We usually see photos of cryptomeria bonsai during winter when the trees are dormant. Cryptomeria are usually trained in the formal upright style, and it’s through the development of the branch pads that the trees take on their character.
Cryptomeria branch pads
Cryptomeria as displayed at Bay Island Bonsai’s 2011 exhibit
Summer is a good time to work on cryptomeria bonsai. Spring growth is usually cut back in July or August to allow trees to produce new shoots before entering the dormant season.
For those unfamiliar with the variety, the foliage might appear strange. Not unlike some dwarf spruce, needle juniper or redwood varieties, cryptomeria foliage is prickly. It’s also rangy. The foliage can look quite different on different parts of the tree as cryptomeria are strongly apical dominant. When developing cryptomeria, the idea is to encourage more growth on the lower branches by letting them run. Stronger branches near the apex can be pruned more.
The photos below are taken from the same tree on the same day yet they look quite different due to the varying vigor. The variety is ‘Black Dragon.’
Weak branch – foliage is yellow and the new shoots are short
Healthy branch – the color is good and the shoots are elongating at the branch tips
The branch below is quite strong. Note that some of the shoots look different than others – any ideas why?
The round shoots are the beginnings of cones. If left in place long enough, they’ll turn brown and develop seeds.
Strong apical shoots differ from horizontal shoots in thickness, needle size and sometimes color.
Strong apical shoot – the shoot is slightly more yellow than the shoots below
How to keep these apical shoots in check? More on that next week.
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