The leaves have fallen so it is time to trim and prune the maples. There are quite a lot of small tridents being grown on at Shibui Bonsai. Over summer they are allowed to grow with only occasional rough trims to limit the height of the new shoots. Now it is time to look more closely and prune for direction and taper.
There is not just one way to create bonsai. Much will depend on what style you want to grow, how big the bonsai will be and how well it has grown. With most developing trees there are a number of legitimate alternatives when pruning for shape.
The original tree has a right angle bend at the top which will not give an attractive trunk line so I cut back to a lower shoot with better line. Now the trunk has a slight change of direction and better taper above that cut. That cut would be quite suitable to grow on as a larger sized bonsai. Further down the trunk is another suitable side shoot with good angle. The lower cut provides even better trunk bends and taper starting lower. It can now be grown on as a larger tree or as a possible shohin sized bonsai.
Those tridents will be allowed to grow again next summer. If all goes well some of the new shoots will be selected to develop beginning branches.
This time I am selecting carefully for shorter internodes. As this is intended to become a shohin sized maple bonsai pruning is rigorous. Any straight sections are removed. All long internodes are removed, even if they are growing in desirable locations and angles. Remember that buds can only grow from nodes so long internodes severely restrict ramification of branches. This is particularly important when aiming for smaller sized bonsai where everything must be reduced. The lowest branch on the right above curves up and out and still has a long internode. I have left it this year to strengthen and thicken the start of that branch. With luck some smaller side shoots will emerge from the nodes at the base. If they develop with shorter internodes I will cut back the stronger one next winter. If nothing emerges next summer the long internode will be chopped anyway and the branch developed the following year from new buds.
These photos show a small trident another year on from the previous example. You can see that branches have started to form. Again some shoots were allowed to grow long to thicken selected areas of branches or the trunk. Those thick shoots are now pruned right at the base. Again, long internodes are rigorously removed to give better structure to the developing branches. To save wiring, shoots growing in desirable directions are kept while those growing up or down are generally removed. I try to select thinner shoots further out on branches and near the apex to provide taper where possible. Development of this trident is advanced enough to think about finding a proper bonsai pot for the spring repot.
The black pines have been growing slower than usual after summer decandling. It is possible that is a response to less fertiliser than previous years. I am pleased to have small buds on these pines but I’ll try to feed more often through next winter and see if that makes a difference next summer.
Here are the clusters of buds that are growing after candle pruning in mid December (early summer here). Note that these summer buds do not have the bare ‘neck’ that the stronger spring candles have. Not having bare sections means I can have much more compact growth and better ramification. Needles should also be smaller on these smaller buds which will add to the impression of a mature tree.
Summer has proved to be a good time to repot banksias and a couple of the shibui bonsai banksias were due for it this year.
When I first started to grow banksias for bonsai they were not very successful. Most just lasted a year or two then suddenly died. Given that banksias have a reputation for being quite sensitive I just thought the genus was not suitable then I started to see some great banksia bonsai and gradually pieced together a couple of important facts about banksia bonsai. Continue reading →
Spreading basal roots, known by the Japanese term ‘nebari’ is considered very important for maple bonsai. Surface roots are prominent features of old maples, pines and elms so these features are also valued in bonsai of these species.
Nebari should, ideally, spread evenly all around the base of the tree, showing enough to give the tree the air of age and stability. Continue reading →
Leaf drop has been slow and erratic at Shibui Bonsai this year. Some of the maples still have leaves but many of the tridents are now bare. that gives the perfect opportunity to review ramification and make alterations. Continue reading →
I was fortunate to get a place with Tony Tickel at this year’s Bonsai week workshops. Thanks to the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia for making these bonsai activities possible. I think everyone who attended took home a lot of new information and ideas.
I finally decided to take an old black pine. I’ve had a couple of these trees since they were small seedlings but because I did not understand pine maintenance techniques properly they both gradually grew long, bare branches with foliage only at the tips. The trunks are thick and have mature bark which is highly desirable in pines. This one also has a large, spreading root mass so I thought it was worth taking some time and effort to try to resurrect it for bonsai.
I have spent the last 7 years forcing the foliage closer to the trunk to make the trees more compact. Pruning stimulated a few back buds on bare wood which were then nurtured until strong enough to remove the longer branches. I also resorted to grafting and inarching to get growth on other branches that had refused to bud.
Here is the tree before the workshop.
Black pine before
You can see that there was plenty of branches and foliage to choose from. The tree was well fed and healthy to cope with a major restyle.
black pine nebari
After checking several options we decided to try to keep the current front because the nebari on this side is far better than the other side.
There were several options for trunk lines and we have used a fairly standard informal upright trunk line with some jin and shari.
The first branch had a really nice shape but was far too heavy for the remainder of the tree so it was removed leaving a short jin.
The apex of the tree leaned too far forward and was an awkward shape so it was also jinned. Because the old main trunk was so strong it had thickened the trunk in that area giving a slight reverse taper to the new trunk so a small area of shari surrounds the jin to reduce the visual weight and maintain better visual taper.
After the worshop
Spring should see this pine grow strongly. I’ll begin my pine maintenance schedule with this one now to try to maintain density and promote inner buds – Early summer candle pruning and needle plucking followed by autumn thinning and more needle plucking should produce more even energy distribution and promote shorter growth and smaller needles.
The new shoots on Black pines have matured so it is time to thin out all the new shoots that have grown since decandling.
It is important to know that this is part of the technique used to REFINE MATURE pines. Younger, developing pines should be allowed to grow freely to gain strength and size and cut back hard every couple of years. Decandling is used to ramify the branches on trees that are closer to being mature bonsai. Continue reading →
For a while during the real heat of summer my trees slowed up and gave me a rest from pinching and pruning that is so constant during spring and early summer. The weather has started to cool a little and we have had a few light showers of rain. This is the time of year that the Australian natives just love and they have started to grow strongly. Continue reading →
This trident maple featured in this post was grown from 3 separate seedlings. They were planted close and held together until the separate trunks grafted themselves into a single trunk at the base. Multi trunk bonsai are not particularly common because every extra trunk adds complexity and the possibility of faults that would make the whole tree unattractive.Continue reading →
The callistemon I pruned a couple of weeks ago has new buds emerging from the leaf axils. You can see them at the base of the leaves in this picture. You can also see a smaller, red bud on the bare wood of the branch to the left in the photo.