Last week John Eads of Left Coast Bonsai was in the garden to help get my young trees into shape ahead of repotting season. As John studied with Michael Hagedorn, he’s a great resource for developing the dwarf Japanese flowering quince known as chojubai.
Here are a few of the trees he worked on this week along with some tips for pruning.
Orange chojubai before pruning
John was happy to see so much new growth on the clump-style chojubai above. The goal for pruning it was to keep just a bud or two of the previous year’s growth to develop branching with short internodes. His tip: prune to a bud that is growing in the direction in which you want the branch to grow.
After cutback (thanks, Max, for helping John with the pruning!)
The next tree John worked on was a white chojubai. The goal for this tree is the same as the goal for the tree above – cut back to just a few buds to keep the internodes short.
White chojubai before pruning
John’s tip: don’t prune too close to the bud you want to keep. One way to do this is to cut through the bud above the one you want to keep.
To preserve the bud on the left, cut through the bud above it on the right
After pruning a safe distance above the bud
Pruning too close to a bud risks damaging it. Leaving a stub reduces the likelihood of the bud drying out and the stub protects it from being broken if the tree is bumped.
The remainder of the chojubai we worked on were young trees. John’s tip: identify a target size for each tree and adjust your work based on the target.
Here’s an example.
Young chojubai (about 6-8 years from cutting)
John noted that the tree on the left has a small trunk and branches and would make a good shohin. The tree on the right has coarse trunks and would make a better bonsai if it grew larger.
If the goal is to make a small tree, we can prune back to just a few new buds. To make a larger bonsai, we’ll let the tree grow for 2-3 years before pruning to let the branches thicken.
Here’s what this work looks like.
After pruning – future shohin on the left; future kifu or chuhin (medium-size) tree on the right
Subscribe to Bonsai Tonight
New Posts Delivered Every Tuesday and Friday