Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

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Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Matt S » June 11th, 2017, 1:35 pm

Hi Everyone,

I've had this Zelkova for about 20 years and it's undergone a lot of changes, most recently being last year when I air layered the base as I wasn't happy with the nebari and the trunk was too high.

I'm happy now with the proportions but I've never been able to get the really fine ramification at the tips. Anyone been able to do this? Any advice?

zelkova - 1.JPG


Cheers,
Matt.
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Daluke » June 11th, 2017, 4:22 pm

What's your fertilising regime like??
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby shibui » June 11th, 2017, 5:27 pm

Mine is the same. It has been frustrating me that it won't ramify. I've had mine for a bit longer than yours too.
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby treeman » June 11th, 2017, 6:30 pm

Matt, You need to bite the bullet and cut it back to at least half. Clean up all the twiggy rubbish and leaves etc; and then begin your ramifying again.
Let the new spring shoots grow until they have about 8 pairs of leaves. Cut back to 2 leaves and defoliate. You don't need to remove the entire leaf but you should cut it so there is only a very small portion left next to the bud. Thin out everything leaving only what you can use. Be ruthless with cleaning out shoots you don't want because they will be everywhere. Only leave the 2 buds on the end of the new growth and any new shoots which have appeared in a good spot. Position with a little wire if necessary. You will get 2 shoots (at least) from each new twig within a month or so. Remove the wire and let the new growth grow away again. When it reaches 8 pairs of leaves, repeat the above. If you feed well you should be able to do this 3 times over summer. At the very least twice. If you get the top bud growing faster that the one behind it, you can leave say 2/3 of the leaf on the lower bud and remove the leaf on the top bud. This will help in balancing their growth.
Next winter, give the whole tree a very critical look and clean it up thoroughly again to be ready for the next season. Wiring will probably needed. Never add more than 2 or at the most 3 buds at a time. If the internodes are too long reduce the nitrogen a touch. Probably best to use only organic cakes to control the growth. Looking at this tree I would be tempted to remove 2/3 of the growth, but that's just me...
By the time you reach the height you have now, you should have very dense ramification. However long it takes is how long it takes. That's the way you do it and good luck. You must force it to ramify. It's well worth the effort!
Last edited by treeman on June 11th, 2017, 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Keep Calm and Ramify » June 12th, 2017, 10:46 am

:wave: Matt,
Patience young grasshopper....you've already got the ramification happening.
:imo: just keep trimming the longer shoots back (to a branch junction of 2) to maintain your desired silhouette, & help force the tree's crown to build strength inwards.
To quote Tony Tickle "Bonsai takes time....."
But fresh eyes can tell you this plant is already looking great. :tu2:
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Max » June 12th, 2017, 1:26 pm

Treeman is on the ball, too much long sticky growth, in 3 years you'll have a much better looking tree , also i would direct a branch at the back to cover up the hole at the trunk fork :imo: :tu:
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby kcpoole » June 12th, 2017, 1:35 pm

no idea wrote:Treeman is on the ball, too much long sticky growth, in 3 years you'll have a much better looking tree , also i would direct a branch at the back to cover up the hole at the trunk fork :imo: :tu:

I agree as well
Cut back hard and then procedeed as per treemans advice.

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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Matt S » June 12th, 2017, 6:55 pm

Thanks everyone for your input, especially Mike with such well thought out advice.

I've known for a while that the tree needed drastic reducing to start anew but I didn't want to until I figured out the ramification issue. I haven't been very aggressive with defoliation so that might be the key. I assume you mean trim, balance and defoliate the whole tree at once? Interestingly there seems to be two different types of growth I get:
- strong, straight growth with long internodes, mostly at the top which is pretty useless.
- less vigorous shoots with close internodes and a slight zig zag shape.

I'll leave it over Winter to enjoy it's current silhouette and then I'll take it right back and post the progress.

Thanks again.

Matt.
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby treeman » June 13th, 2017, 11:22 am

Matt S wrote:
. I assume you mean trim, balance and defoliate the whole tree at once? Interestingly there seems to be two different types of growth I get:
- strong, straight growth with long internodes, mostly at the top which is pretty useless.
- less vigorous shoots with close internodes and a slight zig zag shape.

Matt.


Yes do the whole tree whenever you work on it. Pinching comes much later. Zelkova has extreme apical dominance. Their very essence is to reach for the sky and that's the reason you'll find strong straight branches at the tips. The weaker lower branches are the ones to use later on to replace strong branches and ramify. Sometimes you will get 2 or even 3 of these from one bud! But after cutting back hard, the new strong branches at the tips of the cuts are the ones to build your framework and all the fine stuff is removed.

Here's a quick sketch...

P1110174.JPG


This thread reminded me of mine which has been back in the ground for 2 years. I dug it up and attacked it yesterday. I'll update later
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby pishkaran » June 13th, 2017, 3:43 pm

Thank you for your sketch Treeman. It will help me with my bonsai!
Always remember to water your plants because it's not a game
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Watto » June 13th, 2017, 6:12 pm

Matt,
I don't have any words of wisdom to add but I do concur with the trim hard advice. But what I wanted to say was there are a few ways to grow good broom style and get good ramification and just for some examples here are three brooms, all unique and different but still very beautiful. They belong to three very famous and talented Japanese professionals and I had the pleasure a few years ago to see them "close up".
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby bodhidharma » June 14th, 2017, 8:05 am

Thanks for posting those Watto :yes: I have a couple on the go as well and these are inspirational. Interesting that the handlebar rule goes out the window on broom style and get as much branching as possible in there.
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Matt S » June 14th, 2017, 3:24 pm

Thanks for posting Watto, they are great examples of brooms with a central leader.

If I can find a suitable candidate I'm keen to start from scratch again and do a better job of getting the angles right. But for now I'll cut this one hard and see if I can get the ramification happening.

Matt.
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby delisea » June 14th, 2017, 3:41 pm

Great trees Watto thanks for posting.

Matt, here is a famous one from Omiya Bonsai Art Museum that doesn't have a central leader - both photos are the same tree. Who says the Japanese don't naturalistic styling?
4f4b23fbc495d9577cd7e7ad9c89778d[1].jpg
A_048_Feb[1].jpg


Cheers,
Symon
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Re: Advice sought on Zelkova - ramification

Postby Matt S » December 27th, 2018, 7:19 pm

I've followed Treeman's advice and been defoliating this Zelkova hard to force the ramification. Last year I cut back two thirds of the growth and of course the tree responded in spring with shoots all over, although most of them were in bunches of three or more and not always where I wanted. I defoliated twice over the summer and cut everything back to 2 buds and although the growth was really uneven I ended up last winter with fine shoots where I wanted them.

This year I followed the same routine and today I defoliated and trimmed for the second time, so I'm hoping to get a third round in before summer is over. It took hours to do this today and I didn't get time to tweak it with wire but you can see the difference with the original picture.

zelklova dec2018.JPG


Thanks again to Mike, this is a good methodical approach that is really forcing the tree to ramify. The growth is starting to even out too, and even though I'm many years away from getting the fine ramification I want the tree is well on it's way.

Matt.
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