Specific air-layering questions for the experts!

emk

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I've been digging through my pile of bonsai books to learn what I can about air-layering before spring hits, but I still have a few questions that people with more experience could help me answer:

1. Using a "toriki scraper" or wood rasp. This idea comes from Kawasumi's The Secret Techniques of Bonsai. He suggests using a specialized tool (which many have pointed out is about the same as a wood rasp) to scrape off the bark rather than the cut-and-peel or wired ring-barking techniques usually used. This is to produce a jagged edge for a more natural-looking nebari to develope along. I'm wondering if anyone has used this technique and could tell if it made as much of a difference as he suggests. Also, couldn't you achieve the same thing (or maybe ever better) by cutting a zig-zag upper edge with a normal cut-and-peel approach?

2. Winter protection for air-layers in progress. Several books mention that the time it takes a tree to grow layered roots varies from species to species. If you were air-layering a tree that took longer to root than your local growing season, how do you protect the root bundle over the winter? Or do these simply fall in the "impossible" category (assuming they are planted in the ground, or course)?

3. Liquid or powder rooting hormone? I've seen both suggested, so I'm wondering if there is any difference in performance, or do they each work better in specific situations?

4. How does an air-layer affect the overall vigor of the tree? So, you remove the cambium, but leave the xylem intact. How does that affect the health, vigor, and hardiness of the tree above and below the layering area? How are the existing roots, branches, buds, foliage, etc. affected?

5. Multiple air-layers. Is it good or bad practice to do more that one air-layer on the same tree at the same time?

6. Air-layer + trunk-chop combo. I've seen this idea now and then and really like the concept. If you're going to do a trunk-chop anyhow, why not air-layer the tree above that point and get two perfectly good trees out of it? This is realted to question #4 and why I'm curious about how the layer will affect what goes on below it.

Okay, that's it. Hope some of you experts out there can help me put aside some of my misgivings and concerns, or help me avoid newbie blunders. :D
 

Bonsai Nut

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First and foremost - what species are you trying to air-layer? Best of all, do you have a photo of the specific specimen and where you are trying to air-layer it?
 

Graydon

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I'm no expert but I do have a bit of experience. Here is my take:

1. Using a "toriki scraper" or wood rasp.[/B] This idea comes from Kawasumi's The Secret Techniques of Bonsai. He suggests using a specialized tool (which many have pointed out is about the same as a wood rasp) to scrape off the bark rather than the cut-and-peel or wired ring-barking techniques usually used. This is to produce a jagged edge for a more natural-looking nebari to develop along. I'm wondering if anyone has used this technique and could tell if it made as much of a difference as he suggests. Also, couldn't you achieve the same thing (or maybe ever better) by cutting a zig-zag upper edge with a normal cut-and-peel approach?
Interesting. I have never seen a toriki scraper nor have I ever tried anything besides the cut a ring technique. I can reassure you that you will not get perfect evenly spaced roots at the bottom of the top cut (unless you are lucky). As with everything else in bonsai building that perfect nebari will take some follow up effort(s).

2. Winter protection for air-layers in progress.[/B] Several books mention that the time it takes a tree to grow layered roots varies from species to species. If you were air-layering a tree that took longer to root than your local growing season, how do you protect the root bundle over the winter? Or do these simply fall in the "impossible" category (assuming they are planted in the ground, or course)?
Can't help you on this one. Not much of a winter where I live. Good advice is start as soon as you can and hope for vigorous rooting. I suppose it could stay on the "parent" over winter and could be severed once activity starts the following spring. It would need to be protected as needed of course.

3. Liquid or powder rooting hormone?[/B] I've seen both suggested, so I'm wondering if there is any difference in performance, or do they each work better in specific situations?
Don't think the choice between liquid or powder matters, seems to be personal preference. Proper strength (concentration of IBA) is way more important. Also worth considering is availability.

4. How does an air-layer affect the overall vigor of the tree?[/B] So, you remove the cambium, but leave the xylem intact. How does that affect the health, vigor, and hardiness of the tree above and below the layering area? How are the existing roots, branches, buds, foliage, etc. affected?
Good question. The answer could be an essay or a small book I would bet. Perhaps someone like Brent will answer this.

5. Multiple air-layers.[/B] Is it good or bad practice to do more that one air-layer on the same tree at the same time?
Multiple should be fine as long as they are on separate trunks. I have always avoided "stacking" layers, don't know why just seemed like common sense as the time.

6. Air-layer + trunk-chop combo.[/B] I've seen this idea now and then and really like the concept. If you're going to do a trunk-chop anyhow, why not air-layer the tree above that point and get two perfectly good trees out of it? This is related to question #4 and why I'm curious about how the layer will affect what goes on below it.
I suppose if it was a really special piece of material it would be good to do this. You must ask yourself if it is worth the effort and the wait or would it make more sense to make the chop and gain a couple of years development on the new leader.

Layering is a great way to get a fast bonsai subject if the material you are layering is nearly ready to go. Here is a pine I recently layered. I thought it had some potential and was basically the top of a bad tree.

It's also a great way to reproduce some cultivars that do not reproduce via seed or have a tough time as a cutting.
 
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I use store bought powered hormone, I use the ring method, I use 100% sphagnum moss (well, with a few leaves still in, as I collect my own moss), and I start in early spring here in Michigan.


1) Larch during layering

2) Remaining trunk after chop, notice I left a branch to be the new leader, this will be allowed to grow out again and then chopped again, etc

3) Some roots grew faster

4) some were just peeking through

5) Air-layered new tree in training pot



Will
 

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emk

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First and foremost - what species are you trying to air-layer? Best of all, do you have a photo of the specific specimen and where you are trying to air-layer it?
At the moment I'm considering a Dawn Redwood, a Linden, a Crabapple, and a Hawthorn. The layer/chop combo only on the Redwood and Linden though. I've already posted photos about the Dawn Redwood, and I'll probably post about the Linden a little later.
 
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Here is a layer done on a tree with about the same same and size as the one you posted on another thread. This one was done with the ring method and powdered root hormone as well. I used foil instead of a container this time, but still sphagnum moss.


1) This larch was collected some time ago and out into the beds and allowed to grow freely, I decided to air-layer a few starter trees off of it, I'll eventually get four trees from this one.

2) The trunk that was left after the layer was removed, I will layer off everything above the lowest branch next year.

3) This is the section I layered off.

4) The new section potted in a nursery can, next year I will layer off the top portion, retaining the lowest portion will all the low branching.



Will
 

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emk

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Excellent examples Will, thanks!
 

RogueFJ

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Hi Will,

Thanks for all the great info and pictures. You have answered a lot of my questions. I've been trying to get an answer to my questions from a zone 5 person who has experiece with air layering trees but have not been successful. I live in the Chicago area, also in zone 5a to be extact. I've been thinking about air layering the top of a Korean Hornbeam that I found at a local nursery. The plan is to get the tree in the ground when it gets cooler and then in early spring of 2012 start the process. From what I hear, it may not be a good idea to start it now. What do you suggest I do?
 
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