ or NY. California is a lot more temperate than the East coast typically, the swings aren't as dramatic. That's the only thing I can figure at this point. If there was a way to grow Giant sequoia here I have to imagine someone would have figured it out by now.
 

PA_Penjing

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Also of note.. Sierra Nevadas are potentially drier (humidity wise). These trees can be grown in the Czech Republic where winters get cold but their summers aren't nearly as hot as our PA summers (more temperate) trees take a beating in the summer, and then take a cold wet beating in the winter. A wise man once said when a tree dies in winter, figure out what went wrong that summer
 

LittleDingus

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That's the crazy part. My first thought is that the heavy blanket of snow actually insulates the roots, and then maybe being in a pot exposes the fragile roots, similar to how trident are zone 5 trees with fragile roots in zone 6 pot culture. BUT my friend Patrick's trees would all die in the winter despite being planted in the ground. On top of the fact that I have never in my life seen a Giant sequoia planted in PA, NJ or NY. California is a lot more temperate than the East coast typically, the swings aren't as dramatic. That's the only thing I can figure at this point. If there was a way to grow Giant sequoia here I have to imagine someone would have figured it out by now.

Are any of these near you?


I don't know how well curated that list is but some of those trees are small...some more substantial.

Mine are currently sitting outside in what is left of a little snow. They sat outside all last winter as well. They do come into the garage if it looks like we're going to get ice just to try and prevent some breakage. They've seen as low as 5F so far this winter. Last winter I think they saw a little colder for about a week.

If you look carefully at the lower branches to the right, that's ice coating them.

20210126_145828.jpg

I don't for a minute claim KC winters are as severe as Pennsylvania winters. For starters, it rarely stays below freezing for more than a week at a time here. Mine are also pretty well out of the wind. They are just set on the ground in grow bags, not healed in. I would guess the biggest winter hazard is dehydration. If the ground stays frozen for too long they might not be able to move water back up into the branches...especially if there is a strong, dry northerly wind. I usually water mine about every other week during the winter as long as the temps are above freezing.
 

Ruddigger

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That's the crazy part. My first thought is that the heavy blanket of snow actually insulates the roots, and then maybe being in a pot exposes the fragile roots, similar to how trident are zone 5 trees with fragile roots in zone 6 pot culture. BUT my friend Patrick's trees would all die in the winter despite being planted in the ground. On top of the fact that I have never in my life seen a Giant sequoia planted in PA, NJ or NY. California is a lot more temperate than the East coast typically, the swings aren't as dramatic. That's the only thing I can figure at this point. If there was a way to grow Giant sequoia here I have to imagine someone would have figured it out by now.

Peter Chan (for better or worse,) has a huge one on his property that he planted in the ground many years ago.

I have one I’m growing in ground in the LA area, I’m hoping it can survive my warm winters. It’s been 2 years, and so far so good, but who knows long term.
 

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