Dawn Redwood Bonsai Pruning Advice- please help / what would you?

MikeyLeeG(7A)March 11, 2014

My Dawn Redwood Bonsai tree is starting to bud, and I was hoping to prune and reshape it before spring, or before the ideal period slips by. I have been searching for someone with experience in my area who shares my passion for bonsai and plants alike, whom I could sit with and learn from. The local bonsai society finally responded to my request to join a couple months ago, but then I never heard back with details as promised. Until then, I shall continue reading and researching the internet. If anyone lives near Northern Delaware, please contact me if you need a Bonsai Buddy!
To the issue, I purchased this Dawn Redwood last year from the internet, and it was labeled as 22 years old. I haven't touched it until a couple weeks ago, when I thought ready to repot and prune. I feel I did a fine job reducing the overdue, compact roots, and then I repotted with fresh soil -Al's Gritty Mix 1:1:1 (I love the stuff). Now I feel like time is running out, and with the buds popping, I need to cut most of the overgrown branches that throw it out of proportion, and which are not helping the taper of the trunk at all either. I have an idea of what I want to chop, which is almost everything to start from scratch. I guess I want the branches to be thinner at the top and thicker at the bottom. Also, more spread out branch placement with new growth on the bare side would be my ultimate goal, I suppose.
If anyone would be so kind to take a look at my photos taken today, March 11, 2014, and respond with the approach you would take for reshaping the tree, I could use the help. Or even if you have had one in the past, or have seen it done somewhere, or perhaps just have experience in the art of bonsai...anything would help. I have my professional concave cutters and knob cutters ready to go, but every time I sit to plan my approach, I fret that my inexperience will ruin what I want to accomplish in the distant or perhaps near future.
Thank you to all who have helped me in the past with providing knowledge, experience, and insightful debates on these forums, from which the lone bonsai enthusiast can learn from.
Your friend,
Mikey G

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Pic 2

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:23PM
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Pic 3

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:24PM
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Pic 4

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:25PM
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Pic 5

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:26PM
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Pic 6

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:27PM
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Final pic 7

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:28PM
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Hi - my first thought may be a cop-out, but what about training it in a windswept style to make the bare side look intentional? Other than that, I'd pick one leader at the top and work on it as 'the' leader, sacrificing others nearby that compete - but not as a leader aimed back at the bare side of course! You could also work on freely growing tertiary branches that are already aimed back to the bare side, but I don't know how well that would work in the long run. You do need to make some choices otherwise - choosing between 2/3 branches coming from the same places on the trunk, training the bottomest branch that's shooting straight up, and others that are crossing, pointing in opposite directions, etc., and cut back most of the others somewhat to encourage growth closer to the trunk. Get some uniformity in there. What's 'growing' now, budding now, won't be so important in a few years, but using the growth to form that projected tree is.

This post was edited by moochinka on Tue, Mar 11, 14 at 22:29

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 10:26PM
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moochinka....thanks for your response. I see your responses frequently. It's very cool of you to stay so interactive, but I never knew you were so prompt. Windswept, huh?.....interesting. I have some single buds on the bare side that I think I will let loose. As far as the current lowest branch, I think I will wire it straight out for now and let it thicken up. It is also on the bare side. Any thicker branches....gone, T-bars....gone, branches shooting straight up...gone, multiple branches at the same point on the trunk....gone, and very branch at the apex trunk chop.....gone except for maybe one thin shoot. The apex is my main inquiry. I don't know if the tree is already too tall for me, but I may re-score the cambium around the cut and cover it with Kyonal cut paste. I'll keep a young shoot to grow there to help heal the wound. I would like have a thicker base trunk and better taper, but there is not much info out there on Redwood Bonsai. Can I assume that I can treat it as any other deciduous tree?

Attached is a picture of the tree when I first got it last autumn.

I really really really appreciate your help!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 1:00AM
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Hi - no problem with enough foliage! I still would trim back the top branches like the one on the left pointing at the camera - just bush, no refinement, but then if you want to thicken the upper branches, I guess you'd leave them. And I don't (as yet) see a clear leader, one which you might have wired lightly to point upward, but I guess that'll show up in time. I don't think it's 'too tall' yet (and is a Redwood after all), but a lot taller could end up looking that way... I'm a little weird about those trees - I like them so much I'd get a very large pot and grow a very large tree (bonsai)!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:36AM
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I did some hard pruning. Too much? My vision (I think) is to thicken out at least 1 or 2 of the lower branches and reform the apex. Also there are some buds popping from the trunk in those areas that are far between or bare, but we'll have a better idea after the foliage grows this spring. I'm trying to start shaping for a look that will start to come together in about 3 to 5 years.
So there is no going back now, but it is far less busy. Also it may be easier to give me some advice now if anyone has any.

Please and thank you,
Mikey G

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 11:31PM
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Another angle

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 11:33PM
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Doing well 2 weeks later !!!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:02PM
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This tree LOVES to grow. The gritty mix seems to make my plants very happy.
I propagated the cuttings acquired from this tree's pruning in early March, and now have about 20 new Dawn Redwood trees. I have some planted in a forest style, and will probably field grow about half of the rooted cuttings for trunk fattening. They grow so fast. I love this game! I wish I would have discovered my passion for bonsai years ago. Even after dedicating over a year to attentive research, there is not much that can compare to the skills only acquired through experience. I have to learn the hard way sometimes, but if this hobby (obsession) was based on a scholactic scale, I think I've earned myself an even 'B' so far. Anyway, I figured I would keep anyone interested updated......(moochinka).
This picture is probably almost 2 weeks old, too, so I'll try to post a more recent one later with a time frame for reference of how much my plants are growing.
A big 'shout out' to Al and his enlightening posts that have helped me understand the Plant Kingdom a little better, as I am alone in my interest where I live, and can only learn through you all.
Thank You!

Mikey Lee G

    Bookmark   May 28, 2014 at 11:33PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a



    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Here is an update photo of how my Dawn Redwood has progressed.
Very cool tree!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 10:35PM
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I really like how the tree has come back from your hard pruning. Looking good. I just got myself 3 seedlings I'm starting myself. Where did you find the tree that was 22 years old? I like the way it is looking and mine are only 2 years old so I'm a long way away from that.

Can you tell me a little about how you got the cuttings to grow.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 11:58AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I highly doubt that tree is 22 years old. Maybe two years old.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2014 at 10:27PM
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