Peter Warren once explained to me that azaleas grow old in bonsai pots, because the new growth emerges smaller and smaller, basically constricting the vascular transport system over time. To counteract this tendency, he said it was important to prune them hard every few years to keep the growing tips young and plump. Just like repotting keeps the roots young, and close to the trunk, we need to do this with azalea branches.
So, here is this year’s work after peak blooming. Starting with the money shot:
Next up, the plan was to start at the bottom right, and work my way up. Whatever you’ve read about azaleas being basally dominant doesn’t apply to this tree. The bottom right was the weakest area, so I began there, setting the tone for what was to remain throughout the tree.
I removed up- and down-facing branches, reduced multiples to pairs, and tried to keep shoots that weren’t crowding out other shoots. Right side complete:
Thanks for reading! Some exciting posts are coming this summer, including a few new projects, revisiting some old favorites, more Alabama bonsai history, and very soon, a full report on the Alabama Bonsai Society’s Spring Show! This year!s show is May 14-15 at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Join us, along with special guest Master Kathy Shaner. It’s sure to be a great weekend.
Later this fall, we’ll revisit the series, “The Cycle Continues”; looking at the work necessary every 5-7 years to keep improving show-trees.