Development pruning

I understand that not everyone has old, well developed bonsai so while it is nice to see the sort of pruning I showed in the last post, many of you are just starting out with much younger trees.

I picked out this trident maple because the trunk has good movement right down low. I think it has potential to produce a good bonsai.

As it is currently it is not particularly good. Lower trunk has some taper and attractive movement (blue section below) but there is little taper above the green line. The upper trunk sections are quite straight (red section) and do not complement the bends down lower.

It may seem drastic to many beginners but sometimes the best way to move forward is to go back a bit so I’ve reduced the trunk to remove the problem areas.

I’ve pruned this one just above some small branches that have good potential to become new leaders and/or branches.

I have not decided which of those will be the new trunk. The one toward the left will bring the trunk back toward the base of the tree which may be good for balance but the one toward the front will bring the trunk line slightly forward and probably continue the leaning trunk line. I’ll leave them all to grow a bit first and see what starts to look good before removing the spare ones.

Some will be wondering why I haven’t just left the whole tree intact because this tree does need to grow and thicken and pruning is generally thought to slow growth. In my opinion, fast growth is not the be all and end all of bonsai. I’m actually aiming at a smaller tree, probably in the shohin size range – under 20 cm tall so a trunk maybe 3 cm diameter will be adequate. The current character of the lower trunk is likely to disappear with rapid trunk thickening. Allowing the whole trunk to thicken will also mean I’ll end up with a much larger cut when I eventually prune the trunk (those straight sections will still not look good even on a thicker trunk). I’m also hoping for a more elegant, flowing tree to take advantage of that leaning lower trunk so I am more than happy to grow this one just a bit slower to avoid large scars and thickened sections.

Autumn pruning

I generally start pruning my deciduous bonsai as soon as the leaves have fallen off in Autumn. That’s mainly because it is easier to see the structure of the tree when all the leaves are gone. Not all trees drop leaves at the same time so that allows me to spread the work over a few weeks.

This trident group is one of the first to be bare this year.

Lots of growth over the summer. Long shoots that were hidden under the canopy of leaves, many branches have become crowded and some thick branches near the top of some trees.

Shoots with long internodes are eliminated wherever they occur

Long internodes will not produce good ramification in future
Cut off all shoots with long internodes

Crowded branches are thinned out to leave space for future growth.

Too many sub branches here
Removing a whole section shortens the branch and gives more space for growth next year

Here’s the apex of one of the trees in this group. Lots of thick branches growing from the same place so most need to be removed

very congested apex
same area after pruning

Long, straight shoots are either shortened or eliminated

Some long shoots have grown over the summer.
after pruning the long, straight shoots.

After pruning. Branches have been reduced a little and thinned out to allow room for next year’s growth. There are still a few branches near the tops that are slightly thicker than I would like but with nothing to replace them at this stage I’ve left them. Need to monitor those areas next summer to try to encourage some thinner shoots as replacements.

Autumn colour

It is now well into Autumn at Shibui Bonsai. Cooler weather and shorter days mean less time spent keeping trees watered. Some of the Shibui Bonsai trees have responded to the cooler nights and put on Autumn colours. Here are some photos from the past few weeks to show you what I’ve been seeing this year.

Trident maple

Trident group



And a few more trident maples showing Autumn colours

We have not had any really good cold nights yet this autumn so colour on the deciduous trees is a bit subdued this year. A couple of Japanese maples have simply turned brown rather than the normal bright colours they are famous for.

As soon as the leaves fall I will begin end of year pruning and thinning.