SOLENT BONSAI SOCIETY
Chairman's Tips
APRIL 2020

Chairman's Chat

Shaping a young specimen
The first objective in shaping young trees is to develop suitable primary branches whose size
harmonize with the trunk. These primary branches are important, as they form the tree’s basic
structure. Start by letting the branches grow freely until they reach the desired diameter, then begin
the shaping process. Once you have defined the basic structure of the tree, proceed with the
development of the secondary and tertiary branches.
When you let primary branches grow without restraint, the secondary branches appear automatically,
but usually with internodes (space between the buds) are too large. Also, the secondary and tertiary
branches usually grow too long, making them of little use. Pinching and defoliation help address these
issues.

Pinching and defoliation
Generally with young trees, let the new shoots grow freely from their first appearance in spring. These
new shoots will eventually form the new structure. To maintain the size and shape you want, prune
them in autumn. However, if you want to increase the number of secondary branches, cut the tips of
these branches in late spring or early summer. This trimming also slows down the development of the
shoots.
This task, called bud pinching, also impact the development of new branches, initiating a second flush
of secondary shoots. The tree responds to this trimming by redirecting energy from the tips of the
branches to the new shoots. These new shoots emerge from buds located near the cuts or further down the branch. This is called back-budding.
Another technique for producing fine secondary and tertiary branching is complete or partial defoliation, the removal of some or all of the tree’s leaves. Generally, the best time to defoliate is the beginning of summer. Be sure not to disturb the dormant buds when you cut. These dormant buds are usually found at the base of the leaf stems. Defoliation awakens these dormant buds and leads to the development of new shoots. To avoid damaging these buds, don’t brusquely pull on the leaves as you remove them. Instead, cut them off in the middle of the leaf stem, leaving part of the petiole (leaf stem) attached. Soon the remaining stem will fall off by itself. In this way pinching and defoliation allows secondary branches to develop where only one main branch would have grown. For best results, pay special attention to the time of the year when you do this. The optimum time varies among species. Research the specific needs of each of your trees and be faithful to their requirements. The yearly pinching of buds, metsumi, together with defoliation and a subsequent selective pinching of buds, mekaki, is critical for developing and maintaining superior ramifications. Be diligent! For best results you must tend to these important tasks every year.

Once the secondary branches are developed .
At this point direct attention to the tips of the branches. Even though it may look like the tree has reached maturity, its biological reality is something else, each branch continues to grow unceasing producing new shoots. The consequences, unless you control the growth, the tree will lose the attractive shape you worked so hard to develop. In order to maintain shape, it is not enough to cut the branches every time they project outside your trees profile. This only makes the branch tips thicker and coarser.
Instead trim slightly inside the ideal profile of the tree, at points where the branches fork. This produces better ramification, eventually filling the outline with a filigree of delicate shoots.
In other words, look for buds inside the profile of the tree where you want new shoots, and prune just above these buds. Doing this in a timely fashion produces striking improvement in the overall appearance of your trees.
When pinching, don’t neglect the interior of the canopy. If the external branching is too dense or has so many leaves that air and light don’t penetrate, the interior buds will wither. Little by little the interior will become empty, with all the foliage concentrated at the tips of the branches. If for any reason one of the branches is lost, there will be no possibility of replacing it with an interior shoot. The result is an unsightly void. Letting this happen leaves no means of shortening the branches, or if you do shorten them, the tips will be an unacceptably course. Then, the only remedy, unless you take drastic measures, is to allow the branches to grow out beyond the silhouette of the tree. No one wants to face this dilemma. Once your tree has developed dense foliage, selectively defoliate the external leaves or cut them to reduce their surface area. This allows air and light to penetrate the canopy.

I do hope you are all safe and well.

Robert









MARCH 2020

Chairman’s Chat

Like most things Bonsai is governed by the weather, and each season brings about a wonderful new phase in the trees development.
As with any new hobby there is a tendency, to take as gospel, everything you read about Bonsai, but as you gain knowledge and experience you will realise that there are no hard and fast rules, only guide lines, and if it works for you, stick with it.
Apart from the weather many things can influence the timing of certain processes, the town or country location, is the Bonsai in and exposed or in a protected garden, at the top of a hill or in a valley. Even in the smallest garden conditions will differ creating micro-climates, so when using this guide do be flexible, we can still get snow in June.
To enable bonsai trees to flourish they must be repotted and March is the traditional time for this to be carried out, but again the weather can have a great influence on this, moving the optimum time as far back as mid February or even forward to early April. If we divide the trees into evergreen and deciduous some useful identification of when to repot can be gained. Firstly, evergreen trees are never fully dormant and they are reasonably safe to repot in March. However, deciduous trees do go dormant in the autumn and break dormancy in early spring, they must only be repotted when they are dormant. A good indication that a deciduous tree is coming out of dormancy is when the buds start to swell and that is the best time to repot. If the leaves have started to open it is too late and it is best left for another year.
Why do we need to repot? A bonsai needs to grow continuously in the same way that a tree growing in the ground does, consequently when the pot becomes full of roots the tree will exhaust the nourishment in the compost and will eventually become pot bound and die. Therefore, when the pot is full of roots we repot into a larger pot to allow the tree to continue its growth.
Generally, with an established Bonsai, it is usual to repot back into the old pot, to do this root pruning must be carried out and, once again, this can only be done when the tree is dormant. To root prune, lift the tree out of the pot and carefully tease out the outer roots, remove as much soil as possible without disturbing the inner ball, and then, with a sharp pair of scissors, cut off enough root all the way round to leave about two thirds, this will allow enough space for a further season’s growth. Finally, repot the bonsai using a free draining compost.
Young trees need to be repotted and root pruned annually whilst for old established trees, every two or three years is sufficient, and root pruned annually whilst for older trees, every two or three years is sufficient. After repotting, trees need to be kept out of strong sunlight and wind for three to four weeks. Be careful not to over water after root pruning has taken place until new growth is established approximately three to four weeks. Over watering at this time can lead to root rot.

Robert








FEBRUARY 2020

Chairman’s Chat

A question was raised at a gathering I attended, how do we know when a bonsai looks right.
Bonsai growers observe and pick out the most pleasing shapes and structures for the design of the trunk, branches and canopy of a bonsai tree, so you cannot be a bonsai grower without being aware of nature. The majority of us, fortunately, live where we can see trees and shrubs growing. Even in city centres many streets are lined with trees planted to provide shade or for ornament. Then there are the parks and gardens, created for peoples enjoyment and carefully planned to anticipate how the fully grown trees would eventually dominate or complement the designed landscape.
With our busy, hurried lifestyles we sometimes forget to pause and contemplate the beauty of these trees.
Every type has its distinctive structure and also horticultural characteristics, but to be a good observer of nature we have to look beyond the obvious. For example, we can examine the intricate pattern of twigs weeping from the arching branches of a beech. Among the tangle of branches we can notice the angle at which each limb inclines outward from the trunk and we can use this observation to help us shape a weeping style Bonsai. Or by observing other weeping trees, such as the willow or the weeping ash, we can learn about the subtle differences in trees with this habit.
Those who venture out into wild country, for example to exposed mountain slopes, can study trees that have been stunted and contorted by the effects of wind, snow, or drought. These trees appear different to the same species growing in sheltered lowlands or valleys. The Driftwood style of bonsai can be used to imitate the injuries suffered by these remarkable trees.
In the same way, observation of a mature beech growing in a park shows how it develops a gigantic runk with robust and firm surface roots.
These radiate in all directions, tapering, branching out and creeping into the ground. Only mature, older trees exhibit this tendency so when a bonsai has roots like this, the viewer has the impression of an aged tree, even though the bonsai may be a great deal younger.
The eye on a tree trunk testifies to the loss of a branch but sometimes dead branches are still attached to an old tree. The bonsai grower may wish to imitate this in which case a dead branch, or jin, is left on a bonsai similarly, in nature, a large branch maybe wrenched off a tree by an animal feeding on its foliage and, in the process, a large strip of bark may be torn off the trunk exposing a lacerated surface. This effect may be imitated on a bonsai by gradually debarking, or removing the bark, from a small area of the trunk, leaving and exposed area known as a shari.

Robert








JANUARY 2020

Chairman’s Chat

Bonsai is a work of art, a creative process which has evolved over centuries and which focuses on the natural beauty of the plant.
However, as opposed to other forms of art, this can never be considered as complete. The tree is a living organism which is continually growing and must be periodically shaped. To obtain the best results constant care is necessary, together with knowledge of styles and techniques of cultivation, an artistic sense, harmony and understanding between grower and plant.
The start of this journey should always be with what you cannot see, the roots of bonsai can spread! to fill its container completely in a few years, so it is important to transplant the tree before they start to grow out of the drainage holes or when they begin to emerge above the surface of the soil.
Before repotting, prune off about a third in volume of the root system and shorten the long, thick roots to promote the growth of feeder roots. All large cuts should be sealed with a waterproof wound sealant. Carefully remove as much of the old soil as possible from the container and replaced with a well draining mixture.
The frequency of transplanting depends on the training plan of the bonsai but in general young trees should be repotted more often than older trees. Fast growing species that produce abundant roots, such as boxwood or elms, may be transplanted in alternate years, whereas less vigorous old pines may be transplanted every three to five years.
The best time to transplant a tree is when the leaf buds (not the flower buds) are swelling and about to open. Flowering Bonsai like azaleas, wisterias and forsythias should be transplanted after flowering. Remove all decaying blooms at the same time. Fruit bearing bonsai such as quinces, apples and apricots should be transplanted in autumn, while conifers should be transplanted, for preference, in spring.

Robert