Help with American Hornbeam

Gurudas

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Hello everyone! I recently acquired 2 AHs that are currently in 7 gallon nursery pots. They are large and have pretty nice nebari which cannot be seen on the photos. I intend to grow these as medium to large trees eventually. I was advised on another forum to gradually reduce them. I was told that reducing them all at once would send out vigorous shoots. I replied by asking why that would not be desirable at this time especially since I would still be building the trunk at this time but I haven't gotten a response yet.

Please educate me and share your knowledge. Thank you!
 

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Leo in N E Illinois

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The answer lies in the question, how large do you want your hornbeam trees to become? The final height you envision, will determine the diameter of the trunk you need. If you need to increase diameter of existing trunks, then cutting back at this time would slow the increase the diameter of the trunks.

If the diameter of the trunks you have are adequate for the finished sizes you envision, then it would be appropriate to begin serious pruning.

So what do you want? and what do you have ?
 

Gurudas

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The answer lies in the question, how large do you want your hornbeam trees to become? The final height you envision, will determine the diameter of the trunk you need. If you need to increase diameter of existing trunks, then cutting back at this time would slow the increase the diameter of the trunks.

If the diameter of the trunks you have are adequate for the finished sizes you envision, then it would be appropriate to begin serious pruning.

So what do you want? and what do you have ?

Thanks, Leo! The base is roughly 2.5 inches. I am planning to have a tree somewhere around 18-24" which means that the base should be 3" to 4" to follow the 1:6 ratio.

What about all the multiple trunks that I have going up. Should I go ahead and pick one, maybe 2, and prune the rest and start on building the trunk line at this time?
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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You are at 2.5 inches, I would just wait until you had trunk diameters over 3.5 inches. Then you can start. They will increase in diameter some after you start training, but it is best to get within 10% or so of your goal. The thickening of the trunk slows dramatically once you begin pruning.

So just let them go another year or two and see where you end up.
 

Zach Smith

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Hello everyone! I recently acquired 2 AHs that are currently in 7 gallon nursery pots. They are large and have pretty nice nebari which cannot be seen on the photos. I intend to grow these as medium to large trees eventually. I was advised on another forum to gradually reduce them. I was told that reducing them all at once would send out vigorous shoots. I replied by asking why that would not be desirable at this time especially since I would still be building the trunk at this time but I haven't gotten a response yet.

Please educate me and share your knowledge. Thank you!
What you were told is correct, however, you need to decide what size tree (meaning trunk base) you want. If you bought these trees because the trunks were big enough, then it's time to chop and root-prune. If you only chop, all that root mass will work hard to rebuild all that top you cut off and you'll end up fighting it all season long. By balancing top and bottom, you can manage the vigor of the new shoots you get and can create the design you want when the tree backbuds (hopefully in good spots).

If you want a larger trunk base, then the trees will need to go in the ground as they won't thicken much in those pots. That's a whole other strategy, of course.
 

Gurudas

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You are at 2.5 inches, I would just wait until you had trunk diameters over 3.5 inches. Then you can start. They will increase in diameter some after you start training, but it is best to get within 10% or so of your goal. The thickening of the trunk slows dramatically once you begin pruning.

So just let them go another year or two and see where you end up.
Got it. Now, would it be wise to take off a little from the top to send some vigor to the lower branches?
 

Gurudas

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What you were told is correct, however, you need to decide what size tree (meaning trunk base) you want. If you bought these trees because the trunks were big enough, then it's time to chop and root-prune. If you only chop, all that root mass will work hard to rebuild all that top you cut off and you'll end up fighting it all season long. By balancing top and bottom, you can manage the vigor of the new shoots you get and can create the design you want when the tree backbuds (hopefully in good spots).

If you want a larger trunk base, then the trees will need to go in the ground as they won't thicken much in those pots. That's a whole other strategy, of course.
Putting them in the ground is starting to look like the best way to go at this time especially since I can’t touch the roots now and I’m still wanting a bigger base.

Thank you, Zac!
 

Zach Smith

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When you put them in the ground, be prepared to wait a few years before they take off and start giving you the thickening you want. It'll happen, though.
 

Gurudas

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When you put them in the ground, be prepared to wait a few years before they take off and start giving you the thickening you want. It'll happen, though.
Wow, that long? I may just keep them in the pots or up-pot them just in case we end up moving. Thanks, Zac!
 

Zach Smith

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Wow, that long? I may just keep them in the pots or up-pot them just in case we end up moving. Thanks, Zac!
Most folks expect that when they put a tree in the ground, it immediately explodes with growth and thickens up in a couple of years. I have found that the old adage, "first year sleeps, second year creeps, third year leaps" also applies to ground growing for bonsai.
 

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That's exactly what I was expecting. I guess like other things, you gotta wait when it comes to accomplishing good things. Thanks for the warning!
 

Pitoon

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You can always leave it in the pot and place it in a spot in your yard and leave it there. Eventually the roots will escape out from the drainage holes and progress into the ground. If you move you just cut the escaped roots and take the tree and pot with you.
 

Zach Smith

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I would caution against planting the tree in the ground in its pot. Once the roots escape, the tree will more or less abandon the feeders in the pot since it can free range. If you later come along and cut those escaped roots, you stand a good chance of losing the tree altogether if you don't remove it from the pot right away and allow it to grow new feeders. This is not a convenient way to ground-grow and then transport to a new home.
 

Pitoon

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Direct planting into the ground or leaving in a pot would be no different in terms of letting the roots free range. If in the ground the feeder roots will not be near the base. They'll be at the ends of the roots which are typically out to the edge of the canopy.

The key thing is to cut the roots and pull the tree while it's dormant. Doing so while leafed out will stress out the tree. Though American hornbeam is a fairly tough tree. I would rather cut escaped roots from a pot than dig up a tree from the ground, but that's just me.

I just pull 50 or so American hornbeam several weeks back. More than half did not have feeder roots when i pulled them, just a long tap root. The tap roots where cut and the saplings where planted. All leafed out except 1 which could have already been dead.20190324_174835.jpg20190427_111436.jpg
 

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Gurudas

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Wow, nice find!

I may try your idea, Pitoon

Direct planting into the ground or leaving in a pot would be no different in terms of letting the roots free range. If in the ground the feeder roots will not be near the base. They'll be at the ends of the roots which are typically out to the edge of the canopy.

The key thing is to cut the roots and pull the tree while it's dormant. Doing so while leafed out will stress out the tree. Though American hornbeam is a fairly tough tree. I would rather cut escaped roots from a pot than dig up a tree from the ground, but that's just me.

I just pull 50 or so American hornbeam several weeks back. More than half did not have feeder roots when i pulled them, just a long tap root. The tap roots where cut and the saplings where planted. All leafed out except 1 which could have already been dead.View attachment 240607View attachment 240608

Wow, nice find! I like your idea. I may try it as it will make it very convenient to pull them.
 

Gurudas

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I would caution against planting the tree in the ground in its pot. Once the roots escape, the tree will more or less abandon the feeders in the pot since it can free range. If you later come along and cut those escaped roots, you stand a good chance of losing the tree altogether if you don't remove it from the pot right away and allow it to grow new feeders. This is not a convenient way to ground-grow and then transport to a new home.

Your idea also makes sense. Maybe a happy comproybetween the two ideas would be to use root-pruning grown bags.
 

Zach Smith

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Direct planting into the ground or leaving in a pot would be no different in terms of letting the roots free range. If in the ground the feeder roots will not be near the base. They'll be at the ends of the roots which are typically out to the edge of the canopy.

The key thing is to cut the roots and pull the tree while it's dormant. Doing so while leafed out will stress out the tree. Though American hornbeam is a fairly tough tree. I would rather cut escaped roots from a pot than dig up a tree from the ground, but that's just me.

I just pull 50 or so American hornbeam several weeks back. More than half did not have feeder roots when i pulled them, just a long tap root. The tap roots where cut and the saplings where planted. All leafed out except 1 which could have already been dead.
I'm not saying that hornbeams or any other deciduous trees come with feeder roots when you lift them; in fact, I say often on this forum that just the opposite happens, you don't get true feeders anyway, and they aren't needed. What I am saying is that planting a (large) tree in a pot in the ground is not a good strategy if the idea is to lift it and move houses with the tree neatly in its pot again. Why? If you've ever lifted a large tree that has had its roots escape from its pot then you know that the tree needs to come out of the pot right away and have its large supporting roots cut back in order to allow for proper recovery. The large roots sprout from the cuts ends. So if you lift a tree in a pot from the ground, you have to be prepared to finish the job of cutting those large roots back right away or you risk losing the tree.
 

Pitoon

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I'm not saying that hornbeams or any other deciduous trees come with feeder roots when you lift them; in fact, I say often on this forum that just the opposite happens, you don't get true feeders anyway, and they aren't needed. What I am saying is that planting a (large) tree in a pot in the ground is not a good strategy if the idea is to lift it and move houses with the tree neatly in its pot again. Why? If you've ever lifted a large tree that has had its roots escape from its pot then you know that the tree needs to come out of the pot right away and have its large supporting roots cut back in order to allow for proper recovery. The large roots sprout from the cuts ends. So if you lift a tree in a pot from the ground, you have to be prepared to finish the job of cutting those large roots back right away or you risk losing the tree.
Now I understand what you meant. I fully agree with you. If you do that route you need to be prepared to act quickly.

I was refering to leaving the tree in the pot, but leaving it on the ground. Not necessarily digging a hole and putting the tree and the pot into the hole.
 

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