Blue Atlas Cedar Saga – Part – II

Posted by on Dec 31, 2015 | 9 Comments
Blue Atlas Cedar Saga – Part – II

In part I of this Cedar’s story I started with a tree that had a good trunk and grafted on a few branches using approach grafts to form the basic structure. From there it was really all about forming the crown and branch pads efficiently.

What I found after moving back to San Francisco is that this species seems to be ideally suited to Bay Area weather. I’ve since heard from people in other parts of the country both north and south that they are not quite as good growers in those locations. Altas cedars are native to the Atlas Mountains of Morrocco, but I’m left to wonder how the climate might be similar to my own.

With the climate on my side and the tree growing well, this tree made a lot of useful growth in a short period. Between 2012 and 2015 I had three good opportunities to refine the tree, each time with a full canopy of shoots to select from. All that I had to do was choose the right ones and wire them into place. I find that wiring the branching without smashing needles is quite challenging, even more so than wiring Japanese Black pine branching.

May 2014, before work.

May 2014, before work. The new shoots that the tree has made are all looking healthy and ready to be either positioned or cut back.

May 2014 after wiring some branching and reducing the tree a little.

May 2014 after wiring some branching and reducing the tree a little.

As you can see in the after photo from May 2014, I had the notion that I was going to create another layer of foliage above the existing one. The idea in my head was that the tree needed to be slightly taller so that the taper in the trunk would match proportionally with the height of the foliage mass. I had planned to allow the top branch to grow out and then create just about another inch or so in height.

May 2015, the tree was growing quite well for the third year in a row so I was able to harness the growth and refine the silhouette once again.

May 2015, the tree was growing quite well for the third year in a row so I was able to harness the growth and refine the silhouette once again.

December 2015 - the canopy is as refined as it will be for this year.

December 2015 – the canopy is as refined as it will be for this year.

Ultimately, it seemed that the top didn’t need to be any taller than it already was and that filling out the sides was enough to create the silhouette that I needed. Boon and I had repotted the tree back in 2011 but left it in an over-size ceramic grow pot since at the time we had some health concerns. Now, with the branching looking good it’s time to get the tree into a show container.

I had selected an older Japanese pot for the tree, one with a wide rim and flared sides because I think it suits the large nebari and relatively compact form. Normally, I think the pot would be for a pine tree with a trunk slightly larger than this tree. While we were repotting we decided to try a couple other pots just in case they might work better.

An interesting container, but ultimately I thought it was slightly too wide and the color is not as nice as the one I chose.

An interesting container, but ultimately I thought it was slightly too wide and the color is not as nice as the one I chose.

A deeper container, good width, but I didn't like the color of the design on the front.

A deeper container, good width, but I didn’t like the color or the design on the front.

Once we settled on the container the challenge was to make the tree fit. The nebari of this tree is considerably larger than the trunk and it is very deep front to back. The tree barely fit into the container.

Repotting was challenging - the tree barely fit into the new container because of the large nebari.

Repotting was challenging – the tree barely fit into the new container because of the large nebari.

With the tree potted up into the show container and the branching cleaned up it’s getting close to show time. This year the BIB show will feature trees under 18″ only. So this tree at about 16″ will stack up nicely. The next challenge will be the final show prep and the stand and companion pieces.

December 2015, after repotting into the show container.

December 2015, after repotting into the show container.

9 Comments

  1. Michael
    January 1, 2016

    Nice work

  2. dave crust
    January 2, 2016

    I am completely curious (maybe I missed something) about the super disturbing branch crossing over the middle of the trunk. It seems untenable.

    • Eric Schrader
      January 2, 2016

      Dave, you have a keen eye for detail. Yes, unfortunately, I made a mistake when I was bending the original grafted branching and somehow ended up with a branch crossing the trunk. I can’t recall what I was thinking at the time but the branch cannot be removed right now as it forms the entire lower left side of the tree. Over time I plan to grow out another branch that is currently making up a small portion of the canopy just behind it. As I do that I’ll gradually eliminate the existing foliage and ultimately the entire branch I think.

      For now, I’m excited that the tree has a nice canopy but frustrated that I made that mistake.

  3. dave crust
    January 2, 2016

    Ahh, to bad you could not re-graft that developed branch somehow–anyhow, the base is really impressive.

  4. Farhan Malik
    January 3, 2016

    When is the ideal time to repot a Blue Atlas Cedar?

    • Eric Schrader
      January 3, 2016

      Farhan – I repot almost all my trees during winter time. For the San Francisco Bay Area weather is generally mild enough that freezing cold temperatures don’t cause problems after repotting. Thus I repotted this into the show container in December. The bulk of my repotting happens in January and February. By early March most of my trees are already showing spring growth.

      In other places in the country, unless you can protect your repotted trees from freezing temperatures it’s best to wait for late winter/early spring. Jim Gremel advocates repotting cedars later than other trees.

  5. Jeremiah lee
    January 6, 2016

    Nice work!

  6. Ray Norris
    January 12, 2016

    very nice Eric

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