Developing Informal Upright Trunks for Deciduous Bonsai

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Developing Trunks for Bonsai

Image 4. Autumn or Spring. (I prefer to carry this work out on deciduous trees immediately after leaf drop but it can equally be carried out in Spring before bud break).

The shoot a is chosen to be the new section of the trunk. It is left unpruned to accelerate its thickening which in turn will help to heal the scar caused by the trunkchop. The trunkchop can be tidied up into a diagonal cut now or left until mid Spring at which point it will heal faster.

Shoot b will be the first branch. Along with the other shoots that are retained, it is pruned back to 1 or 2 nodes or leaf joints. Pruning the future branching back this hard begins the process of building taper and natural movement to the branching. It also promotes further backbudding from the trunk the following Spring.

Shoot c will be the second branch and will be positioned on the outside of the trunk's bend to the left. It s growth will also help promote healing of the scar at the base of the trunk chop. For trunk that has been chopped to a third of its projected final height, c will be the first branch and b can be removed.

At all stages of development, when selecting which shoots to retain. Look for those that have short internodes. Branches will only occur from nodes, the closer the nodes (leaf joints) are now, the easier branch placement will be in the future.

Developing Trunks for Bonsai

Image 5. Autumn. After one or more growing seasons of free growth, the tree has produced many new shoots. The new trunk leader, left unpruned previously has now started to thicken and introduce taper to the trunkline. It has also produced new shoots of its own that can be used to change the direction of the trunk.

Developing Trunks for Bonsai

Image 6. Autumn or Spring. The first and second branches (b and c) are pruned back hard, leaving just 1 or 2 nodes or leaf joints from the new growth.

The new trunk built from shoot a is chopped back to a secondary/sub branch. This changes the direction of the trunkline back towards the right and introduces a second pronounced change in taper.

Developing Trunks for Bonsai

Image 7. Autumn. Another one or more seasons of growth have finished. The third section of the trunk has now become established and has its own sub branches.

The first branches (b and c) also have 3 sections of taper and secondary branches that are noticeably thinner.

The tree can be developed further in the ground for a number of years to exaggerate taper and movement or can be lifted and placed into a bonsai pot to start the development of the fine outer twigs on the very outside of the tree.

It is important to understand that the longer the period between each of the following stages, the greater the taper created. Trees that are trunk chopped to a new leader on an annual basis will have less but more 'natural' taper. (Sometimes known as a 'faraway view', a heavily tapered bonsai being said to have a 'near view')

Do not try to 'speed up' the process of creating taper by cutting back within a season; any growth that follows pruning within the same growing season or vegetative period, will be of the same thickness.

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