First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

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Per PF
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First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by Per PF » April 19th, 2020, 11:26 pm

So it was finally time for my first dig (buds swelling+elongating). I had scouted this Betula months ago for its taper-potential, health and growing location (a local quarry, rock underneath and a flat loose-root-bed). Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the process in the exitement..
It had lots of feeder roots and I kept a good chunk of original soil around them (about 4 cm thick). The roots were very one-sided, as it was growing on a slope facing south, and had basically just one big anchoring root towards its back and the rest towards the sun and down hill.
2020-04-14D.jpeg
It's planted in pumice+lava (50/50) with a good amount of sphagnum directly underneath the roots. I sealed the branches I had to cut with petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
2020-04-14F.jpeg
It's almost 25 cm around the base and it's 21 cm up to the divide were the thinner one is 13 cm around.
My future plans are to sloooowly reduce it down to a fairly straight (informal upright) tree of about 45 cm. For now I'm leaving it alone until at least next years growing season. I have read up on its branch-dropping-die-back-fondness.
2020-04-14G.jpeg
Thoughts and comments are always welcome :) Especially if you have experience in Betula reducing!
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Re: First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by Raging Bull » April 20th, 2020, 1:57 pm

Hi Per, that tree should do well for you there. I'm in South East Queensland and I don't think that kind of birch tree would do very well here. I have a tropical birch (Betula Nigra) that I've had for about a year now and it's thriving. It was bought as a garden tree from a local nursery and I put it into a larger pot to grow as a bonsai. I've pruned it a couple of times to start shaping it and have had no problems with it.
Cheers, Frank.

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Re: First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by Matt S » April 20th, 2020, 4:34 pm

Great post Per, lots of details on what you did. I have exactly zero experience in Betula other than the straggly specimens we have at work (I work for a Swedish company) which struggle through our summers, but I look forward to seeing what you do with yours.

Has anyone in Sweden tried to bonsai a Lingonberry tree? The small red fruits would look amazing!

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Re: First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by shibui » April 20th, 2020, 5:59 pm

Birch are quite easy to transplant. You don't even need a lot of roots and they will survive and grow happily.
They do like lots of moisture so hopefully the sphagnum and old soil around the roots will be OK. Personally I do't like to put soil into pots because it causes too many problems with the roots.
Birch die back seems to e linked to shortage of water in summer or pruning in winter. I saw someone post that the secret is to prune in summer instead of winter.
I think leaving this one alone for a year to get started again is a good plan. See how it responds before making further plans for any pruning or styling.
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Re: First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by Per PF » April 21st, 2020, 6:39 am

Thanks for the encouragement guys, I'll keep you posted on updates.

@Raging Bull I hadn't heard about Betula Nigra before, that's really cool (no pun int...) that there is a tropical variety! My main focus is trees I saw growing up in the northern parts of Sweden (above the Arctic Circle) - so I see why this species wouldn't do so well down there :roll:

@Matt S Thanks I try to document well so I'll hopefully learn from my mistakes along the way :P Unfortunately I don't think Lingonberries (very small shrubs) would be good bonsai candidates as they have very little wood-like tissue and not much taper (+I've heard they're difficult to cultivate in general). But transplanted together with the original moss they're growing in would make pretty cool kusamono - I'll keep that in mind! :)

@shibui I considered removing more of the old soil and I'm hoping I only reduced the stress to the tree and not set it up for root-rot, but fingers crossed... I'm adhering to Mauro Stemberger's advice about not over watering a collected tree and to gradually remove the old soil through repottings.
Thanks for the tip, I will wait at least until next years growing season to prune anything.

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Quick update and general question about Yamadori/collected trees

Post by Per PF » June 16th, 2020, 4:43 am

The birch leafed out as expected and seems to be doing okay.

Some of the leaves have recently turned yellow due to lack of sun (it is the ones not in direct light all day). It is now summer here in Sweden btw.

The general question: A recently collected tree should be protected from the elements (?) BUT how do you handle a species such as Betula Pendula which at the same time needs a lot of sun?

In my specific case I think I will leave it as is until next spring when I move it to full sun/more wind. Because, it is the best position (I can think of) in the garden for protection and I'm going to heavily reduce this tree over the years, so some die back is not a problem.

What do you guys think?

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Re: First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by Per PF » June 16th, 2020, 4:46 am

Regarding the full sun info I refer to Harry Harrington in the UK - lots of experience and similar climate: http://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Betula.html

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Re: First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by shibui » June 16th, 2020, 7:50 am

I think there is a balance needed between plenty of light and dehydration of the tree. I doubt that there is one rigid answer to this dilemma. Different species will require different conditions. The best location may also be different according to how many roots were retained at collection. The fewer roots your tree has the more protection it will need in order to grow enough new roots to sustain itself. It will probably also depend on timing. Early collected trees have a better window of mild weather to regrow roots while a later collection may need some assistance when warm weather comes.

I think we are inclined to think in terms of rigid rules but life is far more flexible than that. It is most likely that there is a wide window of possible conditions. It is also likely that this might explain the wide range of differing opinions on what is best. The fact that a tree has survived under one set of conditions does not necessarily mean that those are the best or only conditions.

I transplant many trees. Most are transplants from the grow beds and may not be indicative of all other collected trees but most of those trees go straight onto the nursery benches in full sun and I get close to 100% survival and very good growth from maples, elms, pines and junipers under those conditions. Many of the trees I collect from wild locations and other gardens end up on the ground under the nursery benches (mostly due to lack of space on the benches in the sun) where they get plenty of water but some shade. They also tend to survive very well.

A few yellowing leaves is not always a sign of imminent death. I agree with your decision to leave our birch where it is. Moving a tree to new conditions, especially more sun seems to cause more trauma and problems that we imagine.
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Re: First ever collected tree - Betula Pendula

Post by Per PF » June 19th, 2020, 7:15 pm

Thank you very much for your nuanced and thoughtful answer! Learning a lot :worship:

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