Help! Goshiki (false Holly) ramification process

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I've spent several hours trying to find when it would be a good time to start cutting unnecessary branches... And couldn't find squat!

The tree that I purchased a few days ago is in bad need of trimming. There are a ton of locations that have multiple branches coming from the same location. At least 25 spots with 3 or so small branches coming out of one spot.

It has one main trunk, then a 2nd trunk that comes off just above the trunk. At this point I'm not sure if the 2nd trunk will be a part of the grand scheme, but for the time being it will stay to help build a decent flare.

The underline question is: when would be a good time of year to start removing unwanted branches?

Also, when can I defoliate? How many times a year will I be able to defoliate?

The plant is very healthy, spitting out a ton of new growth
 

0soyoung

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This is an unusual selection for bonsai, so you are not likely to find any bonsai-guidance. People use this osmanthus as a hedge, so you can probably trim it back just about anytime from April to September. Likewise, removing branches that would/will be creating knobs can be done just about anytime during the growing season.

Trimming/cutting back when the new shoots are green or fading to green will have the most impact for stimulating back budding. As a broad leaf evergreen, the best time to defoliate is early spring (as buds swell) just before new leaves start to emerge (they will be pushing off the old ones anyway) - this is also a good time for root work.

Likely about now would be a good time for def0liation. HOWEVER, I suggest that you only defoliate one of those branches you're planning on removing. Branches are largely autonomous (meaning they live/die pretty much independent of any other branch). Make a note of when you defoliate that one branch and then make a note-to-self of how long it takes for new leaves to emerge and whether you actually get more shoots or only more leaves. With acer palmatums, for example, it can take 6-8 weeks to get new leaves and one will get only new leaves - the branch must be decapitated to get new shoots. Satsuki azaleas and boxwoods, on the other hand, will generate more shoots (ramify) without decapitation.

Later, say in August, you can try defoliating your test branches again to learn how your osmanthus will cope another defoliation. Many species will cope with this by producing another flush. Some with just set buds and won't flush until next year, and on some this will be fatal (kill the test branch in this case).

Then, having done this homework, next year you can defoliate, set the structure for your tree, and even repot it if needed. Then you will want to give it some time to recover, and next May-ish can use your prune/trim/defoliate knowledge to begin to sculpt the tree you want to create.

On the other hand, if you just want to get on with it and aren't worried by the prospect of killing this tree, cut all the leaves off now by cutting through the petiole or base of the leaf if there isn't a distinct petiole on this variety (the bud at the base of the leaf may be damaged or pulled off otherwise), remove branches so that there is only two per node, remove any other branches that are not essential to your design, and trim the keepers to the appropriate lengths. Then, spend the next few weeks anxiously waiting for new shoots and/or new leaves or to learn that you just killed the tree.

Either way you learn something. This is gardening. This is bonsai.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Help me out, what Genus and Species are we talking about? I don't speak Japanese and know of at least 5 plants from 5 different genera that are called "False Holly"

Oops - just noticed Adair mentioned Osmanthus, that is one of the genera that I know is called False Holly. Ok, I know which species Adair is talking about, never mind, I'll go back in my corner.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Based on the clue provided by Adair, it is Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki'
with "Goshiki" being the cultivar name for a variegated clone. It could also be called the Holly leaved Osmanthus.
I wager the '8' means it is suggested for USDA hardiness zone 8, which is what most references list. Some suggest it might be hardy into zone 7, I don't know, haven't tried.

As soon as I saw Adairs post I realized I knew what it was.

I have Osmanthus fragrans, also known as sweet olive or fragrant olive. It is a houseplant, because the large leaves and leggy growth pattern does not lend itself to bonsai. I love the scent of the flowers. Yours should have similar sweet smelling flowers, probably in autumn. Adair's post has given me some ideas, I need to revisit the idea as whether this should remain a house plant, or "move to the bonsai bench".
 

Cypress187

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I think u need to do other stuff before u can rammify. Like the nebari (train the roots for bonsai pot), create taper (chop) after that u can develop primairy branches.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Cypress 187 gave you the right "to do list"

If it were mine, I would work the nebari first. Move it to a larger, shallow pot, no more than 4 inches deep, but large enough to hold more than twice the media of the current pot. I would transplant it, and work the nebari. But don't remove any of the foliage. Well, the only foliage removal I would do is remove all the trunks, except one. So in the last photo, the smaller trunk coming out of the soil on the right I would remove. Trim off any roots going straight down. Remove crossing roots that might later be exposed. No matter how "cool" the nebar looks today, plant it deep enough in the pot that the nebari is buried. You will raise it later. You want future surface roots to develop, and they develop best if at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the soil surface.

I often use an Anderson flat, 15 x 15 x 5 inches, and will only fill the flat with 3 or 4 inches of bonsai potting media.

After the repot, leave it alone. By leaving the majority of the foliage intact, the tree will be forced to make a larger roots system. You want it to colonize the entire tray, or pot, with roots. The larger the root system you develop now, the more vigor the tree will have in responding to pruning and styling next year and down the road. If you chop back foliage hard now, it won't build the larger root system, and responses to pruning will be less vigorous.

If your final vision is shohin, you might get away with a smaller pot, and harder pruning, but for anything larger than an 8 inch tall tree, I think if you let it develop a large wide root system first, you will more quickly get to the point where you can prune the roots and put it in a bonsai pot. Remember, most bonsai displayed at shows, probably spent 75 to 90 % of their life in large training pots, boxes or flats. A tree in training for 25 years may very well have spent 22 years in a big training flat, and only the last 2 or 3 years in a bonsai pot developing the final ramification. Putting anything into a bonsai pot dramatically slows down growth and reduces vigor. Quickest route is to keep it in big training pots.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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When I say leave it alone after repotting, I mean no further pruning or other work until late summer 2017 or better early spring of 2018. Seems a long time, but letting it recover and develop roots first will give you MUCH better response to pruning later. Well worth the wait. You want to see vigorous, bushy growth. If you don't see that, wait another year.

Do fertilize fairly heavily starting pretty soon after repotting. This will help with getting bushy, vigorous growth.
 

0soyoung

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@Leo in N E Illinois, how do you secure a tall tree/shrub like this in an Anderson flat? I imagine it is a mystery for @Dorky_gearhead at this point. And what works best to sit the flat upon so that the bottom is off the ground/bench to do its job of air pruning roots?
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@Osoyoung - good question

Anderson flats are fairly rigid, but they are plastic and will flex. Other similar flats or nursery trays are often more flexible. I usually make 2 loops of wire, coming up through the bottom mesh on either side of the "solid" section that Anderson's have for support in the center. You could put a rectangular piece of plywood or something between the wire and the bottom of the flat to give reinforcement. You don't cover the whole bottom with the plywood, just a section between the uprights of the wire. For an Anderson flat, I don't use plywood, they are stiff enough, but other containers that flex, might need to be "stiffened up". If the container flexes, each time it does it will break newly developing root tips. If you use a "bag type" nursery pot, or thin flexible containers, only move them around when frozen solid or the flexing can kill enough roots to damage the tree.

It is important to wire your tree down so it is stable and can grow new roots without the new tips being broken by the container flexing, or jostling, or the container being tossed around.

I keep my Anderson flats on a bench, that is slats, so the bottom is exposed to some air. On the ground, roots can escape, which can be surprising when you go to move the flat.

If flat is on the ground, the worms, and other critters will crawl in and out, usually not a bad thing, but "less controlled" than what most growers like. Off the ground, on cement blocks, a shelf or other method gives better growth. If air can get to underside, it will "air prune" roots, so the bottom side of root ball will have fine roots in addition to the top and sides.
 

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