A common approach to developing bonsai from scratch is to focus on trunk development first and branch refinement second.
When we focus on developing the trunk, we generally encourage rapid growth until the trunk reaches the desired size. Much slower growth is useful when focusing on branch ramification.
Between these two stages of development is a transition period where the goal is to slow the rate of growth. We can slow growth by using smaller containers, reducing fertilizer, and pruning the branches that were used to thicken the trunk.
The pine below is right in the middle of this transition period. I’m letting new growth on the future apex grow freely so the top of the trunk continues to thicken while decandling the lower branches to improve ramification. Here’s the tree before and after this work.
Field-grown Japanese black pine
After pruning, decandling, and thinning needles – 49″ tall
I removed about half of the branches growing along the new apex and decandled all of the lower branches to encourage ramification. The reason for reducing the branches along the apex is to increase the odds that the tree produces summer growth on the lower branches. If too many branches near the apex grow freely, the tree may not produce summer shoots on the lower branches.
Once the apex is bigger, I’ll reduce the top of the trunk and focus exclusively on the branches. You can get an idea about the future size of the tree from the photo below.
The future size of the tree will be closer to 18″ tall
We’ll take a look at a tree just out of this transition phase on Friday.
Sei Boku Bonsai Kai Exhibit This Weekend!
On June first and second, Sei Boku Bonsai Kai will host their 36th annual exhibit at the San Mateo Garden Center. Show hours are 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. both days.
Admission is free and includes entry to the club member plant sale and vendors. Saturday features demonstrations by Steve Iwaki and Jerry Carpenter from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Dr. Bonsai will be available to offer styling and care tips. I’ll be vending at the event with tools, supplies and a selection of satsuki azalea bonsai.
Check the Sei Boku Bonsai Kai website for more information.
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