After fifteen years of branch development, my Korean hornbeam has slowed down considerably. When I started working on the branches, I’d often see new shoots with ten-to-twenty new leaves all over the tree. Now I can expect between two-to-five new leaves on all but the strongest branches.
This slowed growth rate simplifies spring maintenance. To keep the interior shoots healthy, I pluck the leaves growing on the outside branches and the large leaves in the tree’s interior.
I pluck most of the leaves with my fingers and use tweezers for leaves I can’t reach with my hands.
After partially defoliating the top third
One branch to go
The main challenge with this work is taking caution to not pull too many leaves from weak branches. When I slow down a bit, I find it’s easy to remove the right leaves and leave adequate foliage behind.
I also try to leave more leaves on the lower branches. These branches are usually weaker than the upper branches so I preserve about twice as many leaves as I’d remove from the top of the tree.
Leaving more leaves on the bottom branch
I do a little pruning at this time to shorten internodes longer than 1/4″ and to remove shoots growing from the trunk. I’ll thin the branches in fall when the tree starts to go dormant.
Partial defoliation complete – 17″
I’ve fertilized the tree lightly this spring, but will hold off for about a month before I start again. I’ll continue fertilizing the tree until the leaves come off in fall.
- Korean hornbeam display at Taikan-ten
- Ten-year progression of a Korean hornbeam (the history of this tree)
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