Japanese Maple: Buds breaking and need to do some culling

Dr3z

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So spring arrives late here but the hot weather this past week has finally encouraged my trees to truely wake up. My Japanese Maple particular has several buds that I belive need to go. I'm minimally thinking or removing 1, 2 and 3 (the second pic from above shows a 4th bud emerging from this same area, confusingly nber 5). I worry this cluster will cause an unsightly bulge and most of these buds will ultimatly have no future. Similar #4 in the 3rd picture while in an area that might benefit from more structure seems a poor angle even to correct and so I plan to remove. Any additional advise regarding removing or leaving spring buds?
 

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Deep Sea Diver

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Nice trunk!

It would seem now would be a good time to ensure your long term design goals are in concert with all the growth off the central trunk, not just a couple buds. Imho there are several branches that might be reduced or just pruned off at this point.

In other words what do you want this tree to look like as a finished bonsai… what can go, what should be tapered more… etc…

cheers
DSD sends
 

Shibui

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Definitely need remove most of those buds but I also agree that there is much more structural work needed in this tree.
Allowing extra shoots to grow does not build structure. Removing long internodes and regrowing with shorter internode shoots is what will allow you to build better structure.

Bud 4 is growing from the base of a junction that already has 4 branches growing, 3 of them appear to have been wired! and all have the typical fast grown JM long internodes. Multiple branches from one place and long internodes are both going to give you further grief in future.
As much as possible reduce shoots to 1 leader and one side branch, very occasionally a second side branch might be needed. Allowing more will quickly cause local swelling and that happens far quicker on JM than most species.
Long internodes don't seem too much of an issue initially but later you'll want more side branches to fill out structure and new buds can't grow in between nodes so density is limited when structure is made with shoots having long internodes. You may get away with branches like that on larger size bonsai but for smaller trees density is important.
Typical spring JM growth has long internodes. Well fed, esp high N produces long internodes. If necessary cut long internode shoots close to the base later in spring. Second shoots usually have shorter internodes so make better structure. Occasionally even second shoots are long and I've had to cut back again to get better structural growth.
It may seem counterproductive to prune off new growth but sometimes stepping backwards is the best way to get where you want to be.
 

sorce

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I don't think there's much you can do to "fix" this tree, reckon the genes are broken.

How long have you had it?

I have a hard time believing whoever got it to this state was a blind moron (literally what it would take), seems much more like a very uncooperative tree, aka "shitty growth habit".

The "read" is quite telling.

Looks like someone tried again and again for good forks, proper nexts, and just never got em.

I reckon you and Ole' Stubby may have to come to an agreement.....
Either embrace the ugly, deeply.

Or shtick it in the yard.

SGH is real.

Trees with SGH are THE pig you can't lipstick, THE unpolishable turd.

I have a ficus and an elm with SGH, these are alternate and I feel like getting rid of them.

Swear I seen a Maple on here before with suspected SGH and being opposite, hopeless.

Borers on this tree be singing 50cent songs like, "you can find me in the club".

Sorce
 

Deep Sea Diver

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I concur it’s a bit off the beaten path….…Yet for a first effort, practice tree it’s perfect!

….and…it’s not a stick in the pot! It’s strong, beefy, needs lots of improvement. These may take a number of years to gain looks, but lots of learning right at hand.

If it were here, the first thing we’d be looking at is fixing the nebari/reducing some top hamper…. Reckon in Quebec and from the photos it’s just the right time slot to do these tasks.

best
DSD sends
 

Dr3z

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...but I also agree that there is much more structural work needed in this tree.
Allowing extra shoots to grow does not build structure. Removing long internodes and regrowing with shorter internode shoots is what will allow you to build better structure.

Bud 4 is growing from the base of a junction that already has 4 branches growing, 3 of them appear to have been wired! and all have the typical fast grown JM long internodes. Multiple branches from one place and long internodes are both going to give you further grief in future.
As much as possible reduce shoots to 1 leader and one side branch, very occasionally a second side branch might be needed. Allowing more will quickly cause local swelling and that happens far quicker on JM than most species.
Long internodes don't seem too much of an issue initially but later you'll want more side branches to fill out structure and new buds can't grow in between nodes so density is limited when structure is made with shoots having long internodes. You may get away with branches like that on larger size bonsai but for smaller trees density is important.
Typical spring JM growth has long internodes. Well fed, esp high N produces long internodes. If necessary cut long internode shoots close to the base later in spring. Second shoots usually have shorter internodes so make better structure. Occasionally even second shoots are long and I've had to cut back again to get better structural growth.
It may seem counterproductive to prune off new growth but sometimes stepping backwards is the best way to get where you want to be.

So I very much agree with this, but I feel like I need way more guidance to be successful.
  1. Last year the spring internodes were insanely long. At what point do you suggest cutting them back, now already as they are emerging? As the buds break you can often make out 2-3 sets of leaves, should I (as soon as I can recognize this) cut back to the final set and then decide later in the season if there is an opportunity to reduce back farther?
  2. The bolded point I'm acutely aware of but not confident on the next step. Knowing this I wired more branches than I anticipated keeping too at least correct the branch directions and create a fan canopy in an approximate broom style that would give me options I could reduce later. The problem is that it doesn't address the swelling issue which is already evident (I've labelled what seem the most problematic sites as A, B, C and D.)
A) Would you consider removing any of these? I don't see much of an opportunity here. This main branch forks 3 ways: First up (?) this is the most likely candidate for removal as there is a branch that can be seen from the aerial shot that could fill out this area...although perhaps it should go before that first branch (both have ? to them). The second fork turns forward and the last is to the left before turning up but neither of these is contributing to A so I could not imagine removing them at this stage (both have checkmarks).​
a) I missed the bud there but I already removed it once I saw the picture.​
B) This is probably the biggest opportunity. This happened as the branch that had the most promise did not progress well last season and was overtaken by that season's development. Perhaps I should have prevented that but the new branches appear to have more of a future. Still, it sounds like I should reduce the 4 branches here to 1 of the more central or perhaps 2 at either extreme to create a for out of the knob? I might need to add a picture for this.​
C) While there is an ugly terminal knob here I'm actually inclined to keep both small branches as the directions make some sense and some trimming of the knob's deadwood has improved the aesthetic some.​
D) Again, 4 Branches here. Sounds like I should reduce to 1-2. Had new growth do better than old-growth last season but it appears this might be a recurring problem if my JM is a jerk like that. Same as with B I think I keep either the most central or two on either end to create a fork? The aerial shot shows this fairly well.​
@sorce
It's far from a perfect tree but this is only my second year with it and it has some qualities I thoroughly enjoy including its chunky truck when the canopy hides some of the problematic branching and swelling. Its genes are I suspect somewhat uncooperative, I definitely struggled with a number of things over the last year but I'd still like to work with it. I wouldn't want someone to give up on me so easily :p
 

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sorce

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I wouldn't want someone to give up on me so easily

Amen!
I regularly probably wouldn't assume someone with an avatar like that may have not gotten a joke, or read something wrong, but I've had a morning investigating what was either a robber or a child vandalizing our house last night, shit got me a bit shook, in investigative mode and shit....feel like explaining....

Just to be clear....(shelves the disabled kids analogy for the others)...

I wouldn't want to get rid of it either, but it's kinda like how no one gives up on the slow kid at school, but expecting they can catch up on regular st....nah...

You can't cure cancer with heart surgery....

Maybe that's safe...no! No analogies are safe anymore!

I basically want you to eliminate the possibility of it having SGH, so if it doesn't, I put can get on with it! Though, I fully embrace the ugly, specially this one, that is also why I speak so much. I like it. "Hey you guys" and all!

Sorce
 

0soyoung

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My quick take is that you don't have a vision of what you are trying to guide this tree into being = what is your vision? Are you trying to make a shohin? Are you trying to make a 'sumo'? Are you trying to make a graceful feminine, almost literati tree as is often done with acer palmatum? Just what is it going to be?

It is evident that you are aware of the two dimensional nature of your tree and have wired all the newer branches orthogonal to that plane. Good, but this is sheer you are stuck = now what?


I struggled for a long time trying to identify why I liked the bonsai I liked. Most had three basic features in addition to an apex:
  1. a low branch on the left
  2. a low branch on the right
    1. The lower one is heavier/thicker
    2. They both come forward making a roughly 120-degree angle - reminiscent of grandma's open arms.
  3. a branch in back
    1. To produce a sense of depth.
Faking perspective is a key part of the game, so one wants branch 3 to be relatively thin and with shorter internodes. It helps to have this branch go nearly straight back as this will make the internodes seem shorter.

So, in offering you another way of approaching this, I think you should choose the view from the top of this photo as the front. You have a heavy low branch on the right (in this photo, but which will be on the left when viewed from the front that I am suggesting). The one on the (to be) right is higher and lighter. Both already come forward as I would like to the suggested front. Presently, there is nothing to serve as branch 3, but don't worry about it for now because it could be grown (from a bus or a graft) later.

The elephant in the room, IMHO, is what is the rest of the trunk going to be (how does it get an apex)?

I see that it now has sort of a true segment with three or four shoots that you've wired up. Is this where you want it to be or do you envision a branch or branches here and the actual apex being higher? An alternative is that angle thing to the left (in the referenced photo). You could still force some more movement into it now and steer it into the trunk line you would like to see. Were this your choice, it might be best to get rid of the segment with 3 or 4 shoots now and face the music that the would will never 'heal' over --> simple solution is to have it face toward the back which is just a simple adjustment in positioning the front view.

Etc., etc., ...

It is always difficult to decide what you should do next when you have no idea where you are wanting to go.
 

Shibui

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Last year the spring internodes were insanely long. At what point do you suggest cutting them back, now already as they are emerging? As the buds break you can often make out 2-3 sets of leaves, should I (as soon as I can recognize this) cut back to the final set and then decide later in the season if there is an opportunity to reduce back farther?
Long internodes on JM is a common thing, esp on vigorous spring shoots but long internodes make terrible branching so you really do need to remove shoots with long internodes. Most beginner material and teachers talk about cutting new shoots back to the first leaves. I always remove long internodes and if the first internode is long then I cut back close to the base. No reason why we must cut to first or second nodes. JM buds equally well from the base of any shoot. Sometimes the second shoot also has long internodes and I cut again
OR defer trimming until after the vigorous spring surge is past. Growth after the initial spring surge tends to be less vigorous.
Also try reducing fert through the spring growth surge. Both these factors will help reduce the strength of shoots and you should get better shoots with shorter internodes.

We can get away with longer internodes on larger trees but the smaller the bonsai the more important close nodes become. Whatever you do you'll still need to remove all shoots with long internodes whether they are new spring shoots or older growth from last year. Don't worry, JM are really god at new shoots and will sprout from the nodes at the base of any branch/shoot no matter if it is a month a year or more.

The bolded point I'm acutely aware of but not confident on the next step. Knowing this I wired more branches than I anticipated keeping too at least correct the branch directions and create a fan canopy in an approximate broom style that would give me options I could reduce later. The problem is that it doesn't address the swelling issue which is already evident (I've labelled what seem the most problematic sites as A, B, C and D.)
There's no problem wiring more branches than required to see how they develop provided you don't keep them all too long. I frequently retain 2 shoots for up to a year until I see which looks better. More than 2 is just being greedy though and will cause problems quicker. Get rid of some as soon as possible.
Any fan canopy or broom style will be made from more branches that grow from subsequent nodes. Better options develop sequentially rather than all at once from one spot.
Not sure what shape you anticipate this tree taking in future. Fan or broom does not seem appropriate to me for the trunk you have but you may have a different interpretation of those terms. The trunk is really interesting. It deserves a good set of branches and canopy that matches and compliments that chunky, quirky little trunk.
 

Dr3z

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My quick take is that you don't have a vision of what you are trying to guide this tree into being = what is your vision?
Very true. A chunky shohin to be sure...perhaps not quite a sumo but in the same spirit.
It is evident that you are aware of the two dimensional nature of your tree and have wired all the newer branches orthogonal to that plane. Good, but this is sheer you are stuck = now what?


I struggled for a long time trying to identify why I liked the bonsai I liked. Most had three basic features in addition to an apex:
  1. a low branch on the left
  2. a low branch on the right
    1. The lower one is heavier/thicker
    2. They both come forward making a roughly 120-degree angle - reminiscent of grandma's open arms.
  3. a branch in back
    1. To produce a sense of depth.
Faking perspective is a key part of the game, so one wants branch 3 to be relatively thin and with shorter internodes. It helps to have this branch go nearly straight back as this will make the internodes seem shorter.

So, in offering you another way of approaching this, I think you should choose the view from the top of this photo as the front. You have a heavy low branch on the right (in this photo, but which will be on the left when viewed from the front that I am suggesting). The one on the (to be) right is higher and lighter. Both already come forward as I would like to the suggested front. Presently, there is nothing to serve as branch 3, but don't worry about it for now because it could be grown (from a bus or a graft) later.

The elephant in the room, IMHO, is what is the rest of the trunk going to be (how does it get an apex)?

I see that it now has sort of a true segment with three or four shoots that you've wired up. Is this where you want it to be or do you envision a branch or branches here and the actual apex being higher? An alternative is that angle thing to the left (in the referenced photo). You could still force some more movement into it now and steer it into the trunk line you would like to see. Were this your choice, it might be best to get rid of the segment with 3 or 4 shoots now and face the music that the would will never 'heal' over --> simple solution is to have it face toward the back which is just a simple adjustment in positioning the front view.

Etc., etc., ...

It is always difficult to decide what you should do next when you have no idea where you are wanting to go.
This post gave me quite a bit to ponder.

I do hope to heal the wound a bit more if I can, additionally this is the most logical place I can envision an apex coming from.

I suggest removing any of the red x marks pictured. Turning the tree as you suggest this includes the first brach of A in large part because it conflicts with the angle of "grandma's left arm - viewers right".

From B where I hope to heal the wound and gain an apex I'm suggesting removing 3 of the 5 branches keeping the most forward facing and second from the back.

From D I plan to remove the forward two branches as they are closest to "grandma's right arm - viewers left" and risk of intersecting with it.

Does this seem a reasonable plan? Teal coloration suggests this year's growth.
 

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Dr3z

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Long internodes on JM is a common thing, esp on vigorous spring shoots but long internodes make terrible branching so you really do need to remove shoots with long internodes.
Last year this was very apparent and problematic.) I will reduce as soon as they emerge enough to have a clear view and reduce to the last pair of leaves.

Fan or broom does not seem appropriate to me for the trunk you have but you may have a different interpretation of those terms. The trunk is really interesting. It deserves a good set of branches and canopy that matches and compliments that chunky, quirky little trunk.
*sigh* I think I was just trying to cobble together a more defined canopy; in retrospect my terminology was poorly applied.
 

Shibui

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*sigh* I think I was just trying to cobble together a more defined canopy; in retrospect my terminology was poorly applied.
Don't think you are special. Most beginners, me included many years ago, race to get a finished canopy as soon as possible with no real regard to branch structure or possible consequences. It is only years after that the problems manifest and knowledge gained with hindsight.
I will reduce as soon as they emerge enough to have a clear view and reduce to the last pair of leaves.
Please note that I frequently remove new shoots to the base = no leaves if the first node/leaves are too far out. I have just begun winter trimming here and have still had to remove entire shoots that had long first internodes. I know shoots will emerge from the base in spring.
I suggest removing any of the red x marks pictured.
Does this seem a reasonable plan? Teal coloration suggests this year's growth.
Shots marked X probably should be removed. Hard to really get best idea of where they start and directions from photos.
The problem I see is that the shoots you have not marked for removal all still have very long first internodes. Keeping these will severely limit future ramification as new buds only grow from nodes where leaves were.
Some of the long internodes marked here.
Jm long internodes.png

You do not have to follow my advice or anyone's if you are not comfortable with it but I would completely remove all this? year's shoots unless one of them has a node within 1/2 inch of the base or 1/4 of total main trunk height. all appear far too long to develop good branch structure for this sized bonsai.
 

0soyoung

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Rambling a bit, but the following are my thoughts (chronologically!).
From B where I hope to heal the wound and gain an apex I'm suggesting removing 3 of the 5 branches keeping the most forward facing and second from the back.
I'm looking at this, the second pic. Even though this is looking down on the tree, this is approximately 'the front' that I am suggesting as the existing scar is not visible. You can angle this cut so that it too will face to the back and hence, not be visible. However, don't do out now as the foliage on this is your main driver for closing the big wound until such time as your next trunk section has gotten a lot ticker than it is now (about 3 years + or -). The branch on the right, below this that you intend to keep is positioned as an eye-poker right now - it isn't a big deal at this point; just have a plan of how you are going to fix it in the future if not now.

Moving Tom your photo D, I've represented this eventual cut as a purple line. I've also circled a branch/shoot that I believe it's part of this 'sacrifice' that you should keep in the interest of trying to over-grow that big wound. sumuMaple1.jpg I would get rid of the branch/shoot I circled in yellow so don't see it don't anything for you. This and your 'X's leaves just one shoot (sweeping left and up in this pic) to be your apical trunk section, I think. So, you want to let this shoot grow unabated so that it thickens and eventually will drive growing over the wound.

The problem, though, is that the first node on this shoot is so far away that it is out of the picture! As @Shibui has been pointing out, you desperately need a 'shorter' internodes here - it would be difficult to solve this problem with grafting, IMHO. In my climate benefits acer palmatum will produce three flushes a season. I cut back about the end of May and again in August. I can count on producing short internodes being produced in the fall flush. So, I suggest that you let this shoot (and all the others that you intend to replace) go until the latest time you can and still get a late season flush then cut it just short of that 'knob' it is coming from. Presumably you'll get two shoots with short internodes from the origin of this problem. After leaf-drop, wire one to be your new apical trunk section and remove the other. Those internodes will be the same length forevermore, so next year again let it grow unimpeded.


Now my thinking is going back to the purple line cut. I'm asking myself, "why do I want to keep that?" Most of the goodies from the foliage go along the underside, so I don't think it will be that effective in growing over that wound. Why don't I just partially cut if off now, by sawing about 2/3 the way through from the top. Apply my favorite cut paste over the exposed cambium and leave it for next summer to finish removing it. Eventhough in making the cut so the wound won't be seen, keeping that cambium line underneath will assure that I don't wind up with N ugly line of die-back down the trunk (I'll name-drop Ebihara, if that makes any difference).
 

0soyoung

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Dr3z

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View attachment 437423

You do not have to follow my advice or anyone's if you are not comfortable with it but I would completely remove all this? year's shoots unless one of them has a node within 1/2 inch of the base or 1/4 of total main trunk height. all appear far too long to develop good branch structure for this sized bonsai.
Haha you are right in that the thought of taking too much off scares the heck out of me but I see your point and I can get behind removing everything in stages that has a long internode ... which happens to be much of the tree.
Rambling a bit,
I followed, rather insightful.
The branch on the right, below this that you intend to keep is positioned as an eye-poker right now - it isn't a big deal at this point; just have a plan of how you are going to fix it in the future if not now.
Given it has long internodes I'm considering it might not have a long term future...I'm planing on angling it forward and up to support the short term asethics of creating the illusion of a canopy and apex. While it does that I hope it helps overgrow the wound.
Moving Tom your photo D, I've represented this eventual cut as a purple line. I've also circled a branch/shoot that I believe it's part of this 'sacrifice' that you should keep in the interest of trying to over-grow that big wound. View attachment 437426 I would get rid of the branch/shoot I circled in yellow so don't see it don't anything for you. This and your 'X's leaves just one shoot (sweeping left and up in this pic) to be your apical trunk section, I think. So, you want to let this shoot grow unabated so that it thickens and eventually will drive growing over the wound.
I left the yellow for the time being but i figure it can go at any time now that the swelling should be better controlled. You mention it not having a future, I'm hoping to better understand why. Is it the skyward angle or internode?

The purple cut terrifies me still at this point but really helps be in gaining long term vision for this tree. Particularly as the lower brach thickens then these two lines take away from one another.

I cut back about the end of May and again in August. I can count on producing short internodes being produced in the fall flush. So, I suggest that you let this shoot (and all the others that you intend to replace) go until the latest time you can and still get a late season flush then cut it just short of that 'knob' it is coming from. Presumably you'll get two shoots with short internodes from the origin of this problem. After leaf-drop, wire one to be your new apical trunk section and remove the other. Those internodes will be the same length forevermore, so next year again let it grow unimpeded.
This tree has been a little uncooperative in this regard so I keep getting twigs on a chunky trunk as I reset each year but knowing more now I will try this in a couple places. Unfortunately I misunderstood your advice did my cuts now. That said I'll use this season to better note when I get my last flush. I'm not certainly I'll get 3 this season especially with late spring but at least I know what I'm looking for rather just going with the flow. I also took off the circled purple branch as I read it as part of the cut line. I felt like it was competing with eyepoker visually, not quite intersecting but going close. So missed the boat on that.
Now my thinking is going back to the purple line cut. I'm asking myself, "why do I want to keep that?" Most of the goodies from the foliage go along the underside, so I don't think it will be that effective in growing over that wound. Why don't I just partially cut if off now, by sawing about 2/3 the way through from the top. Apply my favorite cut paste over the exposed cambium and leave it for next summer to finish removing it. Eventhough in making the cut so the wound won't be seen, keeping that cambium line underneath will assure that I don't wind up with N ugly line of die-back down the trunk (I'll name-drop Ebihara, if that makes any difference).
Is there any downside to leaving this until the lower branch thickens up at all?

I've attached updated pictures of the "progress" after removing many of these branches.
 

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0soyoung

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Is there any downside to leaving this until the lower branch thickens up at all?
The downside to keeping a branch is that it tends to get thicker.
The upside, is that it feeds the roots on that side of the tree as well as the tissues in between.

I think what you've done is fine. It keeps the tree alive while eliminating much of your troubles.

What you 'desperately' need to figure out is how do you create short internodes?
  • If you get buds from the pruning you've done, you could try pinching out the central shoot as soon as you see the two new leaves.
    • Otherwise, let it grow and complete the first flush (will keep the tree healthy and strong). Then try this pinching on a few of the second flush shoots when they emerge.
  • Then, cut back a few branches to a leaf pair (a node with foliage) sometime in late-summer/early-fall.
By leaf drop this fall you will know how to do it, if it can be done. If it cannot be done, you simply figure out a plan to make a bigger bonsai.
If it can, you'll be one giddy guy! :D🙃:D:cool:




The purple cut terrifies me still at this point but really helps be in gaining long term vision for this tree.
It should, IMHO.

Carbs flow down the tree in the inner bark along lines somewhat like a thick fluid poured on the outside would ooze down the stems. When you cut off something this thick, there's nothing left to supply the part of the tree immediately below the cut. The wound can wind up going a long way down the trunk and could even starve the roots to death that are immediately below. The smaller branch below is forward and I doubt enough to assure that this won't happen. So I suggested that you consider only sawing part way through (ala Ebihara) this season or next or whenever you've decided to do it. This keeps the auxin and carbohydrate flow going down the tree. Meanwhile the semi-circle of cambium exposed by the partial cut grows producing new phloem that routes this stuff around to the tissues below, after another season or two, you then complete the removal of the heavy branch.

Then you hopefully don't wind up with something like this. UR2s2_2014-11-26.jpg
 

0soyoung

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maybe, I'm just tooting my horn, but it is a briefer description than ^^
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Dr3z

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maybe, I'm just tooting my horn, but it is a briefer description than ^^
🎉🎊📯
Agreed. The source material makes for good reading though.

Messing with the cambium just gives me trauma flashbacks to all the girdled trees the local fauna have subjected me to. Nevertheless I feel more confident in having a clearer vision going forward.



I
 

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