How to Get The Most Out of Bonsai
hi everyone nigel saunders here it is a cold and blowy winter’s day today and i’m going to be doing some winter pruning to some deciduous trees i’ll be pruning up my red maple penjing today i’ll also be pruning up a purple smoke bush that i got at the nursery this year i haven’t done anything with it yet i have a wisteria from david that’s long and whippy and needs pruning back and last i have a twisty red maple from the front garden that was started from a seed i’m going to start with my red maple forest here kind of a water land penjing these trees are all grown from seeds and the seeds were collected from one of the largest red maples i’ve ever seen had this enormous trunk diameter so i got some seeds i actually caught the seeds in mid-air as they were falling from the tree i planted them and i’m not sure how old they are i think they’re about four maybe five years old now so today i’ll be pruning them back getting them ready for spring all right here i go with the pruning so we’ll start with the largest tree here it comes up divides into two here and it’s not a bad height that it divides at the main trunk comes up there’s a butt on the front there there’s one here there’s a couple around here if i’m after taper it’s starting to get you know this upper branch here is about the same diameter as the trunk so i could shorten it to get taper i could even remove it making this the new leader there’s a few possibilities um that’s a tough decision i don’t want these trees to be too tapered you know they’re supposed to represent young trees they’re not supposed to be like great big old mature trees just a kind of a group of shoreline trees that are fairly young so yeah i got to make a decision i’m thinking you know this height isn’t bad for the trees i don’t want them too small so i’m wondering you know can i live with this transition here is that too thick compared to the trunk it kind of is isn’t it all right going to have to remove it all right here i go i’m going to remove it and i’m going to come in on an angle here using tom’s ratcheting printers these are made by ironwood tools model i think it’s iw1405 okay here i go let’s get this off i can i’m just going to prune it roughly and then i can come in and clean it up big cut coming up just like that so now i’ll come in and clean that cut up nibble it away so you can see even though it is cool in the greenhouse here i’m still getting a bit of sap coming out the trees aren’t totally dormant now i’m wondering if i should clean that up even further maybe a little bit hey now i’ll need to reduce the height of this tree too it’s getting long and whippy so i’m looking for buds there’s some here some here i’m going to go quite short to here like that next i’ll prune up this tree to the left taking it back to the first leaf division there i think i’m going to it’s got kind of got a double branch apex here i’m going to take the apex off and keep this as my new leader like that reduce this back to here and reduce this back to here and that gets that little tree pruned up this larger tree because it has a quite a large root system and a lot of stored energy in it you’ll see this grow really fast and it’ll soon get taller than the rest of the surrounding trees now i’ve got one at the back here i’ve got some branch divisions down low here that i could prune it right back and i think i will so i i’ve cut the top off the tree you can see the two little branches here now so i’ll nibble it away to reduce it back to about there and let these two branches grow the last tree here is getting quite tall too it has a branch out the back here right at this level it’s got some buds here i think it also needs to be pruned back quite hard so i’m going to go to these divisions down here so i will prune it i’m going to prune it right off to here like that so i’ve got a bud at the front here one at the back and there’s a side one here it’s another bud down lower but i think that’s good i think that’ll look quite nice when it starts growing in next year this penjing is a water lamp engine there’s a lot of moss growing in my water so i’ve got to clean that up maybe clean up the shoreline here too there’s a lot of rocks that are getting totally obscured now i don’t mind you know moss growing them amongst the rocks it looks very natural but i don’t want it extending out into the water too far so a little bit of cleanup is required i’m going to move this one clump of moss that’s grown over here i’m going to move it over here where the squirrels dug up this big clump so i’ll just kind of be replacing what the squirrels dug up sort of like that start doing some weeding here you can hear the wind howling away outside it’s getting quite stormy today now i’ll start raking away some of this moss that’s developed on top of the water here this planting will get a proper pot someday this is just a baking pan with some feet added to it so it’s nothing fancy and i don’t think aluminum pots are the greatest for bonsai they heat up quickly and cool down quickly so you don’t get that kind of moderating effect that a pot can give you the soil temperature getting down to the white sand in here it’s amazing how much organic matter builds up on top of your sand over the summer i can tell these trees have been growing well because there’s some roots coming up out of the water area in the corner of the pot here so they’ve grown across and up okay so that’s looking a little better a little more moss removed from here and that kind of completes the shoreline other than it’s very rough rough water i’m gonna kind of smooth it out a bit smooth it out a bit now i’ve got to do a little weeding in my moss areas here and the moss sure has filled in it’s a little i don’t know a little monotonous the landscape i’d say gotta have some variation not just all moss weeds can look okay if they’re sort of miniature looking but generally weeds tend to spread you know the the first one that pops up looks kind of nice and then you come back a few days later and there’s more of them and then they tend to take over the entire planting eventually so it’s always a good idea to kind of get rid of them while they’re young before they’ve had a chance to spread over the entire planting and then once they spread over the entire planting they spread to the bone side beside it and so on until every one of your trees is full of weeds at least in my experience okay that’s looking better next i’m going to clear away the moss around the base of the trees so you can see the root base a little more and that’ll kind of give you a head start on this moss climbing up the trunks and spring so these are a native red maple they have fairly small small leaves and the red maples are one of the most numerous trees in north america they spread from canada all the way down to florida in the united states they have a wide wide range and they’re a very common tree i had to put my jacket on it’s just getting too cold out here i have finished the red maple penjing for today this uh penjing is just you know these trees are in training it’s just kind of fun putting them together and then you know maybe developing this theme into the future maybe replacing some of these shoreline rocks with some of the ones we collected this summer but yeah it’s a nice little planting to have some young seedlings growing in it’s better than just having the seedlings in a pot looking like seedlings at least in a pinching like this it looks like a bit of a forest the next tree i’ll be working on is this purple smoke bush i got this from canadian tire in the middle of the summer it was on sale i think it was ten dollars the reason it was on sale is that part of the tree had died i noticed over the summer nothing grew from the one trunk line so let’s go in and have a look at that deadwood here’s a look at the tree now so this is the trunk line over here that i believe is dead let me just yeah see how the twigs are just brittle they just break so i’ll test all the twigs that one’s brittle too this one that one might have a bit of flex to it i’ll take this sign off it is a velvetini smoke tree katinas velvetini cottonus cotanus velvetini yeah um flowering time early summer to mid summer sun partial shade door form with deep burgundy foliage with dark feathery plumes of dove gray to pink blooms is ideal for patio containers and space challenged areas so it’s a dwarf variety so let me cut the tag off and i’ll continue testing branches that one seems flexible that one not broken one here this one i think is dead yet that one’s all just brittle so there wasn’t a whole lot of die back like i don’t know if this trunk is alive i it feels flexible so i’m going to leave it it might be so today i’m going to do some first styling on this tree which is kind of exciting i’m going to start by looking to see if i can see where the root base on this tree starts kind of digging down on the soil here a bit okay so it looks like you know the trunk was buried fair amount but i’m starting to get down to some roots there so it’s a you know a short little trunk which is fine for the size of this tree so the tree it comes up from the trunk divides into two and i can’t guarantee this side is alive so i’m going to assume it is because it has some flex to it it’s not brittle these branches aren’t breaking so i’m going to clear out you can see there’s a whirl of young branches down here i’m going to clean all those out there just kind of cluttering up the design and i don’t want horizontal branches that low on the tree not when i have a major division up here or a possible major division clean up some of this these dead branches off of here i’ll leave that okay now so this trunk line comes up and then i’ve got a division of three branches here one two three so i’m gonna decide what to do there i put the tree on the turntable so it’s a little easier to work on so i think if you’re after taper you would prune away the thickest one and keep this one up the middle it’s a tough decision you what know keep and what to remove you know maybe you want the trunk line coming up and kind of like almost a wind blown style there’s a lot of possibilities i don’t want this is the trunk line coming up straight and then bending over and then coming back in it looks like a c shape here or a a bracket an ending bracket and then coming up i don’t like that look because it has like a straight trunk in this section i kind of want it you know either fanning out from this junction point or continuing up straight to a higher kind of apex if this branch were guaranteed to be alive it’s a good branch it kind of continues the apex up and i could remove everything else but i can’t guarantee this is alive it might be something i have to you know wait until spring and see if something grows out of this branch i’m thinking this branch is too horizontal this one here the trunk comes up and it goes to horizontal so that will be one i remove so here i go i want everything flowing upwards especially when the tree’s this young i want to develop that upright structure cleaning up this pruning point here that’s good clean up this one too the reason i got this purple smoke bush is that the smoke bush can get incredible uh trunks on them really um fluted or vascular lines going up the trunk and really cool bark so they can become a really really nice tree so i like that look without that branch there it’s all more upright now i think until i know about this branch in spring i’m not going to do a lot of pruning today i’m just going to shorten everything and then i’ll see what happens in spring and then make my decision then so here i go reducing everything so here’s one that kind of fans out and then it starts crossing back so i’ll take it off to a outer facing bud here there’s a bud facing outwards there um here’s one here i’ll print it off to here this big one on the inside i really doubt i want it because you know as i said it has that that weird c shape so i’m going to remove it i know i won’t use this one so off it i’ll goes that cut up just like that all right i’ll continue pruning there’s another branch crossing towards the interior of the tree i’ll remove that little one like that bring this one back to here this one back to here actually i’m going to get rid of that one i’ve got two opposite branches and i’ve got a branch in this area already so this one can come right off like that the ones coming up the middle i’ll keep them for now you never know actually i’m only going to keep the one for now i’ll remove this one that one maybe you know become a leader or something in the future who knows this one can come off this one can be shortened to here this one to here and the big one that’s kind of again crossing across the middle i’m going to remove completely i have enough branches in that area i don’t need more now i’m just looking for structural flaws or things that could cause problems i think this one on the inside here that’s got to go that was dead anyway maybe this one too i think that one’s dead yep well i got three growing from here maybe the middle one i’ll take the middle one out because i kind of like these two branches there and i won’t touch this other branch at the back here hopefully it’s alive if it’s not well then this is the tree i have to work with here you know without this one and i think that’s it that is it for the purple smoke bush for today hopefully it does well in spring just cleaning up my trunk here a bit i’ll see how the tree does um it’s possible i could repot it this spring it had a lot of vigor in it because it grew wild all summer so yeah maybe some good soil would help the tree grow really nicely i think it’s a good start to a little dwarf smoke bush tree i’ll put the smoke bush back on the bench and get out the wisteria here’s a look at the wisteria i got this tree from david of the toronto club this summer and it’s grown really well you can see how long it’s gotten wisteria are a climbing vine and they get these beautiful hanging purple flowers on them really nice tree really nice for bonsai today i’ll just be cutting this vine back now i’ve got to decide it has some branching in this area and i could you know hard prune it right back you can see there’s some buds back in the trunk here there’s a nice one there i could hard prune it back to just a stick in a pot or i could keep some of the branching it’s a very skinny plant so i’m thinking you know maybe cut it back hard let it develop new branching and just keep repeating that process and gradually this will thicken up over the years i think if i leave it long and whippy like this it takes up a lot of space on the bench and you know you’re just growing a long whippy tree i i think it looked better as a smaller tree i think my eventual style for this tree is to have it grow more upright into a kind of like a weeping willow style and then have those flowers hanging off the branches that would look really nice so i’m going to do a fairly hard prune here i’m going to take it off right here just like that there is a branch on the inside here which i don’t want to develop i want to develop these buds on the outside so i’m going to prune that off also like that now these the branch i pruned off i will try and root as a cutting so i’m going to stick it in the soil here like that and we’ll see if it roots you never know and that’s done my wisteria is done for today so here is the rooted wisteria and the cuttings over here so we’ll see what happens to this the next summer the next tree is another red maple that grew in the front garden from a seed and you’ve seen this tree on the channel before in spring of this year it had a y-shaped root system and i pruned off the one leg of the y very very drastic pruning and the tree recovered and began to grow again so i think i have the start of a good nice radial root system on the tree now this first twist was naturally in the seedling as it grew kind of around some debris and stuff in the front garden i did some heavy pruning it used to have this big straight branch coming off here i pruned it off hard there and then it’s also had another hard pruning kind of on the back of there also so it’s got some nice shape to it i i think it’s a very interesting tree and today i’m going to prune it up this is the front of the tree and you can see on the apex here there’s a horizontal branch that sweeps way across and it doesn’t fit in with the style of the tree all the other branches kind of go upwards like a broom style and this one just goes horizontal and it’s it’s kind of strange and if it you know if it was nice and flowing i wouldn’t mind it i don’t mind the odd unusual branch on a tree but this is right in the apex and the apex is going horizontal kind of strange so i’m going to replace the apex with the branch that’s out front here this one and i have to remove this horizontal branch it’s just too bizarre looking all right here i go this leader here is also dead that would have been a perfect leader but it just died off so off it goes i’ll prune that off first and then i’ll prune my branch off here and then i’ll come in and clean that up more hard pruning on this tree that looks good there’s a dead stub here i can clean up right back here like that i’ll show you that scar over here here’s the back of the tree and there’s a major scar here that’s pretty well completely closed over just amazing i took another big branch off the top here and it’s almost completely healed over also even this cut here from last year it’s beginning to heal over really nicely i’m looking at the tree now from the front it’s looking quite nice i think down low here i’ve got too many branches coming from one spot i’ve got three branches all coming from the similar area there and i’ve got to keep one maybe two so i think some tough decisions coming up let’s have a look at that area there’s a look at the back and you can see this area there’s two branches coming from one spot and another one that’s fairly close by i’m looking for the branches that are the most flowing that kind of flow up from the trunk so here’s my problem if this is the front view all of these branches are kind of coming from the inside of a curve there’s actually five branches there’s another little one here and another little bud here so there’s you know almost five branches coming from one spot so i i think i think all all of them have to come off let me show you from the front view again so there’s a tree from the front you can see how this kind of grows from the inside of this curve i do like you know having some branches coming up right but they’re just not in a good location even if i kept this back one it’s kind of parallel to the trunk line and this one it doesn’t flow it doesn’t flow from this up to here you know if it was coming off here it would look nice but yeah so they’re all coming off here i go i hate to do it but it just there’s no point developing branches that just aren’t in a good spot you’re just kind of your problems will just get worse and worse as the tree develops in the future that basic core structure is so important to the tree to get that right first then start developing all your ramification and branching there’s a few stubs i’ll take off here some dead tips to some of these branches so that is it it’s down to a basically a stick with two branches however [Music] there’s lots more years ahead in development on this tree to come so it’ll be interesting to see what it looks like into the future i’ll definitely keep you posted i think the beauty of this tree is that kind of twisty trunk with good taper and i’ve definitely highlighted that today by removing all those branches you can definitely see the trunk line and there’s lots of room to start growing the canopy up here i have no set size to grow this tree to i’ll just keep developing it into the future and uh it’ll slowly evolve hopefully into something quite nice it seems like it doesn’t matter what size your tree is or what stage of development it’s in there’s always some hard decisions when it comes to pruning branches on your bone side and i found that today you know some of these smaller trees i took some major branches off them changed the trunk lines and they’re always tough decisions but it evolves a tree it it sets it up for future growth and hopefully it’ll just keep getting better in the future and i hope that’s what i did today and that’s all for today i’m nigel saunders thanks for joining me in the bonsai zone [Music]
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