Not all field-grown bonsai are ready for refinement work when they come out of the ground. One of my trident maples is a good example of this. Although the trunk has reached the desired thickness, there are a number of steps to take that will set the tree up for refinement down the road.
Now is a good time of year to do this work, so the timing coincided well with Andrew Robson’s visit to my garden. Andrew got started on the tree by defoliating all but a few of the branches. Defoliating a branch is good way to reduce its vigor and to encourage ramification.
Andrew starting to defoliate the tree
After defoliating most of the branches
The next step is to remove or reduce unnecessary branches. If a branch has reached the desired thickness, making it shorter will encourage lateral bud development and slow down thickening.
Shortening a branch that has reached the desired thickness
Other branches aren’t needed for the design. Andrew noted that the branch below is a good example of a branch that grows from the inside of a curve along the trunk. By preferring branches that grow on the outside of curves, we can enhance the tree’s natural curves instead of filling the voids created by movement in the trunk.
Branch growing on the inside of a curve
Cutting the branch
After removing the branch
Andrew cleaned the wound by enlarging it and making sure the edges were smooth before applying cut paste with a brush.
Applying Top Jin M to the wound
Andrew next turned his attention to a large elbow half-way up the trunk. A sacrifice branch had created reverse taper in the area that can be removed by repeated cuts with a knob cutter.
Reducing a large elbow
After reducing the large elbow
Here’s what the tree looked like when cutback was complete.
Work complete – 54″ tall
Looking closer at the trunk, Andrew made a styling suggestion. Because the lower part of the trunk is narrow and the surface roots are uneven, it will be hard to create a compelling small tree. In cases like this, stretching out the line of the trunk by developing the tree into a slightly larger bonsai can reduce the impact of the tree’s imperfections. The resulting tree wouldn’t be much bigger – maybe an extra two-to-three inches total – but its flaws would take up less visual mass when compared with the rest of tree as a whole.
The future tree will be close to 12″ tall
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