Saturday, 6 January 2018

When Branches Crack

Among the trees growing in my bonsai area is a skinny fig tree which I started from a cutting off a neighbour's tree when he pruned it in mid-2015. Although it's not much thicker than a pencil, by December 2017 it was nearly two foot tall. Yet it had not produced a single branch. I did however see signs that it was setting buds for next summer's fruit. (*)

Then disaster struck, or so it seemed. The trunk was growing closer to horizontal than vertical, so I decided to wire it into a more upright position, but with a little added movement. The trouble is I wasn't as gentle as I should have been and, while bending it to the desired angle, I managed to crack the trunk. Not a small crack either, this one went more than half way through the trunk.

On another tree I'd probably have cut back to the site of the crack and worked with what was left, but in this case I wasn't happy to do that for a couple of reasons:

  • the crack site was just below the first leaf, meaning I'd have been left with a bare stump
  • as I already have a quirky fig tree I've been working on for some time, my main focus for this one has been on trying to grow fruit. If I'm right about the buds I've seen, cutting back would have delayed my chances of getting fruit.

Although I believed the top half of the tree had little hope of survival, I decided to see if it could be saved. I manipulated the wire to bring the two sides of the crack together, then sealed it with Kiyonal paste.

By the next day the leaf at the site of the crack was starting to dry up and a few days later it fell off but, remarkably, that was the only sign of distress the tree ever showed.

January 2018 - three weeks after the "accident"

Now, three weeks later, there is new growth at the apex, but more importantly it's starting to develop new branches both above and below the crack.

Crack site - new growth is visible at the bottom

It seems that damaging the trunk was actually a blessing in disguise.

(*) I'm certain that somebody will be wondering why I started with such a thin cutting, so let me explain.

The cutting my neighbour gave me was actually big and thick, with too many branches to fit into any pot I owned, so I cut it into several pieces in a variety of sizes, hoping that the thicker ones would root. In time they may have done if we hadn't been hit by what I believed was a severe drought, but was actually relatively minor compared to the drought that is still taking its toll on other parts of South Africa.

When water restrictions were imposed I decided it was time to dispose of whatever was not alive, so I pulled most of the cuttings out of their pots. Sadly one of the thickest ones was just starting to root, but my attempts to save it were unsuccessful. Only this one skinny one survived.

I still hope to get a better fig cutting one day but for now I'm hoping that this one will fatten up. Maybe those extra branches will help.

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