Now that the deciduous trees have lost their leaves it is much easier to see the trunk shape and branch structure so I have started my winter pruning. This post shows how I prune younger trees to make a better start to a future bonsai.Good bonsai need several key attributes: taper in both trunk and branches; and movement. Pruning in the early stages of growth will help achieve these.
Here is a typical Japanese maple starter in an 11 cm pot. Trunk is around 1cm thick. Although it has some nice flowing curves there is little taper in the trunk and the trunk is very tall when compared to the thickness.
Nodes are the places where leaves once grew. Nodes are slightly raised, often have a line around the stem and you may be able to see tiny buds waiting to grow. The smooth area between the nodes is called an internode. New buds can grow from the nodes but will not form from the area between the nodes. When growing large sized bonsai this may not be too much of a problem but if I decide to use this tree as a smaller bonsai I’ll need branches closer together near the top so for the best future I’ll remove the section with long internodes and allow this trunk to grow again next year.
The trunk has an attractive bend near the base but that is followed by a straight, vertical section with no taper. I can reduce height and introduce taper as I did with the previous tree but the straight section is still a bit prominent and the trunk line is boring.
When the new leaders grow next year they will not be straight in line with the existing trunk and so this tree will have both taper and more movement in the trunk. Going backward should mean that this tree has a far better bonsai future.