Both easy and complicated Question

Share your success stories about defoliation, bare rooting and anything else relating to maintaining healthy bonsai.

Both easy and complicated Question

Postby Sammy D » March 8th, 2018, 3:54 pm

Hi all as the title says this may be an easy Answer or a not so easy Answer.

I have been playing with bonsai for a while now but sometimes struggle to balance the growth between the top of the tree and the bottom.

See the thing is that some trees or most actually grow stronger on the top than the bottom.

For me to try and fix this i cut the top back harder and allow the bottom to grow out stronger.

This works as far as thickening the bottom branch but not as far as ramifacation.

See when I cut the top hard continuously it loves it. It ramify's like made. Becomes strong and takes over the tree.

The end result is a beautifuly ramified top with a long sparse bottom of the tree with minimal foliage compared to the top.

Should I cut back the bottom harder to create more devision and a lot more ramifacation or will the top then really take over. :palm: :palm: :palm: :palm:

Here is an example.
This is my crepe myrtle bonsai.

20180308_160939-2016x1512.jpg


Surely you don't have to look at replacing the top every few years.

Anyway would love some advice from the experts. :worship: :worship:
Thanks in advance.
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Re: Both easy and complicated Question

Postby Matt S » March 8th, 2018, 4:30 pm

Hi Sammy,

By sheer coincidence I was just reading about this in Colin Lewis’ book “The Art of Bonsai Design”. In the chapter about English Elms, he describes the process of developing the branches on a bare trunk, letting the lower branches grow long to thicken them while pruning the upper branches.

“It follows that while the lower branches are developing, the upper branches become dense and highly ramified as their growth is constantly being restricted by pruning. This not only draws excessive energy from the lower branches, but it also sets them up the impossible task of catching up in the future. To combat this, regularly thin out the the upper parts of the tree, cutting away everything apart from the simple framework. You may even have to remove some of the very top branches entirely, at least once, and rebuild them from scratch. It won’t delay the final result - it will only make them better.”

Maybe not the answer you’re looking for, but I’ve found that this method works. Rebuilding branches on mature trees from inner shoots is a necessary task anyway, and always improves the structure of the branch in the long run.

Matt.
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Re: Both easy and complicated Question

Postby Tambrand » March 8th, 2018, 4:31 pm

A bonsai that has been designed, will max out on that design and have to be redesigned.

For us [ Tropics ] that is every 10 years or so.

If you look up Chinese Scholars and the ideas applied to Penjing and Scholar stones the practice was never
exhibition / competition, but stimulation of the mind for imagination.
Ideas dealing with Ink painting or Poetry or Prose.

If you adjust to the above, the Design part will not drive you nuts or
leave you disappointed.
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Re: Both easy and complicated Question

Postby Tambrand » March 8th, 2018, 4:39 pm

A little horticultural bit.

You should keep the top thinned out so light can pass through.

Often the Bonsai being shown in photos, show density by the physical
aspect of the camera having one eye.
If you look closely on Youtube as the camera rotates, you will see how
the placement gives the idea of high density.

Can be seen on the Omiya Video offered by an Aubonsai member recently.

The Chinese use the same idea in their simple artificial plants on sale in
plastic or other bonsai pots.

A good deal of Bonsai Design is illusion or cultivars :)
Until.
Tambrand

* Now apply the above to soil and fertility.
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Re: Both easy and complicated Question

Postby shibui » March 8th, 2018, 5:51 pm

This is a good observation Sammy. Some people take many years to notice this.
It is called apical dominance. In most species the top part always grows better and faster than the lower parts. Lower branches are also shaded which only makes this more pronounced.
You have also discovered that pruning promotes ramification and that it can become hard to balance the stronger parts of the tree with the weaker parts.
Some solutions:
1. Selective pruning: Already Tambrand has talked about thinning out stronger parts of the tree. Don't just trim and pinch the shoots. You will also need to cut some out completely to reduce the number of shoots and the amount of leaf in the strong areas so that the lower and inner parts get a chance to catch up. I find this is particularly important for Japanese maples which have a tendency to put out clusters of shoots in strong areas after trimming and pruning which soon promotes thick, swollen areas on the trunk. I thin JM shoots every few weeks in spring and every 4-6 weeks over summer to control this problem.
2. Partial defoliation: Remove leaves from the stronger areas but leave them on the weaker parts so those bits will get more food and energy and grow a bit stronger. We do this on pines (needle plucking) as well as deciduous trees. Depending on the health and vigour of the tree you can do partial defoliation a couple of times in the growing season but I think it is probably too late this year to start. Try this next December.

It may take a couple of years to balance the strength of the tree but you should end up with a tree that grows reasonably evenly all over so you will be able to cut the lower part almost as much as the top and promote even ramification. there are some species, however, that are just so apically dominant that you find this a constant job.
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Re: Both easy and complicated Question

Postby Redsonic » March 8th, 2018, 10:04 pm

Thanks for asking this question, Sammy D. It, and the answers you have received have made me think hard about the development of a couple of my trees which are heading the way of your Crepe Myrtle.
What a great resource Ausbonsai is for newbies like me!
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Re: Both easy and complicated Question

Postby treeman » March 9th, 2018, 1:26 pm

You cannot add you can only remove. Therefore, the best and quickest way to balance the tree is to remove everything that is stronger than the weak branch making the weak branch the same or stronger than the rest of the tree. You can do this in one sitting when the tree is dormant. Then during the next growing season you can employ the defoliation and pruning techniques mentioned above.
Mike
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Re: Both easy and complicated Question

Postby Sammy D » March 12th, 2018, 4:05 pm

Cool thanks for the advice guys.

Looks like I'll have to do some serious thinning in the top of the tree and then keep the tree in check after that.

Cheers for the advice everyone
Thanks treeman for the simple yet good advice.
A stick in a pot is better than no stick at all. Remember even the best bonsai started as a stick.
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