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Old 06-10-2019, 06:34 AM   #1
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Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


I have decided to pleach my est. 40 year old lilac monster into a single spiral trunk and I'm looking for a few opinions. Here's the lilac in question as well as the trunks I'll be winding:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190608_175523.jpg
Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190608_144238.jpg

I've selected the solid thick trunk on the left to be my "mother" trunk/support and pruned out the other two large trunks that were too brittle/old to bend without breaking.

First question is about support/straightening; as you can see in the first picture, my mother trunk has a slight "outward" angle to it. Should I use the thicker trunk(s) on the right (the one with all the suckers furthest right, and/or the second one to the left of that) to help pull the mother trunk more vertical or do you think either of them (or both) are too far away from the mother trunk to be effective/advisable?

Second question is if I should do any grafting in the spiral. I plan to use temporary through bolts and cables to hold the branches in place as I wind them. My concern is that the mother trunk will get strangled by the wrapping trunks if I don't graft them to the mother trunk. On the other hand, I'm not sure that mother trunk is really going to grow any thicker; it's 6-8" across right now.

Third would be if I should graft the winding trunks to each other or not? One of my thoughts for not strangling the mother trunk was that I could bolt and/or graft the winding trunks to each other in a more open "weave" to create a bit of a "cage" rather than a 'solid' trunk.

What do ya'll think? My main purpose is that I need to keep her out from under the eave and away from the gutter, second purpose is to keep my deck and the yard clear of all the lower branches. I'm willing to experiment with her as I had originally planned to remove her, but decided to give "topiary" a chance to save her.

Example pics (Very tight "solid" trunk spiral, a loose "solid" trunk spiral, a grafted "cage" [though I'd do mine a bit tighter than that], and finally a grafted "artwork" style trunk I could do with the thicker trunks on the right and continuing up to the eave/gutter level)

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Old 06-10-2019, 08:11 AM   #2
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


This is going to be interesting, Mystress. I can’t give you any advise on how
to do this, however, I think it’s a great project. We sort of did this with our
walking stick tree; we cut away all the bottom twigs to give it more definition
to look like a tree rather than a ‘bush’.
Looking forward to seeing this transformation. Good luck and hack away!
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Old 06-10-2019, 10:34 AM   #3
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mystriss View Post
I have decided to pleach my est. 40 year old lilac monster into a single spiral trunk and I'm looking for a few opinions. Here's the lilac in question as well as the trunks I'll be winding:

Attachment 560625
Attachment 560627

I've selected the solid thick trunk on the left to be my "mother" trunk/support and pruned out the other two large trunks that were too brittle/old to bend without breaking.

First question is about support/straightening; as you can see in the first picture, my mother trunk has a slight "outward" angle to it. Should I use the thicker trunk(s) on the right (the one with all the suckers furthest right, and/or the second one to the left of that) to help pull the mother trunk more vertical or do you think either of them (or both) are too far away from the mother trunk to be effective/advisable?

Second question is if I should do any grafting in the spiral. I plan to use temporary through bolts and cables to hold the branches in place as I wind them. My concern is that the mother trunk will get strangled by the wrapping trunks if I don't graft them to the mother trunk. On the other hand, I'm not sure that mother trunk is really going to grow any thicker; it's 6-8" across right now.

Third would be if I should graft the winding trunks to each other or not? One of my thoughts for not strangling the mother trunk was that I could bolt and/or graft the winding trunks to each other in a more open "weave" to create a bit of a "cage" rather than a 'solid' trunk.

What do ya'll think? My main purpose is that I need to keep her out from under the eave and away from the gutter, second purpose is to keep my deck and the yard clear of all the lower branches. I'm willing to experiment with her as I had originally planned to remove her, but decided to give "topiary" a chance to save her.

Example pics (Very tight "solid" trunk spiral, a loose "solid" trunk spiral, a grafted "cage" [though I'd do mine a bit tighter than that], and finally a grafted "artwork" style trunk I could do with the thicker trunks on the right and continuing up to the eave/gutter level)

Attachment 560629
Hmm. I concur, looks fascinating! You'll likely end up teaching us all something.

For what it's worth, I've seen lilacs in my time with trunks at least 12" (30 CM) thick, though they're very old. So I think you might want to make allowances for that.
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Old 06-10-2019, 03:06 PM   #4
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Well after scouring the interweb, I couldn't find a single reference to anyone pleaching a lilac bush. Best I can find in the realm is things like this flowering bonsai; which is absolutely gorgeous, but wouldn't really work in the location mine is in. The picture might also be a wisteria, I can't see the blooms well enough to tell the difference - though as I understand the main appearance difference would be in the length of the bloom heads:



In any event, I think I'll go with a looser wind cage kind of thing just in case the "mother" trunk gets bigger. I'm thinking to graft the two larger trunks I was talking about together on the one side of the mother trunk, then wrap them around to the other side of the mother trunk and graft them again (almost a braid) but it remains to be seen if I can bend them far enough to reach around the mother trunk without breaking them.

I spent a good five hours playing with it this morning. Untangling the branches was quite a nightmare, but I'm pleased with the results so far. Before and after this morning's work:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_112208.jpg
Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_114029.jpg

I'm going to need reinforcements to do the ones on the left there, I can't even begin to bend either of the three branches (also to hold her together while I screw the branches together permanently.)

On the plus side, I should know the next if I bend a trunk too far to survive as the leaves on it start wilting immediately. I had to take out a number of branches that didn't survive yesterday's heavy pruning. I suppose I should post a picture of what it looked like before that since I'm kind of making a thread of this project. This picture is from a couple years ago:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190608_175555.jpg
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Last edited by Mystriss; 06-10-2019 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:50 PM   #5
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Did a bit more pleaching and got some better pics of my work in progress. I edited some to color tag the trunks and help make sense of what I'm doing as it doesn't really show up well (its a bit wonky since I'm basically trying to work backwards to color mark the trunks for ya'll)

Tagged what I started with from the front:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190608_144238sm.jpg Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_111449sm.png

Front after some pleaching on the right side (the left side is the red and orange trunks I can't move by myself):

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_135759sm.jpg Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_155708sm.jpg

I'm planning to pull the red trunk (that's the tallest one on the bush and has a cute round puff on the top of it) as close to the mother (dark blue) trunk as I can, then I think I'll graft the two branches of that light blue trunk's Y around the mother trunk bundle - presuming we have enough muscle in the place to do it, those two trunks are really strong and not real keen on doing what I demand of them.

From the side after some pleaching, then another after some straightening/alignment work on the pleached main trunk section:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_114404sm.jpg Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_113744sm.png
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:59 PM   #6
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Here's a closer view of the trunk "weaving" so far:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_135807zoom.jpg Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_154156zoom.jpg
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Old 06-10-2019, 11:26 PM   #7
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Got rained out before we could finish pleaching, but with getting out on the roof and doing lots of wrangling, we got the red and orange trunks unraveled and started winding the red trunk around the main trunk:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_192712sm.png Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_194820sm.png Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_195443sm.png Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_195423sm.jpg Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190610_195434sm.jpg

Tomorrow if its not raining I'll try to wrestle the crown of the red trunk (the little poof sticking out on the right) into the center of the rest of the crown.
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Old 06-11-2019, 06:30 PM   #8
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Ayuh,..... Thank you Mystriss,..... I learned something today,.....

I've never heard the term Pleachin',.....
'n I applaud yer efforts,.....

Personally, I wouldn't allow a bush or tree so close to a buildin',......
Too much damage to the buildin' in storms, 'n over time,.....

I've got a shipload of Lilacs, so I might get around to tryin' this,.....
Alot of 'em are in dire need of bein' beatin' back with my chainsaw at this point,....
was just waitin' for the end of the blooms which is any time now,......

Never did get a Full Bloom this year,.... more like 1/2 bloom, twice as long,.....
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Old 06-11-2019, 09:05 PM   #9
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Apparently pleaching is a very old french word. I wasn't sure what to call it originally either, but I did a bunch of research. Pleaching is more like braiding. There's "espalier" which is where you train the branches onto flat surfaces - kind of like grape vines against a wall. Bonsai is crafting miniature trees. Topiary is shaping the canopy. Then you have the terms arborsculpting, arbortecture, biotecture, living art, tree shaping, and tree training all basically meaning to grow plants into "things" - like living chairs, living bridges, etc.


Yeah I wouldn't have planted it there, but we're pretty protected from storms down in our lot gully so the storms don't get it bad at all. It's just the growth pulling apart the roof and gutter that I'm upset with. We cut out the worst offenders.


I've done a bunch of lilac research recently and it said if you're not getting good blooms you can cut out 1/3 of the tree per year down to a solid branch or even to the ground as desired. You can also "murder" a lilac (that's cutting everything down to 6-8" inches off the ground, but it'll take about 3 years before you get blooms again.

Should do pruning after the final flowering is done - they build next years flowers through the summer and fall. Though if you're going to "murder" it, then do it in the early spring.

Also deadheading the dying blooms will stop the plant from putting any energy into seeds - so it'll go to next years flowers. You just take those off down to a "keeper" stem, but you have to keep an eye out that you don't trim off next years flower buds.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:51 PM   #10
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Re: Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?


Over the course of yesterday that "red" trunk had relaxed enough to do another quarter turn on it and bend it downward so now the "puff" is almost all the way in the front of the tree:

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190611_161600sm.jpg Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190611_141906sm.jpg

Here's a pic showing how severe a turn I'm putting on it. It's enough that I've opened the bark at a couple of the bends.

Pleaching very mature lilac - To graft, or not to graft?-20190611_141937sm.jpg

That bend is going to have to rest another day, when I went out to check on it this morning it wasn't ready to do the rest. Have to let the trunk rest a bit in between so it doesn't snap the core wood, the outer bark cracking open is not a big problem, but if the core snaps the trunks' a goner. However, she's growing like a weed with all the extra sun and air circulation from the massive pruning so it's going a lot faster than I'd expected it to.

I'll be bending the 'red' trunk a bit more around the front then upward to put its puff into the front canopy, then I'll wrap the 'orange' trunk's Y branches on either side of the main trunk bundle to hold the red trunk in. Need someone on the roof to get things in place though so that'll probably have to wait until the weekend.

I'm also not going to be able to do the grafting on that orange trunk's Y branches this summer as it looks like her bark is already slipping - that's when the cores are growing, grafting has to be done before that stage so it can mend the two plants/branches fibers (the cambium under the bark) together. I'll have to tie the two together and wait until next spring to do any grafting. I think it'll make lining up the cambium's a lot easier if the branches have settled into their new positions anyway.

I'm pondering grafting on some white lilac scion's to the left side so I can have a mix of colors and fill in the crown shape. I can do this kind of grafting during the summer because that's when lilacs make next years flowers. The grafting I'll do on the orange trunk's Y branches would be structural so I need to get all her energy into fixing the damage around the graft area (aka before she's building up next years flowers,) vs adding on a while lilac scion will just use the nutrients in the other lilac's branches - kind of like borrowing the neighbors water heh
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