The basic steps of branch development on coast live oak are simple: stimulate new shoots, shape the shoots with wire, cut back to two or three buds in fall.
Following these steps can yield secondary branches in less than one year. Here are photos of each step.
The coast live oak above is growing well, but the branch structure is poor. It’s a good time to reduce the branches.
Four months later, the tree has produced lots of new branches. It’s now time to wire branches that will be part of the final design and remove the rest.
After cutback and wiring
I wanted to leave the branches relatively long so they would continue to thicken. Here’s the tree four months later.
I began the work this fall by reducing the longest shoots to make it easier to visualize the desired silhouette.
After initial cutback
The next step was to wire the small shoots and remove shoots that won’t be part of the final design.
After wiring – 19″
If you compare the above photo with the after photo in February, you’ll notice that the only change is the 1″ – 2″ of new growth at the end of each branch. I plan to follow the same approach for the next several years until the branch density and crown size suggest a more mature silhouette.
Along the way, I expect to settle on a front. In the photo below, you can see that the back of the tree is another good candidate for the front.
I don’t expect the tree to grow much, if at all, before spring, so the main task now is to water carefully until repotting time in January.
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