I’ve been defoliating and partially defoliating my bonsai for years – particularly my trident maple bonsai. Somewhere along the line I picked up a Korean hornbeam, but this tree I didn’t defoliate. I hesitated the first several years because I was working on developing basic branch structure. I hesitated the last few years our of ignorance about what might happen if I removed all of the tree’s leaves.
During the past year, several Japanese bonsai professionals recommended that I defoliate the tree. I wasn’t sure how the tree would react, but I thought I’d give it a try. It felt strange to wager on the outcome with one of my favorite trees, but somehow I managed enough courage to remove all of the leaves this past May.
Korean hornbeam – May 6th, 2012
After defoliating the apex
And the middle of the tree
And some branches on the left
And the rest of the top
And the remainder of the left side
Most of the right side
And the last few leaves right in the middle
My hope was that defoliating the tree would provide enough light to the interior shoots to keep these branches alive. I knew that keeping the tree full would eventually be too much for these interior branches. I figured that defoliating would also slow the tree down a bit. Vigorous growth is great for developing new branches, but slower growth is best for producing refined branches.
After removing the last leaves and taking some photos, I returned the tree to its place on the bench where it receives full sun. What happened? Stay tuned – I’ll share the results this Friday.