A little spring cleaning

Here are a few trees that are in very early phases of bonsai training, and illustrate some good, basic spring pruning techniques, which are essential horticultural skills necessary to set a tree down the right path.

First, a young trident maple. This is the only trident maple on my benches, and it’s deliberately very different from many of the massive tridents often seen. The goal is to develop a very natural, radial nebari, under a scar-free trunk, and a pleasing, open canopy. Ideally, this will be done with relatively little wire. Each year for the last several years, the roots have been worked thoroughly, and when the branching develops a bit further, it will be easily moved into a very shallow pot.

Before pruning:


After pruning:


In order to keep the branching smooth, it is important to stop long shoots from thickening and crossing. Old scars were cleaned up, and shoots were reduced to 2 nodes. I also decided to shorten the leader a bit, because the section had few shoots and no taper. It looks a bit source now, but in a few weeks, we can revisit it.

Second, a cutting-grown cork bark black pine, the cultivar is Hachi Gen. This one has been in a bonsai pot for 5 years or so, and is very slow as a result. One day, it will probably be the right move to shorten the trunk on this and move the second left branch upward to become the apex. For now, the work was to remove all but a dozen pairs of old needles per shoot, and reduce the number of new shoots down to a pair at each terminal. Then, I decandled the tree, removing nearly all of this year’s candles. Light reaching the interior should cause a bit of back-budding.





Finally, a pair of kishu shimpakus in 2-gallon cans. I started this project for The Alabama Bonsai Society, our Club Tree Project (CTP). We bought 25 junipers, all similar, and allowed members to draw numbers to take home the tree with the associated number. Members can do as they wish with the tree, but document the work…whether they wire, prune, repot; ignore feed and water; or some combination of all. The requirements are simple:
1. We have 2 meetings over the next year where we bring the trees back and share work and results. This gives people a chance to see the results of many different actions all at once.
2. Buy it next spring (dead or alive)…or
3. Bring it back and allow it to be sold as part of the club’s spring plant sale.

We had 21 takers, so I brought home 4 to look after. Here is the first one:


After adding a coarse layer of lava rock underneath, and working in some aggregate on the top. This gives the roots more soil to stretch out into. Plenty of fertilizer cakes were added to the top:


Then, a strand of 5mm aluminum wire was wrapped around the trunk line and the trunk was twisted and “squashed” to create an interesting trunk line. Over time it will be further compacted:


Finally, the last Spring Cleaning project was another of the CTP kishus. This may be the most important pruning technique for a beginner to grasp. Too often, beginners clean out all the growth from the interior of the tree in an attempt to prune, reveal the structure, make it easier to wire, and add a (short-lived) appearance of age. Thinning out the inside leaves all the growth too far out to be beneficial. Instead, prune out the outer foliage, leaving the inner. Next time, I promise better photos…





Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “A little spring cleaning

  1. Interesting size reference with the 10-key. Are you an accountant? That corky pine would look fantastic with that chop you were thinking. Would it be shohin?

  2. I love the cork bark pine and wish to get one myself but have not been able to find one. Any advice?

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