Zelkova defoliation and pruning

I’ve been working on this one for 8 years. It’s an old bonsai, containerized since the early 1980s, and progress has slowed down a bit over the last 3-4 years, but not necessarily in a bad way. The primary branches have good movement and character, and keeping up with the secondary and tertiary branches is a relentless chore!

This year, just for a lack of time, I pruned it back pretty hard in May, then defoliated it in early June. When it’s leafless in summer, it is very easy to prune back some of the suckers and too-strong shoots, and even add a bit of wire if needed.

Also this year, I got some good help for this tedious task.

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Once leafless, pruning is easy. Remove strong suckers, thick areas, reduce whorls down to a pair, and downward facing shoots.

Before:

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After:

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Feed heavily and watch it grow. Ideally, new shoots will be kept in check for the remainder of the growing season, which meant, after 2 weeks it was already ready to be pruned back!

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A couple weeks further, and it’s actually ready for another defoliation:

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