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Crab Apple Development.

Posted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:17 pm
by KB
I am just getting started in bonsai. Just received a profusion crab from a friend, still in the 1 gal. nursey pot, and am planning on getting it started as a bonsai shortly . It has well formed nebari, 3/8" dia. sticking above the ground. Was going to plant in the ground in a 5 gal. bucket but not so sure of doing that now. What i need to know for now is how far down can i cut the trunk and still be safe to start fattening the trunk?. Its almost 2' in dia. The tree is now 8' tall with the main trunk forking a little over 5' up. It has several limbs below the fork but is bare of limbs about 3' from the ground. I was thinking of cutting it 1' below the fork and starting from there but if i can cut lower it would give me a big jump on staring my first or second main branches. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thanks

Here is picture of the whole tree


This is the nebari.


Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:34 am
by TomM
KB, As no one has jumped in to help you yet I will give it a go.

Two things are going on here which are resulting in a too tall, lean, trunk and cramped root ball. If it was mine I would cut the tree down nearly to the first large branch in your picture - and make that the new trunk. Let it grow out from there to see what new branching you get before further pruning.

The camera angle shows 2 large roots on the right side which appear "higher" than the others. With a too small pot those roots seem to have lifted up somewhat. The tree should be repotted into a wider, but shorter, pot for future training. I might even remove those two offending roots, gently disengaging them from the others - trying not to disturb good roots.

The question remains about when to do the chopping and the repotting. So I hope more expertise is offered. But at least I got the ball rolling for you.

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 3:18 pm
by Gnome

I agree with Tom completely about the roots, not sure that you have a clear idea of what a good radial nebari should be and I was trying to find a good example. Here is a very young tree that I have been working on as an example.

I realize that this is by no means a great example of a quality nebari but it does show the roots all being on one level and their radial arrangement. This is easier on younger material which is one of the positive aspects of growing your own, control of the roots from the beginning. Each re-potting is an opportunity to improve the arrangement of the roots.

For now I suggest that you do a little gentle excavation in order to learn what you have beneath the soil. If, as it appears, you have roots stacked vertically, one should be removed as Tom suggests. Try to leave the roots that all emerge on the same level. So in your case the two highest, most exposed roots, should probably be removed. You can probably do this now if you find sufficient roots lower in the pot.

Often nursery plants will develop a mat of roots at the very bottom of the container. If you slip the tree from the pot you can examine it easily. If you slice the bottom inch or so from the rootball this will remove the compacted area and encourage fresh root growth.

By taking these two steps, reducing both the top and bottom of the rootball, you have begun the transition to a growing box or other suitable, shallow but broad, container. For this year you can simply cut your current pot down a few inches to accommodate the tree.


Putting aside the timing issue, what do you see as the advantage of making the chop so high? The trunk is straight and cylindrical with no taper or movement and, to my thinking, should be almost entirely removed.

I do have a concern about this possibly being a grafted tree which could cause issues.


crabapple development

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:31 pm
by KB
Wow. Thanks for all of the great advise . Maybe i should have made myself clearer on my plan of attack on this project. As you have suggested, i did dig down around under the exposed roots to inspect the lower root system. There are 4 or 5 roots like the ones exposed about 2" below ground level and they are spaced equally around the trunk. My idea of where to make my first cut on the trunk was based on once i put a tourniquet on the lower roots to start working on the nebari, i was going to plant the tree in the ground to get it healthy and strengthen the root system by leaving more of the tree intact to let the wind do the work on the roots and trunk. This was going to be my first step and wasnt planning on doing more than watering and feeding the tree until early in 2012 when i was going to repot and do a major trunk and root prunning. This is also the time i was going to decide to either cut the exposed roots off or leave them attached to give the tree more visual appeal. The more i think about it i will more than likely cut the above roots now and worry about appeal later. I thought the time in the ground for the tree would give it time to get healthier, show me more of its potential, also give me a year and a half to learn more and ask as many questions as i can from you guys. Thanks again for all of your help. I really appreciate it. I am sure i will be seeking out your advice in the future.


Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:28 pm
by TomM
Norm, I always enjoy your posts, your advice - they provoke deeper thought and insight. I really hadn't considered the possibility of previous grafting ... hmm..?
But aside from that I was thinking of a drawing I saw recently (in a Bill Valavanis offering of young tree saplings he sells in Spring) The crabapple is all twisted, contorted, truly a masterful impression of a tortured trunk line. It had no real taper, but movement, oh the movement !!! Too bad I can not show you this wonderful drawing. Think 'LITERATI' but with a deciduous tree.
But this, for KB's tree, would have to be wired in over a period of time, and I'm not sure if it would be your first choice of style.
However - that is what I was thinking. Just having a little fun with it.

Posted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:43 pm
by Tachigi
Gnome wrote:KB,
I do have a concern about this possibly being a grafted tree which could cause issues.

Norm's concern about it being a grafted tree are well founded. This tree has been grafted to some other crab root doubts about it! The only thing you can do is to chop this tree about an 1 inch above the graft to maintain the original tree. The root stock will swell faster that the scion and you will get a fat base quickly which will enhance the tree. Just remember to rub out any buds that pop on the root stock or you will have a mismatched tree. Also make sure you don't chop till next spring.

Posted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 4:19 pm
by Gnome

Thanks for the kind words, I try though I'm sure I fall short at times. Scale is hard to tell from pictures but I suspect that the base of this tree is well past the wiring stage. Of course if a new leader was established flexibility would be regained.


Thanks for the confirmation, good for the OP to know what he's dealing with.


Posted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 4:30 pm
by Gnome

A more careful re-reading of your previous post has me wondering a bit.
There are 4 or 5 roots like the ones exposed about 2" below ground level and they are spaced equally around the trunk. My idea of where to make my first cut on the trunk was based on once i put a tourniquet on the lower roots to start working on the nebari,
If you have 4-5 radially spaced roots all on the same level, that's your nebari. I don't think you need to utilize the tourniquet method at all. That method employed when you need to develop an entirely new root system, it serves to force new roots above the wire but eventually kills the lower portion. If I understand the situation correctly, why could you not simply remove what is below the future nebari?