This time the trees are another year older. You may find starter stock like these in the bonsai section of nurseries. If you are intending to grow larger bonsai or really fat trunks your trees should be planted in the ground or large grow pots by now. I’m aiming at smaller sized bonsai with these. At this stage the possibilities start to magnify and different growers will take different routs to produce bonsai from this point.
This one has reasonably attractive bends in the trunk and a few small branches to choose from. Some beginners would be happy to put a tree like this straight into a bonsai pot. That’s fine if you want to but I can see plenty of improvements I’d like to make for the long term future of this as bonsai.
First I’m checking the surface roots. Nebari, or visible surface roots, is really important to show age and stability in a maple bonsai. I want to have good, strong roots evenly spread all round the trunk if possible.
The roots are a little lower on one side. If I tilt this tree a bit the current roots will all be level – a far better view. Fortunately this tilt helps bring the top of the tree above the base and actually improves the flow of the trunk.
There is very little taper in this tree. A good maple bonsai is much thicker at the base and tapers gradually right through to the top of the tree. Pruning is the quickest way to introduce taper into your bonsai, removing thicker parts and keeping thinner sections as new leaders. The section marked in blue below is also very straight so doesn’t fit well with the curves in the lower trunk.
Pruning away the problems will leave me with a far better skeleton.
I’ve removed that straight section completely to continue the curves then cut out the top of the tree at a convenient smaller side branch which will now become the new leader giving the tree some more bends as well as taper almost instantly. Now that the tree is shorter it also appears to be much thicker.
I’ve also decided to wire those 2 branches now while they are still flexible enough to bend easily. There’s still a few years of growing and development ahead. the extra, unwired branches are probably not part of the final design but won’t hurt in the short term and will probably even help the trunk to thicken a bit more. I’m also hoping for some more shoots to pop out of the trunk next spring after removing this much from the top of the tree. maybe some of those new shoots will be in good places to add more branches to the tree.