Spring is a good time for managing vigor on deciduous species. We can fully defoliate our strongest trees, and partially defoliate less vigorous bonsai.
An alternative to defoliation for species with larger leaves is leaf pruning. Leaf pruning works best when you want more light to reach the tree’s interior but you don’t want to stress the tree by defoliating.
I use both defoliation and leaf pruning based on how the tree is currently growing. Just because I used one technique last year doesn’t mean I’ll use it again this year.
The root over rock trident maple below grew well this spring, but it isn’t overly vigorous. To keep the shoots that extend beyond the tree’s silhouette in check, I pruned to 2-3 new leaves. To help the interior branches gain vigor, I partially defoliated the tree by removing the outside leaves.
After removing the leaves at the ends of the branches – 11.5″
I took a different approach with a Chinese quince. There were a few shoots that extended beyond the tree’s silhouette, but reducing these did little to let more light reach the tree’s interior. And because there weren’t enough new shoots to warrant thinning, I reduced the size of the larger leaves.
Leaf pruning complete – 10″
All leaves are closer to the same size after leaf pruning
Because the trees now have less foliage, I expect their water needs to decrease. Both trees are under 30% shade cloth so sunburn isn’t as much of a concern as it would be were they in full sun. Leaves that develop in the shade can burn easily when exposed to direct sunlight.
Soil Update: Clay King Pre-Mix is Back in Stock
The first of this year’s soil shipments has arrived. If you’re looking for Clay King pre-mixes, akadama, or kanuma, all are in stock now and available online at the Bonsai Tonight Store. You can find availability information for wholesale orders here.