Wiring Up the Multi-Trunk Saucer Magnolia
We have a front yard Saucer Magnolia tree that was planted in the Summer of 2017 by our landscaper that has been with us since we moved into our new house. The first time that I posted about this Saucer Magnolia was when I shared a photo of the tree in early August 2017 and talked about how I had 'limb'ed up' the tree to remove some of the lower branching and some newly emerging trunks from the base. Our tree is multi-trunked (or multi-stemmed and/or multiple trunks) and at the time I was deciding to remove some of the stems/trunks that were shooting out sideways.
By September of 2017, it seemed that the tree had survived the Summer transplant (but...look at the lawn! yikes!) and was showing plenty of green leaves. The following February (2018), I did my first Winter check-in on the tree where it was showing off some buds that it had set the previous (first) Fall. And by May of 2018, the tree put on a show: flowers. I didn't include photos of the tree during last Winter (2018/2019) and it didn't flower in Spring of 2019. I included it in the tree height inventory in 2019 and showed that it grew almost 2 feet in height. This past Fall (September of 2019), I shared photos of the buds that had set and expressed hope that the tree would be ok during the Winter so we'd get flowers come Spring. And finally, just a couple weeks ago, I did a Winter check-in on the tree to see those same buds.
It was during that moment in early January when I noticed that one of the trunks was kind of splaying outward.
If you look all the way back to that August 2017 post when I first talked about the tree, you can see this one trunk. Here's a cropped photo from that same post showing the one trunk that I'm talking about. See it here on the left of the tree below:
Fast forward to today and the tree and the tree has grown (see this photo to see it in mid-Summer form) and due to the pruning has retained a fairly narrow or columnar or vase-like form. The central leader trunks are mostly heading fairly straight skyward and are compact. But, this one trunk had splayed a little more than I would like.
So, this being Wintertime and I'm always looking for a project, I decided to try to figure out how to best train this wandering trunk back to be a little bit more columnar and vase-like.
I've posted about this stuff in the past (see this espalier-related post), but I keep some flower/tree/landscape green soft wire on hand. The particular product that I prefer is this light-duty padded wire from Luster Leaf called "Rapiclip soft wire tie - No. 839". It comes in 16 foot segments. You can find it at Amazon or other places, I'm sure, but I buy from Menards. Costs (on non-rebate days) $3.99. I think it is a great value.
As you can see, I'm about half-way done with this spool, so the next time I get to Menards, I'll wander out to the (mostly) deserted garden center and grab some.
It was this light duty padded wire that I'm using to attempt to 'train' this splayed trunk back into the center/core of the tree. In the hope of making it grow into a more upright form. I picked a spot about three or so feet from the ground and made a connection between the splaying trunk and the most sturdy and thick central leader. I certainly want to try to pull the errant trunk back into upright form, but I also don't want to pull the (currently) straight existing leader off center. So, I played with the height of the wire a bit to both pull the errant trunk in, but not pull the anchor trunk off center. This is what it looked like - a little wrap and tie.
And, stepping back, here's how the tree looks now (below). You can see the green soft wire if you really look. But, for the most part, it just 'goes away'.
One other thing to note on this tree: I'm one to normally attack 'suckers' pretty aggressively. Especially in a situation like this Saucer Magnolia that *could* end up being more 'shrub-like' than tree-form. I'm going for 'tree form', and that started early (hence the first Summer limbing up) and often. I've removed some lower growth each season despite it not being the best thing for a young tree. In fact...I think that "early limbing up" of a young tree is a big part of why I lost my first Dawn Redwood, btw. On our replacement Dawn Redwood, I haven't touched it since I planted it in the Summer of 2018.
But, this particular splaying branch is thin from the base all the way to the tip. But, it has had (since this Summer) a small little branch that has emerged very close to the ground. You can see it in the photo below:
I've decided to leave this branch on this trunk on purpose. The rest of the trunks on this tree are clean (and I prune off the suckers as fast as I can) all the way about four feet. However, in beginning to work on bonsai and topiary this Summer, I learned that bonsai growers will OFTEN leave on limbs/branches that they know, ultimately, they don't want. But, they keep them on to 'thicken' up certain spots on the trunk/tree. On Bonsai, I think it is often in the name of getting the 'tapering' right, but, I'm going to use the principle here on this Saucer Magnolia.
I want this trunk to thicken up at the bottom - especially while I have it wired in place - so that once I take the wire off, it will have established the position and the thicker trunk will keep it in place.
Now...I recognize that this small sucker branch (or thickening branch as I'm calling it now) isn't at the base, but it is close. I'll watch the trunk for that notion of 'reverse taper' where this node of where the branch comes out thickens up and gets 'fatter' than what is below it. If that happens, I'll look to lop this branch/sucker off and see if the tree figures itself out on it's own.
For now, I'll keep an eye on the wire (and the taper) and will loosen the wire come Spring and see if the tree has adapted to this new more-upright shape on it's own.