My new boxwood that needs some work. Any ideas?

Schmikah

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I just picked up this guy last Saturday from one of the guys at our local club (KBS). I picked it up cheap so I can live with it needing quite a bit of work.

Obviously its been let go pretty much since it was collected, it was yard-adori according to the original owner. Obviously the roots are a little unconventional, but I like that it looks like it grew over something that rotted away or washed out.

I'm thinking about lowering it into the soil at the next repot and trimming up the longer root, but I also don't want to kill the side of the tree that is already weaker. The other option that I can see is tilting it to the right (from the picture's perspective) to get that larger root further down in the pot and back in proportion but I'll need to see what the roots on the other side look like below the soil line. I guess I could do a combination of both as well.

I'll post some better pictures when I drag it in the garage to get a back drop, so I'll save any discussion about what to do with the foliage until I have those.

Other than that, I'm having trouble finding any info about when a good time of year is to work on them and how much I can take it back without endangering the tree. If anyone has any threads or outside sources I would be very appreciative. I believe, though I have to check with the seller again just to make sure, that its been in the pot for about two years, so I think its well enough established to start shaping it, or will be when the right time comes around.
 
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Schmikah

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20201114_113014.jpg
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And for some reason it didn't want to attach them either. So here's the pics.
 

Paradox

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Repot and prune in spring.
I think they can be pruned back pretty hard but I dont remember exactly right now
However its always best to move slower than too fast and kill the tree.
There are numerous threads on boxwood on the forum, do a search
 

Schmikah

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Repot and prune in spring.
I think they can be pruned back pretty hard but I dont remember exactly right now
However its always best to move slower than too fast and kill the tree.
There are numerous threads on boxwood on the forum, do a search

I've looked them over, there just isn't anything specific about what time of year is a good/bad idea to prune, especially for heavy work, even more specifically in my climate or one similar. Obviously there's a few threads with people from california and florida that work them year round but that doesn't do me much good 😅. The only thing I have found is a mention by a guy that only has about 5 posts from a couple of years ago that said its bad to prune in the fall, so I'm not exactly going to take that to the bank.

Other than that I saw bonsai4me said you can trim year round but "fall" was the least favorable, but again, I have no idea if that applies to heavier work or what "fall" includes or what rationale is used to come to that conclusion. If its because you can kill the tree, then that is obviously a terrible idea, but if its because new growth or back-buds have a harder time surviving the winter, then I'm not overly concerned.

The other thing that makes me nervous is I saw another post that said hard pruning in the spring is also a bad idea. So now I'm utterly confused because that would limit any heavy work to basically June-August around here. And if it needs a repot (I'm gonna pull it out in the spring just to see), I also saw that its good to repot in summer so I wouldn't be able to do any real work on it then either.

Honestly what I'm most surprised about is there is a lack of advice or guidance. Usually there's a metric ton of guides, articles, etc, and they all have conflicting information, which I can live with. But the silence is deafening.
 

sorce

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You gotta decide wether you like them roots or wether you wanna bury it deeper. Once you establish it deeper, you're pretty committed to a "good", "traditional" nebari...and I think you're way closer to pulling off this "burrowed under" look.

I'd leave it like that.

I'd chop it back to within that first picture with the addition of "unclumping" it, or, removing some unnecessary trunks and/or branches. Just before spring Growth.

Sorce
 

Schmikah

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You might be able to slot a rock in there. I wouldn't be surprised if the previous owner had a rock under that large root on the right for much of this tree's life.
I thought about that too, but it would take a couple decades for the roots to actually grow onto the rock.
 

sorce

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Sorce
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Myself, my tastes are not in favor of the current exposed roots. I would certainly bury the roots all the way around, leaving no more than the top 1/3 of the roots exposed about an inch from the trunk. This sort of misshapen root system is caused by exposing the root system too early in bonsai training. And not paying attention to shaping the root system every time the tree is repotted.
 

Schmikah

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Sorce

Ah, so I just needed to read further down. Well, at least someone might stumble on this and finds your post faster.

This is good stuff by the way. That clears up quite a few questions.
 

Schmikah

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Myself, my tastes are not in favor of the current exposed roots. I would certainly bury the roots all the way around, leaving no more than the top 1/3 of the roots exposed about an inch from the trunk. This sort of misshapen root system is caused by exposing the root system too early in bonsai training. And not paying attention to shaping the root system every time the tree is repotted.
It looks like it probably came out of a nursery container many years ago and then was planted in the someone's yard with no intention of it becoming bonsai. He definitely said he collected it, not specifically from where, and he was even gonna throw it back in the ground for a landscape plant if no one bought it (that's why I got it for cheap).

I was leaning towards this, it just seems like that long root is too horizontal, almost perfectly and it draws too much attention away from the rest of the nebari. I guess when repot time comes around I'll take back the big root to the first place it branches, chop the root that crosses over the front back to its first offshoot root and then lower it a bit. I'm not overly concerned with making "perfect" nebari though, I like it to be a little asymmetrical. It seems more like something I would see walking through the woods than the perfect radial roots, though that's not to say I don't want some trees that are much closer to the "perfect" stylized nebari. It just isn't gonna be this boxwood. But that being said, the nebari does need some improvement.



Sorce

I will definitely be chopping it way back come spring as you advised, maybe not as far. So taking that into account, source, you got anymore wisdom about following through with dropping it lower, the plan that you advised against? 😁
 

sorce

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the plan that you advised against?

I'm not necessarily against it, I just think you can quicker find a similar one with a better nebari to go that path.

With x amount of years for a guess at what the nebari would turn out like, I just assume use it for what it offers now. It's not a tale that can't be told, the way the roots go now.

The cut back is more important IMO.

Go that far!

You want those second segments to be a little shorter than your first segment. What you keep and/or sprout from the cutback will be your third segments, which should be shorter still. Going hard will start those third segments on their way.

Leaving it longer will just keep it looking like a shrub. Best to just hit it and git it!

Sorce
 

Sekibonsai

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Don't try to ram a rock in there. It always looks like ass. The nebari is what gives a stable image to the bonsai and is really one of the most significant features. I would cut flaps on either side of those carrots, treat liberally with hormone and pack with sphagnum. With some luck you will sprout some smaller roots to cut back to and get some taper. Alternatively cut the whole thing off and do the same and bury it...

Legend says you get one sold prune back when you collect a boxwood. You can risk a good solid spring cut back. Alternately you can pick it back over time. I would repot in January-February-ish once you get past freeze risk. Box like to stay moist so either go with medium sift size or add some organic back in while you are growing out.

I periodically go through and eliminate sucker leaves at junctions. I also take out unneeded branches regularly. If a branch needs girth let it grow free. The selective leaf removal stimulates growth which I let grow out to 7 or so leaves or till they harden up a bit then trim back to profile or two to three leaves. This will help to build structure.

I also frequently use liquid kelp foliage sprays (see CMEG's threads) and weekly applications of liquid fertilizers and constant organics. These techniques have allowed me to produce a reasonable bonsai image in a year or less.

I apply wire and/or tie downs as soon as the branches begin to lignify- be careful as young branches like to die back when wired. Large branches are very difficult to bend. This happens on an ongoing basis, preferably in early spring for full wire outs.

There are defoliation techniques however I have become less enthused about using such until a tree is in an advanced stage.
 

Schmikah

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I'm not necessarily against it, I just think you can quicker find a similar one with a better nebari to go that path.

With x amount of years for a guess at what the nebari would turn out like, I just assume use it for what it offers now. It's not a tale that can't be told, the way the roots go now.

The cut back is more important IMO.

Go that far!

You want those second segments to be a little shorter than your first segment. What you keep and/or sprout from the cutback will be your third segments, which should be shorter still. Going hard will start those third segments on their way.

Leaving it longer will just keep it looking like a shrub. Best to just hit it and git it!

Sorce

I'll have to take a long look at it to see where the chop needs to be but I see what you're saying. When I say "maybe not as far" I mean marginal differences, its gonna be a hard cut.

As far as nebari goes, I am still very early on in my bonsai hobby and I'm still young. Hopefully I have many years left, so looking ten years or more down the road to what the nebari can be seems reasonable. I would rather try to look for a really good base a decade from now than just settle for a root structure, and this is entirely my opinion, that contradicts or detracts from the representation of a big tree in a little tree.

That being said, I think its gonna be determined by what the roots look like when I pull it out of the pot next year. If cutting back that big root or planting it at a new angle is gonna be unreasonable or make the nebari worse then I'll be begging for more ideas.
 

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