Live oaks for forest planting?

LittleDingus

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I prefer to grow from seed when I can: it's about the journey, not the destination :) As a result, I now have about 15 quercus suber and 10ish virginiana that I "don't need".

Options I'm considering for their future include trying to sell/trade them. Or maybe to make a couple forest plantings. Has anyone done, seen decent forest plantings with any of the live oaks? My fear is that the craggy branches typical of oak would be lost under the foliage in all seasons. Is there any interest in a live oak group planting that isn't there in a single, larger tree?

Both these species tend to form looser forests. I'm thinking if I did try it it might be more of group plantings (3-5 trees) rather than a more crowded planting. Close view rather than far view?

I haven't seen too many live oak forests on the googles...and none in person.

Thoughts?
 

Forsoothe!

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I started a Laurel Oak forest/group years ago and abandoned it for just one tree because they responded to pruning by suckering. That made it difficult to maintain space between individuals which is important in a group.
 

LittleDingus

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I started a Laurel Oak forest/group years ago and abandoned it for just one tree because they responded to pruning by suckering. That made it difficult to maintain space between individuals which is important in a group.

Good point! Virginiana can do that. I've got one that has 5 or 6 suckers now. Far enough from the base that it could almost be a forest on its own!

My subor have never suckered but I only have a few years experience with the species.
 

penumbra

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Any trees can be used in a forest planting. It just depends on how much time you want to put into them, and as Leo says, handling them for winter is an issue. But certainly it can be done. You have nothing to lose since you have trees you don't need. Personally, I would jump all over it.
 

Forsoothe!

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All my forests have been started with small/young trees. The roots get layered/grafted before they get looking good, and are problematic to change anything more than an occasional outside tree. By ten years, they become one unit.
 

LittleDingus

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In Kansas City, you will need to winter these indoors, or in an greenhouse. Forests tend to be large. This may become cumbersome.

No larger than the space they currently take. Maybe less actually.

The subor were germinated in fall of 2018 and kept warm enough that I got 2 flushes of growth over the winter before moving them outside in the spring of 2019. The virginiana were germinated in the spring 2019 and moved directly outside for the season. This past winter, I had half of each species in my garage and the rest in my basement to experiment. I'll qualify that statement with this one: my basement gets more sun than most peoples entire house! It's a tall (12') walk out basement with a wall of 8' windows. I expected to loose one set or the other or both! I lost 1 subor. Just up and died for some reason. That's why I now have this problem!

Surprisingly, I had one subor I left outside all winter because it was a runt and I thought I'd just give up on it. It lives!!! It's still a runt, but grew a 2' leader this year. Still no branches to speak of though. It will probably stay outside this winter too. Eventually It will die, I'm sure.

Here is a representative sampling of the trees today. Left is 4 subor in a 5 gallon grow bag, right is 3 virginiana in a 5 gallon grow bag. Tallest virginiana is about 3' tall.

20200830_192843.jpg

I have a few "champion" trees that I'm focusing more on of each species but I also have several other grow bags of trees virtually identical to these.
 

LittleDingus

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@penumbra, @Forsoothe! thanks for the encouragement!

My question is more if there is something to be gained in a group planting with these species vs just growing a single tree with a larger canopy? Certainly, with a true deciduous tree, there is winter interest in seeing branch structure and ramification, etc...With conifers, the foliage isn't typically as dense and the branch structure is still somewhat visible.

My fear with "live" oak is that there is no visibility to the branch structure even in winter. Plus, with oak, the canopy can get rather dense. My fear is that I end up with a wide canopy with multiple sticks holding it up and that's it :(

I did some google searches for examples but didn't find much. My hope was that maybe you much more experienced people may have seen examples I'm not privy to. Or had interesting points to think about like @Leo in N E Illinois with where to winter them over.

But, you'r right, I have the trees! The biggest reason I'm contemplating and not doing is I don't have a pot! I don't own anything appropriate and am yet to find anything I like and it might not even be worth it to continue looking! Sure, a grow box for now...but that just delays the inevitable!
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Most oaks I have seen in bonsai pots have relatively long internodes and proportionately sparse leaves when compared to Elms or Maples. This means that a forest made with oaks would have foliage that likely will allow you to at least get pretty good peaks at the branches and trunks inside the forest. I doubt you would be able to make a forest with the foliage density of say a Korean hornbeam forest, or trident maple forest or elm forest. I just can't visualize oaks being that dense. I could be wrong, but I don't think you will have a problem. Internodes on oaks are just not as short as internodes on some other species. Therefore leaf density will be less.

If you feel your forests are getting "too dense", you can always take out half the trunks, and do a more savanna style, where the trees are spaced further apart.
 

LittleDingus

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Most oaks I have seen in bonsai pots have relatively long internodes and proportionately sparse leaves when compared to Elms or Maples. This means that a forest made with oaks would have foliage that likely will allow you to at least get pretty good peaks at the branches and trunks inside the forest. I doubt you would be able to make a forest with the foliage density of say a Korean hornbeam forest, or trident maple forest or elm forest. I just can't visualize oaks being that dense. I could be wrong, but I don't think you will have a problem. Internodes on oaks are just not as short as internodes on some other species. Therefore leaf density will be less.

If you feel your forests are getting "too dense", you can always take out half the trunks, and do a more savanna style, where the trees are spaced further apart.

Thanks @John P.!

I've lived near oak forests my whole life. Lots of burr oak, pin oak, chinkapin, lots of others...from inside the forest, they are rather impressive with their tall lanky trees with crooked branches. I love walking through an old oak forest!

I've seen much fewer oak bonsai...and fewer still with live oak.

I like @Leo in N E Illinois suggestion of possibly savanna style. I did think about going that direction at one point, but I'd want a crescent or vaguely L shaped pot for what I'm thinking. A large rectangle with an empty front right corner might work as well.

Anyway, I think I have my answer. I was debating between trying to sell off/trade my extras before winter or to try and winter them over another year...they are getting big. I think I have enough subor in shallower pots to maybe give this a go in the spring if they survive the winter. So at least I'll commit myself to keeping those.

Thanks for the input everyone!
 

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