Pyracantha major rework-help me chooose a new direction

sfhellwig

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I have included pics but are not the best. I'm sure someone will ask for better shots and I will accommodate as best as possible. The back story: I have had this pyra for a few years now. It is a P. augustifolia 'Gnome'. It was an overwintered 2 gallon when I bought it. Quite large and crossing, I tried to thin it out without trimming the tips so I could see the flowers and fruits. I roughed the edges of the root mass and put it into a very large grow box. The fruit was beautiful and I enjoyed it. The first winter the top died back, ruining what I wanted to air layer. So the second year (last Spring) I ratted away more of the root mass to put it into a smaller flat. I did more trimming to retain the shape and practiced keeping branches trimmed back, that's quite a chore. But it's time for a re-work. Or more appropriately some real work. It can't be supported at this size anymore. The tips of the branches have taken the winter hard and branches randomly die warning of root issues. Here's the big question, what to keep and what to cut. The initial shape of the plant is that of a person doing a yoga or martial arts pose. One arm above the head and one out to the side. What's hard to see in the pictures is a third branch that juts straight towards you. The extremeties appear to have taken considerable damage and the roots need washed out and straightened. I don't think it is really on par with a twin trunk but I am not up on my "envisioning" skills yet. Perhaps one less giant scar is enough reason. I had read pyras don't heal well and know it firsthand.

This is my first time posting a picture so don't pick me apart too bad. I'm asking for help because I want the tree to get better. Virts and suggestions are being asked for. Let me know what you need to see. While I have collected some nice trees to be refined, I feel this will be my first "I have a trunk, now let's build some branches" type of project. Please be nice, I know it's ugly. I have let the trunk shoots go in anticipation of regrowth of branches.
 

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Smoke

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Obviously you had seen the one I posted at Bonsai Study Group. It is now on the header for a month. You are correct that they do not heal well. In fact they do not heal for many years even on small prunings.

The big problem with pyra's is that they will grow branches very fast , yet, will grow trunk wood very slowly. They do grow though. Mine has grown about 3/4 inch in the last 8 years so they will get larger, and thats in a pot.

I think your tree will need some time in the ground. Do not be afraid to just cut the top off and regrow a new set of branches on. They will grow fast. Developing taper will be the biggest challenge. carving is OK but is out of place on a pyra. Keep the wood preserved because they are soft and will rot easily. Clean your tools with alcohol between trees as fireblight can take them in a few weeks.

I think your best bet will be to choose one of the better of the two trunks and take the other one off. Concentrate your energy into that and build a tree that will not be second guessed later on. If only.....
 

sfhellwig

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The March Tree of the Month? I had actually not seen that (I'm a one trick pony, this is all the internet bonsai I take in regularly). Do you have other posted pics of that piece? That is something I would really like to see more of. I hadn't really thought of putting it in the ground but will be working on a piece of land this summer. I want to put some of my "specimen" plants there to grow out, figuring they might do better unattended than in my yard under my daily watch.

I know the whole cut paste debate, and have finally acquired some oil based clay for a few occasions to try. Would you suggest a thin ring of it around the cambium? Not only to help protect against some of the blights (Gnome is listed as pretty susceptible to lots of them) but because of the slow healing?

Suggestions on most root mass to remove safely and taper would be best achieved by spreading of the roots?
 

Brian Van Fleet

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It looks like the trunk line identified by the green lines is your best option. Remove everything else, leave it in the ground and let it grow wild for a few years.

Use cut putty if you want; I use it around the edges of the two large cuts on my pyracantha, and seal the wound itself with the paste to keep out fungal and rot problems. It's about as fast as a beech in terms of closing wounds.

Is pyracantha predictably hardy in KS? Could be why you lost the top...
 

sfhellwig

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The red line is tempting because it keeps more height of the existing trunk but for taper, the green is a little thicker and the top would end up being an area that already has several "rays" shooting forth unchecked. And as much as I would like to put it in the ground it will likely stay with me in a flat this year due to timing and the land not being ready. The flat it is in is relatively large. I just need to really work the roots. I figured the sudden loss of the tips were a sign of root problems as it happened at the end of the summer, not coming through winter. They are hardy in the ground and take it a little rough and just replace the leaves lost at their perimeter. Other than trying to keep this a larger plant to keep a larger root mass, I honestly see a good hoop house cold frame in my future. Each winter teaches me more. As for roots, with such top reduction, can I take say 50% of the root mass. It wouldn't act any worse than if I had dug it from the ground right?

Brian, are you saying you use a putty around the edge and a paste to fill in the middle or am I reading too far into that? What I will have is the home-made clay "putty". Is it just the cambial layer that needs covered or does the whole end need protection due to rot susceptibility? Ring of putty filled with white glue?
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Brian, are you saying you use a putty around the edge and a paste to fill in the middle or am I reading too far into that? What I will have is the home-made clay "putty". Is it just the cambial layer that needs covered or does the whole end need protection due to rot susceptibility? Ring of putty filled with white glue?

That's how I did mine; paste over the wound, putty over the cambium. White glue won't last, however.
 

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sfhellwig

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Well I'm getting down to the last of my major work and this pyra is on the list. Going to try to get to it this weekend. Already brought it under a roof so it won't get water logged if it rains. I believe I will go with the original "left" trunk. It will yield quite a bit smaller plant than I had anticipated but it has more taper and movement, plus already has a ray shooting straight from the top of it. With the way these things grow I'm sure it could be back to large in a few seasons if chosen. My main concerns are with the root work. This needs completely raked and straightened. I'm sure I will end up washing it. Does anyone have a rule of thumb for maximum removal. I'm sure as long as I don't go past half it should be fine since I am removing so much of the upper. I wouldn't try that otherwise. The reason for such drastic removal is to correct the years of being in a pot and also to take care of the great Lock Ness monster in the picture. That had always been a hoop sticking out of the soil and I wasn't sure which way it was going. With the last winter weather the soil has given way to show what exactly was there. Any suggestions? I imagine I will be removing it entirely and seeing how much root mass goes with it but how should I protect that wound. I made some clay based putty just for the heck of it and was going to try it on the large trunk wound but it will actually be necessary here, at soil line, won't it?
 

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Brian Van Fleet

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You can remove the loop, but leave the part that runs along the soil beyond it...it may provide you with some tapered surface roots. Use some cut paste on the bigger cut, just because it may try to rot a little on you. The paste will give the wound a little time to close.

Go as hard as you need to on those roots, pyracantha are pretty vigorous and will fill the pot pretty quickly. You're in no danger if you only remove half, and could go harder, bare-rooting and washing them even (see shots of this pyracantha repotting last year...did it again this year). Be sure to comb out everything that's left so it's untangled and grows radially away from the trunk.
 

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sfhellwig

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Got the tree done last week. Had many things needing my attention. The cutting was interesting. So hard to cut away so much material but liberating, feeling that it was for the better of the future tree. Putting "putty" around the edges of the wounds was interesting. A real "get it the first time" situation. The more you try to correct, the worse it gets. I can hopefully post a pic if I got one after the cutting but before the "accident." I have been keeping it in the garage due to cold weather and last night a board fell against it:eek:. I don't really want to go into many details other than it started snowing and I was upset enough, but I got careless and a board fell against the trunk. So there is some scraping that might not be such a big deal except that it's a pyra. I am still somewhere between denial and waiting for the right time to be angry. Hey, maybe it will just induce some budding around the damage and that will aid healing. Yeah right:(.
 

sfhellwig

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I found a picture of "after cutting" but "before repotting". It is not the best shot but it does show the reduction. I have been babying the tree, still, as it went through a lot and I can't put it in harsh sunlight. I'm sure that would finish it off. I guess it needs to come up on the porch where it will get a little in the morning. Just waiting for some new growth before I celebrate. It is pushing new leaves. Once I see a ray take off for a new spurt I will know it has pretty well made it barring any additional shocks.

Ultimately it came down to some nice taper. It will likely need to be a medium tree (18"or so) to not outgrow it's taper. Now for all those pruning scars. That may be the ultimate obstacle keeping this from ever looking too good. We will see.
 

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Brian Van Fleet

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Good job...you saw the best part of the tree and decisively removed the rest. If it was mine, I'd have a hard time not putting it out into full sun. I believe that with almost no foliage, the light warming the trunk and pot will encourage it to pop back much harder. Just mist it as often as you walk by it, and keep the bark soft, you'll have shoots popping all over the place in 3 weeks.

On the cut putty, if it was sticking to you and not the tree, just stick a ball of it on the spot, spit on your fingers and work it into place; it won't stick to you.
 

sfhellwig

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Figured I would give an update since it had been a while and I actually had something to show. The pictures are sort of a left/right view and an up closer of the trunk. I did place it where it gets full sun for several hours of the day. Even though the soil looks super loose that is mostly top dressing of Pro's Choice. But the soil is very loose and aerated (Pro's Choice and Perlite). I have not made the break to mostly inorganic but I feel my mix is sufficient for now. Some of the shoots that have already begun extending will end up being sacrifice left on to help heal scars. The buds that are just now showing will likely be my branch choices. We'll see how long they get and wire them down just as soon as feasible. Looks like the original "apex" has already been challenged and discarded. The putty seems to be doing it's job, I could only imagine how badly the bark would be peeling back from these monster cuts. If you don't grow a pyra, look back at my early pics for examples of poorly healing cuts. Now I just have to make sure it doesn't get fried this summer, maybe not leave it open air this winter. I am thrilled so far, just wondering how many years till I see those wonderfully colored pomes again. When I do they will hopefully be accentuating a beautiful triangle outline of a tree. We have a few years.:D

These were shot at lunch with the box in daily position. I will try to take future pics with a background and eye level so you can actually see some shape, since that's finally getting better.
 

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sfhellwig

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I was going to post another update picture because it had been a while and it looked like the thing has been putting on a bit of growth. All this heat. Amazing that it is growing, but fresh green at the tips. I might wire the top up to be perfectly straight or cut it, to get a little movement and make a side branch take over on the upward route. For now it's full growth to heal scars, maybe wire down any whips that really take off. Probably not much to do until next year. Picture left long to show depth of box.
 

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