The art of pruning bonsai

The art of pruning bonsai

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Bonsai pruning

Cultivating bonsai is an ancient art that consists of growing tree specimens in miniature form. However, this guided constriction of dimensions and forms does not affect the vital and metabolic activities of the plant, which remain absolutely functional.
It is an art that provides the knowledge of many techniques, so much so that there are schools to spread this science correctly. The techniques in question concern germination, growth and maintenance.
Among the tools of art, pruning plays a particularly important role. It represents an aspect of fundamental importance since it is decisive both in the growth phase and in the maintenance phase. It is therefore necessary to face this operation with sufficient expertise.
Bonsai is the product of a particular dedication as it is the expression of the artistic sense of those who cultivate it. The forms of bonsai take on their morphology in response to the will and attention of those who perform the pruning. In fact, through it its profile is guided and induced to manifest itself in a certain way.
Pruning must first take place regularly and be performed carefully, without haste, at a time of day when you know you can rest easy with your bonsai for sufficient time.
As we have said, pruning is important both during growth and in later periods. In the first case we speak of "training pruning", in the second case of "maintenance pruning".

Training pruning

The training pruning is that which takes place during the growth of the plant and will make the bonsai take on its almost definitive form. It therefore involves irreversible choices, and it is here that both the expertise accumulated with the experience or during the attendance of courses and its own artistic sense emerge. In this phase it is necessary to choose which branches to remove and which to keep, and this choice will be definitive and decisive.
Generally the best moments for training pruning are early spring and late autumn.
It is important to know that the plants have the upper part that tends to develop much faster, making sure that the growth is always oriented towards the light, This phenomenon is called apical dominance. In setting up a bonsai, this is aesthetically counterproductive as it involves a considerable upward development and the death of the lower branches. Training pruning, or setting, must also counteract apical dominance.
You have to work with precision, placing the tree on the table at eye level. At this point we proceed with the removal of dead wood and once this operation is completed, we observe the tree and decide what shape we want to impress. Based on this, branches will be maintained and others will be removed. To do this there are basic techniques and tips to avoid damaging the plant and to ensure a satisfactory result.

Some basic pruning techniques

- If you notice that two branches depart from the same height of the tree, they are therefore close to each other, it is advisable to eliminate one of them, whose presence would be useless for the purpose of designing the shape.
- The branches that grow in a vertical direction, and that are already too high to be folded over time, must be eliminated (unless you really want them that way).
- You can prune those branches that follow very irregular or unnatural curves or little harmonics. Also in this case, it is your taste and only that which determines the choice.
- The bonsai should maintain a certain proportion of dimensions, the lower branches should be kept thicker than the upper ones and this can be achieved only by eliminating the upper branches too large.
- If a branch appears "out of place" or in any case seems to remove harmony from the general form, it can be pruned.
These are some basic guidelines, which can help you get a nice bonsai, even if you are not an expert, few rules but usually well functional.
When branches are pruned, there is often the risk of producing ugly scars, for this reason it is advisable to use a special concave cutter designed specifically for this operation, in order to reduce the damage. If you start from a healthy tree you can prune up to 1/3 of the branches without causing problems. When pruning proves to be an intervention of a certain size, it is good to balance also the development of the root system, through pruning, in a proportional way. This serves to counteract immoderate growth of the plant, which would somehow remedy the imbalance between the amount of leaves and the extension of the roots.
In the case of large cuts, it is possible to use a special healing paste, readily available on the market, which serves to protect the lesions during healing so that the plant heals quickly.

The art of pruning bonsai: Pruning for maintenance

Maintenance pruning can be performed at any time. Trees tend to grow more at the ends of the branches due to a genetic tendency to become light. These parts should be pruned regularly to promote growth in the less exposed areas of the plant, which otherwise would be mortified.
As the definition itself says, this is a type of pruning that serves to maintain the shape designed over time. To do this it is sufficient to remove all the parts that come out of the original setting: the shoots that appear in unwanted positions, branches developed outside the shape of the bonsai. for this operation you can use specific scissors or suitable nippers.
The frequency of maintenance pruning depends on the rapidity of the vegetative cycles of the plant. interventions must be frequent in the case of plants that have a fast cycle, such as some types of deciduous trees, while they are much more rarefied in the case of slow-growing plants, as in the case of conifers.
On coniferous bonsai, the removal of the shoots must be done with the hands, since the use of a cutter would cause the formation of brown tips near the cuts. We must tighten the shoot between the thumb and the forefinger and pull (without violent tears, but carefully). The sprout will break without complications.
In the case of deciduous trees (which periodically lose their leaves), the technique called "defoliation" is applied: during the summer the leaves are removed to induce the tree to produce new leaves. A consequence of this application is the reduction of the size of the leaves, while the branching activity increases.