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collected southern live oak tree - what now? 1 year 8 months ago #56994

  • KLBonsai
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Hello!

I’ve posted a couple of times here (possibly too boldly as a very new learner about bonsai). I have read a lot and acquired a few potted “bonsai” beginner trees (jade and Fukien tea) as well as an established boxwood bonsai and some untrained species (azalea and giant sequoia). I have a lot to learn, which will go a lot easier with kindness when I need to learn where I’m going wrong. But you will find that I’m very eager and determined (I’m currently toward the end of a PhD, so I have proved at least that I’m stubborn enough to see a thing through!)

I am in Texas, and I LOVE southern live oak. I understand that they are difficult to get to survive collecting them (I saw a thread about this in here that I can’t seem to find again). And I know that they are, like other oaks, slow growing.

I just did a bold thing based an a considerable amount of research: I dug up a young live oak with permission. I read about how to do this and how to protect the tree from drying out. I’ve kept the root ball largely intact with its native soil. I had to cut some away, because the tree needed to be removed from a landscaped area containing a crape myrtle, a large boxwood, and a great deal of ivy.

What I am very unsure of, and can’t seem to find the right search terms for, is how to prune this monstrosity, or if I need to immediately for its health and my bonsai goals. It’s not a particularly fabulous specimen. Just something old enough to have established decent lateral roots and a moderate trunk to start with. Also, I have to transport this from San Antonio to Waco (three hours) in a car!

Please let me know if you have any input! I can attach more detailed pictures, too.

Thanks!

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collected southern live oak tree - what now? 1 year 8 months ago #56999

  • leatherback
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As you probably want a thicker trunk, you will need a lot more growth.

Here the challenge is finding a balance: Let it grow too big before you cut, and you will have a massive scar. Cut too often, and you will end up with a thin trunk for a LOOOONG time. This really is something for you to decide. There are people who let trees grow out to 7cm trunks before they cut back. There are people who take a 2 year old seedling, wire it to shap and thicken the trunk up only by growing side-branches.

If it was just dug up, you should leave it alone as much as possible. This might mean you have to trim it down, so it will fit your car standing up without wiggling things around too much.
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collected southern live oak tree - what now? 1 year 8 months ago #57015

  • KLBonsai
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Thank you for taking the time to help!

I have to admit that one area I really need to understand better is what different kinds of pruning do to the growth of a tree. I’ve read enough to understand basic pruning for maintenance, but this is a new step. Is there a good summary of pruning, not just how to do it, but what the effects are on the growth of the tree? I’ve struggled to find this without just reading loads and loads of examples (did I mention the PhD? haha).

Also, I understood that potting it would limit the further thickening of the trunk. Should I continue to grow it with minimal pruning in this giant pot to obtain a thicker trunk (assuming that’s what I want)? (It’s actually the bottom of a large trash can with large drainage holes.) Or would that require replanting it in the ground? I picked this tree largely because it’s the most mature young live oak available to me, and it needed to be moved anyway. Perhaps I rushed it though. On the other hand, this was incredibly hard work, though some of that was because of the difficulties of trying to preserve the integrity of other roots around it. I can’t imagine digging up a larger one!

One more question! Does the amount of tree left intact impact it’s likelihood of surviving digging it up? Your post seems to suggest the less disturbance the better. But I’m also concerned about the sudden loss of some of its root system and supplying the full tree with water. The new leaves from this spring have wilted.

I hope I am not asking too much! I appreciate your input and expertise!

K

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