Thursday, May 7, 2009

Of the two basic methods for shaping a Bonsai tree, pruning is by far the most important.

Groups.
The planting of groups is essentially the same as that for one tree. However before planting is started, build up a mental picture of the group as it should look when finished. Avoid straight lines either front to back or side to side between two or more trees. In other words, do not have three trees in a row; the effect will be entirely unnatural.

Position and secure the main two trees first, the lesser trees are planted to complement and give depth to the larger main trees, securing each tree as it is planted. One can tie in the whole group with string ; going over the whole of the pot. This is not very attractive but might be found easier with complicated groups.

This Trident Maple is trained in the clump style and is approx. 45 years old
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Rock planting.
Some rock such as tuffa, which comes from Derbyshire, can be drilled and chiselled away o form an almost natural pot within the rock itself. The soil mixture for planting a tree in a rock pot is exactly the same as that used for the same variety of tree. If the tree is to straddle the rock-roots growing down the sides into the soil-use a mixture of 50% peat and 50% fine loam. Mix this with water to give a sticky mud. Dampen he rock and apply a thin layer of compost over the face of the rock. Clean and separate the tots of the tree, positioning it so that the main roots run down any available crevices in the Sock. Bury the ends of the roots in the soil (the compost in the pot will be the same as when potting normally).

If it is necessary to tie the tree in position this can be done with twine or elastic-covered garden wire, protecting the roots with thin strips of rubber. If it is difficult to secure the wire, small rings of copper can be cemented to the rock surface.After tying in apply an ample layer of peat/loam mix over all exposed roots. To stop rain washing this off, plant moss over the whole planting, securing it with 'V's of copper wire. This will also help to stop evaporation. Always protect rock plantings from bright sunlight and heavy rain for at least a month, spraying the whole planting at least twice a day.

Training.
Of the two basic methods for shaping a Bonsai tree, pruning is by far the most important. This is carried out throughout the life of every Bonsai tree where as wiring to shape is only done when the tree's shape needs to be corrected fairly radically. Even then, it might only be me branch that has moved away from its desired position.

A flowering Peach Bonsai approx. 12 years old Pruning
Pruning can be divided into three main headings:

1) Heavy Branch Pruning:

This is a general thinning out of old, diseased, weak, or unnecessary branches that grew the previous year. This should always be carried out during the Autumn, early Winter or early Spring before the sap has begun to flow at full strength. I have used the Samuri Stainless Steel Cutters to great effect over the years.

2) General Pruning:

This is the pruning carried out throughout every growing season. It is designed to maintain and create shape, thin excessive growth, and produce an abundance of flower buds in flowering trees. Best to use delicate trimming shears to minimise and ancillary damage. General Pruning is also needed to maintain the ever-important balance between the smallness of the root ball and the top growth; if the top is allowed to grow away from this balance the roots will not be able to maintain it in good condition; the roots may rot or die out and a vicious circle can be created-the end result being severe dying-back or even death.

3) Leaf Cutting:

Leaf cutting is one of the 'secrets' of Bonsai training. In June, providing the tree is in good condition and has been amply fertilised to promote strong healthy growth, some or all the leaves of most deciduous trees can be removed by cutting them away with sharp scissors or defoliating shears.

One leaves the petiole or leaf stalk on the tree which, in two to three weeks, withers and drops off. The tree has a false autumn and anew set of leaves and shoots appear. The effect is to produce bushy growth, smaller leaves and much better autumn colouring.
The trees most suitable for leaf cutting are the Maple family, Elms, Beech, Birch, etc., but not fruiting or flowering specimens. To find out which trees are best suited for leaf trimmming and get an overview of all the different varieties of Bonsai have a look at "The A-Z of Bonsai"

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Wiring.
Wiring is generally considered to be one of the most difficult techniques for shaping Bonsai trees. However, after a little practice on a small branch cut from an ordinary tree its mystery will soon disappear. The most important point to bear in mind is that one mustn't rush-take your time. Before using wire consider the subject from all angles. If it is possible to achieve the desired shape by pruning alone then don't use wire. If wire has to be used choose the gauge that just holds the branch in position-if it is too stiff the wood will tend to bend in and out between the coils.

Copper wire (sizes 8 to 24 are generally used, 8 being the largest) that has been annealed in a slow fire is more suitable than iron wire. It does not rust or look unsightly on the tree.Deciduous trees should be wired immediately after their leaves have attained full size when the sap is flowing freely. Wires should only be left on deciduous for a maximum of 6 months.

Some trees have very soft bark and the wire should have paper wrapped round it to protect the tree.Evergreen and coniferous trees take longer to become set in position and wires can be left on for 12-18 months. They must always be removed if they start cutting into the bark. Always start wiring from the base of the trunk, burying the wire in the soil to anchor it. After the trunk progress to the largest branches, continuing from large to small until finishing on the topmost smallest branches.
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