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Dwarfed Trees Raised From Seedlings and Cuttings

Aug 17, 2007
One of the most fascinating hobbies is the raising of trees from seeds sown directly in a shallow container. If the seedlings are allowed to grow for a few years, they appear like a miniature forest; the same may be done with cuttings.

The following trees and shrubs may be sown directly in shallow containers or boxes, less than four inches in depth; Japanese maples, birches, beeches, Pomegranate, Yeddo Spruce, pines and many other conifers; also Wex-Tree (Rhus succedanea), Lacquer-Tree (Rhus ver-niciflua), Maidenhair Tree (Oinkgo M-loba), Cryptomeria japonica, Ilex serrata and Zelkova serrata. When the young seedlings are established they may be transplanted thickly to another shallow container or singly to a pot. The single planted ones in thumb pots should be shifted to slightly larger pits every two or three years. Two or three such trans-plantings should be enough.


During the growing season pinching off growing tips should not be neglected - otherwise, whether seedlings or old dwarfs, the trees will be unsightly in form and disproportionately long branches will be produced. Generally, pinching is practiced and begins when young shoots are an inch or so long. Only one or two leaves are allowed to remain on any one branch. In the case of conifers such as spruces and pines, pinching should be done as the soft new branches elongate and begin to show their new needles. Every 'new twig should be pinched back, except the ones desired to improve form or to fill a gap; only a bit of elongated shoot should remain, from which the new buds are formed. Unsightly or deformed dwarfed potted trees, often seen at the novice's home, are in most cases the result of wrong pinching or neglect of pinching.

Densely twigged trees such as elm, maple, pomegranate and zelkova, should be pinched during the growing season whenever the twigs attain one or two inches in length. Always remember to retain one or two leaves on each branch.

The flowering shrubs such as azalea, enkianthus, rose, quince and jasmine, or fringe-tree and crabapple, contrary to the preceding, should not be pinched even lightly. Pinching back of these varieties removes the flower buds and prevents flowering.

The weeping willow and tamarix trained in weeping form are better if all the new twigs are cut off in the middle of spring. When new growth starts again, the weeping branchlets that are produced will be more slender and delicate.


Now, I feel it is better to select a few trees which would probably be of interest to readers and try to describe in a few words the essential points on their culture.

Flowering Cherries. Japanese flowering cherries are nicer as garden trees but sometimes well known garden varieties are attractive as dwarfed potted trees. In dwarfing these trees, the general practice is no pinching or pruning. Among the flowering cherries, the best is Primus incisa and its varieties. This densely-twigged dwarf shrub is very lovely with little single blooms. Prunus kurilensis is good, too. Over-watering may kill the whole plant or destroy most of the branches.

Flowering Crabapples. Among these the most popular is Hall's Crabapple, known for nearly ninety years in American gardens. The tree is easily trained to one or two feet in height by bending or coiling the long shoots. So trained, these produce many flowering spurs and become very floriferous. Every spring the trees are a beautiful sight with their lovely rose-colored blooms hanging gracefully on long, slender, reddish flower stalks.

Peaches and Pears. Though rarely seen as dwarfed potted trees they make lovely ones. These and the preceding are, with a few exceptions, called by the "dignified" connoisseurs merely "potted lowering trees". These and other varieties certainly bear further study if one is interested in working with Bonsai plants.
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