Theoretical question etc.

Discussion in 'Gymnosperms (incl. Conifers)' started by Heathen, Jan 15, 2022.

  1. Heathen

    Heathen Active Member

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    I've read that when grafting conifers or starting from a cutting one should not use new growth from a branch because it will have a tendency to continue growing horizontally. If one were to use branch cuttings from a tree that had the leader removed a year or so prior, so the branches were bending upwards, would that take care of the horizontal growth problem? I ask because the deer ate the leader off one of my little firs, and if I have to cut the extra branches (leaving one) I may as well have the fun of trying to grow from cuttings. Also my neighbour, Henry VIII of conifers, has what used to be lovely mystery spruce trees growing along the property line I wouldn't mind replicating.

    Secondly, many years ago my father was told by an arborist that when a tree is topped directly under a ring of branches, rather than over a ring, it won't grow a new top. My father only had two Doug firs topped in this way; one grew a new top, and one grew ridiculously long branches instead (which are now subject to much damage from snow and wind). Just to be clear, I think a topped tree is an abomination, but I like to experiment, so...I made use of the row of single-stemmed hedge trees planted by the previous owner of my house. Half I topped above a node, half below. There aren't enough to be a "real" experiment, ten or so, but there were two distinct responses. The ones cut above a node had the expected response of all the upper branches growing upwards fairly evenly. The trees cut below a node tended to have only one branch from the upper ring grow, and that branch grew GIANT! Perhaps bigger than the original leader would have been. Does anyone have any thoughts on the physiology involved?

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  2. SoCal2warm

    SoCal2warm Active Member

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    Olympia, WA
    I seem to remember reading about this before. Yes, it is especially true for tree species in a certain genus, but I believe the consensus is that it is eventually not impossible for the plant to adapt.
    It's one of those answers that are generally true, but with enough time and special knowledgeable care (pruning), you can get the tree to do what you want.
    One danger to topping certain types of trees is that, due to the pattern of new growth, the new crown that grows out of the top can easily break off in winds and pose a danger.
    You generally do not want to top straight up growing trees like conifers, if it can be helped. But there are some ways to be able to manage it if it does happen.

    For a very small tree, you can use some pruning, cut off side growth, then the growth will be directed up. Or it might send off a completely new shoot from the base.
    You can't plant small trees unprotected where there are deer around.
    Heathen likes this.
  3. pinenut

    pinenut Active Member 10 Years

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    Whitehorse, Yukon Zone 0b or 1a
    We cut a smallish Lodgepole Pine on our property every year for a Christmas tree. I haven't paid any attention at all to where I make the cut, and they all develop new leaders. There are two that I know for certain we've harvested twice and they still made nice seasonal trees.

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