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Beech Trees

The beech genera is a small one, comprised of about a dozen species. They have smooth, pale gray bark, and ovate leaves which look similar to those of the hornbeam. The most distinctive feature of the beech is its unmistakable cigar-shaped buds. These buds are rather tender, and beech does not produce secondary buds. Nature's way of protecting these buds is for the beech to retain its dead leaves throughout winter. For this reason - and the fact that they make for an interesting winter bonsai - the beech's dried leaves should not be removed from the tree. Many lovely and colorful cultivars of beech are becoming available and should gain in popularity in the bonsai world.

Lighting: Full sun, but semi-shade in midsummer. F. crenata is the least sun-tolerant beech.
Temperature:Varies - the American beech is the most hardy, the Japanese white beech the least. All beeches can benefit from winter protection in their early years.
Watering: Frequently, especially during hot weather, to prevent the edges of the leaves from drying out. Reduce watering in winter. Appreciates misting. If F. sylvatica is watered especially well in late June to early August, it may have a second growth sprut.
Feeding: Do not feed for the first month after bud burst. Then feed every two weeks until the end of summer. increasing feeding for F. sylvatica in late June-early August encourages the development of a second growth spurt.
Repotting: Spring, before bud burst, every 2-3 years. F. sylvatica may be repotted in autumn, taking advantage of its second growth spurt - Simon and Schuster's states that more drastic pruning of roots can be done in autumn than spring. Beech are very vulnerable to root rot, and a fast draining soil is preferable. David Bockman suggests using the following soil mix, taken from 'Bonsai Design' by Peter Adams:
-4 parts sand
-2 parts peat
-2 parts leaf mould
-2 parts A.B.E.C. (an ericaceous compost mixture available commercially)
He also stresses the use of sharp pruning tools to prevent fungal infestation of wounds on the roots. Beech prefers cool root systems, so use of deep pots are suggested, at least 3 inches deep for F. grandifolia.
Styling: Leaf pruning every second year in late spring is important to reduce the size of the large leaves. It is safernot to defoliate the beech completely, or in the same year that it has been repotted. Prune new shoots from 3-5 nodes to 1-2 nodes. Beech grows slowly, and does not require much pruning. However, because beech does not produce secondary buds, it is important not to allow the internodes to become too long. (F. grandifolia is exceptional in that it buds back easily.) Beech can be wired, but wiring saps the vigor of the tree, and should not be left on longer than three months. The bark of the beech is delicate and needs protection. It is best to do most shaping through pruning.Because of the apical predominance of the plant, prune the top back drastically, but prune lower branches sparingly. Because of its large leaves, beech is generally reserved for medium to large size bonsai. Because beech grows so slowly, it is a long-term project to grow a specimen beech. This is why young beech are often used in forest plantings.
Propagation: From seeds sown in autumn or cold-treated seeds in spring. Beech seed is short lived, and must be stored at 32F if not planted immediately. Grafting is possible, but most beech have high, ugly grafts unsuitable for bonsai.
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