Pagoda Dogwood - Transplant Candidate - August 2022

Last year, I bought and planted a small, native Pagoda Dogwood tree in our backyard close-to/near our firepit area.   It was tucked in right on the curve that transitions from our Hicks Yew hedge (in formation) and the firepit border and I thought (at the time) that it would provide a nice little focal point there - and grow up/over the Hicks Yew hedge to both provide screening and a little sense of placemaking by the firepit.   

The small tree managed through the Winter (I protected it from the dang rabbits with a Chicken Wire hoop) and leaf'd out this year.  The leaves are quite nice and interesting.   It has put on growth - a little up, but plenty out.  That means that - for now - it is crowding out the Hicks Yews and the hosta that are planted close to it.  

Here, below, is a look at the situation.  Pagoda Dogwood in the middle.  Hosta of some unknown variety on the left.  Small (but growing) Hicks upright Yews on the right.  As the Dogwood has spread out, it starts to 'cover up' those other plants.

Below are a few more looks at the situation from different angles.  First, you can see the spread of the Pagoda Dogwood below:

And below, you can see the trunk structure.  You see these trees as both single and multi-trunk native trees and it appears that I have a couple of decisions to make.  First...on location.  But, second on number of trunks.  If you look below, you'll see the main, thick (and starting to change from green to hardened over) trunk.  But, there's also another small, thin trunk (I think) emerging behind it.  I haven't investigated if this is branching from the main trunk, but that could be - likely right below the mulch line.

My preference is for a single trunk, so I'm thinking of pruning that sucker off with the hope of providing more energy to the leader/meristem.

I also want to see the tree grow up, but based on lessons learned early on our lot here, I've adopted a total 'hands-off approach' to pruning young trees.  What I thought was best practice of limb'ing up young trees to force them to concentrate on their height was/is actually very likely not ideal.  I don't know if this was the ONLY cause of the death of some of our early trees (initial Dawn Redwood, Crimson King Maple), but I'm guessing it contributed.   They say you're supposed to never take more than 1/3rd of the 'good wood' on young trees, but in some cases, I removed all the lower branches.  Probably more than 1/3rd of the 'good wood' as those lower ones are the longest and oldest.

I've also learned from experience with espalier and learning about bonsai that those lower branches are how trunks get 'thick'.  There's a guy on YouTube who calls those lower branches 'thickeners'.  They're not destined to be in the final product/mature tree, but they serve a role of thickening the trunk up at the connection of the branch to the trunk.  

Knowing all of that, I do think that this Pagoda Dogwood needs to get bigger before I do anything on the non-sucker limbs.  But, it is easy to 'see' how to (eventually) sacrifice most of the current, low-level branching, in order to get a tall, upright tree with a limb-free trunk.  If I don't do that pruning, we end up with something much more shrub-like than tree-form.

That still leaves the location question and decision.  Is this a transplant candidate?  If so, where does it go?  Is it too late to transplant it and if I dig it up, do I risk killing it?   Those questions kind of all hinge on the answer to the level of risk.  There's a good chance it dies, right?  

The tree was inexpensive - bought at a municipal sale - so replacement cost is low.  I talked about using dogwoods on the side of the garage for an additional espalier.  Alternating branching ones aren't exactly what I had in mind, but maybe an informal one would work here?

I'm going to put the [Fall 2022] tag on this post as something to review when the temperatures drop and I focus on dividing and transplanting other things in the garden.  Right now...on transplanting/relocation this Pagoda Dogwood.....I'm not saying: no.  But, I'm sure leaning that way.  But, I'm also leaning towards putting the plant the garage sideyard on my Fall 2022 list at the same time.


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