Sunday, April 09, 2017

Training Ginkgo Trees as Large Bonsai. 4.9.17

Ginkgo Tree in Chengdu, China.  10/2013
Ginkgo Trees in Chengdu, China.  10/2013
In 2013, we went to China and visited historic places including some palaces and monasteries.  These Ginkgo biloba specimens were trained like bonsai trees, but in-ground and larger.  Probably quite old.

We wanted to reproduce a similar idea in our garden, using ginkgo trees that I grew from seeds.  They are about 10 years old, planted in a mixed shrub and perennial bed.  Today, I began training them as the start of making our own bonsai-type trees.  I selected branches at level of the tree.  I  pruned then long stems from each branch leaving 1-3 buds per spur.  Then I tied the branches to poles - mainly prunings from buddleia and plum - and lowered the pole-tied branches to a horizontal position, tying them to bricks.  Some, I turned to a chosen lateral orientation, as well as lowering them vertically, so they would be somewhat distributed around the trunk.

It turned out, this relatively young ginkgo wood is rather pliable, more so than willow, I think.  It bends a bit like lead.  None of them broke, despite some severe bending at very different angles from what they started with.

Ginkgo Tree Before Training.  4.9.17
First Stage of Training Ginkgo Tree.  4.9.17
I think this was a good time to start, with buds beginning to swell for Spring growth, but no actual growth yet.  The sap is running, which may have made the branches more pliable.  Even branches as thick as my thumb bent readily, although I was careful and bent them slowly.

The plan is to allow growth along each branch, maybe to 3 or 4 nodes, then pinch the apex of each spur so that they branch more tightly. 

I don't expect to make trees as majestic looking as the ones we saw in China.  That might take decades, which I don't expect to have.  But we might have something interesting in a couple of years.

Near the tops of the trees, I did leave young growth to extend longer with plan to bend to horizontal positions next year.  The maximum planned height is about 7 or 8 feet tall.

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