Interesting photos of my bonsai tree as it awakens for the new growth season. Watch as I clean it up so it has better potential for health and longevity.
This little Willow tree is one of many in my bonsai collection of inexpensive trees I've grown mostly from cuttings and seeds.
In these first three photos, after I dug the tree out from it's warm winter blanket of bark chips, I positioned the tree into three angles. That way we can examine the current shape of the tree from all sides.
Type: Curly Willow
Age: 7 years
Last repotting: 2017, early Summer
Wired: 2017, Summer
From the back of the tree some of the branches are crossing over the jin (deadwood) feature.
This is also evident fron the front view of the tree, below. I'm starting to think the angled position showed in the my cover photo looks like a better front for the tree.
Cleaning The Tree
This process involves mostly pruning off unwanted dead and diseased branches from the tree.
Little knobs, chipped wood, and torn stems are cleaning cut off to give the tree a smoother transition as one branch divides into the next one.
Great care is taken not to remove any living branches we might need. Now that the leaves are starting to emerge, it is easier to determine which branches are living, but is can still be difficult to locate where hidden leaf buds are still dormant.
Also by strategically pruning some of the living wood on the top tips, we can also stimulate undeveloped leaf buds to receive more growth energy. I usually wait another month or so before I remove height from the tree, after the tree has restored itself from the sunlight energy from its new leaves made.
Even when I cut into wood that looks old and dead, I always prune only a small piece off at a time. By looking at the pruned edge, it is easier to notice if the tissue underneath is green inside or dead and dry.
Willow can be tricky in this way. Sometimes even dry brown wood is quite green inside.
Above, I show where a large knob was removed. The tissue here is very green. I do not even bother to cover the wound with any cut paste, as the tree will heal very quickly at this time of year. The nearby living branch will help the wound to close.
Another thing I learned about the Willow this year is that the weakest branches will often form a paper bark that chips off. This is a sign that the wood underneath has shrunken, and the branch is dying back to help seal in the water and sap inside to store it over the winter.
There is not much I can do as a grower to prevent the tree from allowing any particular branch to die back, which can be frustrating for a bonsai artist. However, by pruning back the tree during the growth season, I can force new branches to appear where I want them to be, and even style the branches to grow into exotic new gravity-defying directions.
Below, I show what this tree looked like last year during the peak of the growing season. It actually looks like the tree is on a similar path to regrow much of the same shapes that it lost over the winter. So there is no need to fret removing lots of dead pieces the tree discarded. Those branches will likely return with proper training.
Read more about this tree in my past article here:
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