Spring is a great time for defoliation – the removal of leaves from deciduous bonsai. As defoliation is very stressful for trees, it’s only for healthy specimens that respond well to the procedure. I’ve learned from past experience that fully defoliating my Korean hornbeam can lead to dieback of weak, interior shoots. Now I partially defoliate the tree, taking care to preserve leaves on weak or interior branches.
One aim of defoliation is to get more light into the tree’s interior. As you can see from the photo below, the foliage on my hornbeam is so dense that little light reaches the tree’s interior.
As spring is also a good time for cutback, I shortened new branches to about two leaves and removed all large or downward facing leaves. I used scissors for the cutback and plucked most of the leaves by hand.
Here’s a peek at the first third of the work.
Here’s what the tree looked like when the work was completed.
After defoliating – from above
And here’s the view from the front.
Korean hornbeam – after partial defoliation
From the left side
You’ll notice I was fairly conservative with the leaf removal. I know how the tree responds to full defoliation (see Defoliating a Korean hornbeam part 2) and am curious how the more conservative approach will work. Over time I hope to hone in on the best approach.
This Saturday, I’ll be demonstrating spring deciduous techniques on a trident maple at the Napa Valley Bonsai Club’s annual show in Napa, CA.
The exhibit runs from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The demo starts at 1:00 p.m. I’ll also be vending with tools, pots, supplies and trees available. If you’re in the area – come by and say hello!
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