There are two goals when developing pre-bonsai trunks: create interesting movement, and minimize flaws.
Two of the most common flaws at this stage of development are awkward or inverse taper and scars on the lower section of the trunk. To keep these in check, I prune sacrifice branches before they get too big and thin crowded areas when more than two branches emerge from the trunk at the same point.
Here’s what this work looks like on a young Chinese quince.
I haven’t pruned the tree since repotting it in spring so it’s time to take a look and see what can be improved.
At first glance, there are many shoots emerging low on the trunk that I want to remove. Doing this will make it easier to see what’s going on and prevent the these branches from becoming large enough to create unsightly scars.
After removing the water sprouts and reducing the stub from a cut branch
Now that it’s easier to see the structure of the tree, I notice that three large branches emerge from the same point on the trunk. Keeping all three branches will speed up thickening, but it will also increase the likelihood that the area will swell and create an unsightly knuckle. The solution is to remove two of these three branches.
Too many branches emerging from the same point
After removing two of the three branches
In addition to avoiding unsightly swelling, I want to make sure the newest section of the trunk has interesting movement. As quince naturally produce straight growth, it’s important to wire new shoots before they harden past the point where they can be bent.
Good branch to continue the trunk-line
After bending the new leader
Now that I’ve created some movement in this branch, it can take on a more interesting shape than if I’d left it alone.
Here’s the tree after removing unnecessary branches and wiring the new leader.
Work complete and wounds sealed with cut paste
I’ll let the remaining sacrifice branches grow until fall at which point I’ll evaluate the structure again to see if the tree needs pruning or wiring.
These steps form the bulk of the work during the trunk development phase. When I’m happy with the size and shape of the trunk, I can begin selecting smaller containers for the tree and start focusing on branch development. In the meantime, I’ll continue to fertilize the tree heavily to encourage as much new growth as possible.
Although I like the current shape of this tree, I expect I have between three and eight more years of trunk development before I can focus on the branches. That may seem like a long time, but it’s work that I enjoy!
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