This time I bring you an in-depth exclusive, straight from my collection.
Sit beside me as I study a young Pussywillow tree, and determine how to prune it for a better future bonsai design.
Age: 5 years
Last repotting: 2017~ early Summer
Wired: 2019~ mid Summer
Past articles by @creativetruth, featuring this tree:
- Pussywillow: Developing a Young tree into a Bonsai design
- Pussywillow: Transformers... Bonsai in Disguise
- Winter Tree Grooming
- The tree of cats is also very down to Earth
In Mid-August, if this tree were singing a song, it would be "Love Me Tender". Something inside me told me to give this tree some extra TLC by keeping it under the shade for most of the month, and it seemed to pay off.
Although the growth vigor slowed down, the foliage became healthier, greener, and more lush. No signs of sun damage whatsoever.
The tree actually has very few branches for its size, and I have been hoping to encourage the growth of more branches extending from the trunk.
A couple new shoots did start to develop, so I waited a few more weeks before pruning, to encourage them to become closer to the full-branch length I wanted, before I should start to encourage branch divisions. New branches are more likely to survive into the next year if they are long, thick, and healthy.
A Few Weeks Later
The tree is ready, and I am dying to pinch back some of the baby buds on top, and clip that long green branch into proper shape.
But Why Prune?
Although I am happy with the current shape and design of tree, my better judgement tells me that this tree needs help eventually. I have not altered this tree significantly in almost a year. It is stuck growing in this tiny pot I chose for it, and its health will be reduced if not cared for properly.
It needs my instruction, to teach it where to produce growth that won't be wasted in future years.
Specifically, the longest sprouts with the largest leaves will shade out many other branches, making them weaker over time. This could cause lots of dieback of weaker small branches, or even cause a major branch to decline.
This tree still has a long way to go, before it will be a decent looking bonsai shape. The foliage is barely covering major holes from above.
In time (many years), I'll be improving the bare spots by continuously pinching the ends off the youngest shoots, to increase backbudding. New green leaves will eventually form all along the branches.
If only it were so easy for people to regrow thinning hair, by pinching off a few split ends.
After A Trim
When I trim the tree, I usually strive for the same typical strategies.
- Large-oversized leaves, shading out other ones.
- Reduce fine branches down in length, no more than one or two leaf nodes.
- Shoots growing between other branches.
- Excessively long branches, extending beyond the ideal profile of the tree.
- Overlapping, criss-crossing, inward aiming branch parts.
- Downward growth underneath the branches (almost none in Pussywillow).
- Dead wood, diseased, rotten, and broken parts.
Everything I clip off, I do it neatly, so it is hard to find the cut mark. The cuts are made close to the start of a leaf or bud. A new shoot will almost always grow back to extend the branch, almost directly from the cut end.
Interesting to note is that from the side, the tree looks to have the shape of a very nice formal upright, with alternating branches on both sides.
However, it is bit deceptive in my opinion, to mask the true bend in the trunk as evident from the front.
Even though most of these alternating branches are heading off in the same direction, I know the sun will help me to build up more growth around the bare sides of the tree.
Front (Best View)
Any time I can get lots of low branches on a young tree, I try to encourage them to develop as much as possible. Otherwise, the tree would continue to develop tall and skinny, and it would discard the low shaded branches.
My goal is usually to keep the top below an ideal height the pot can safely support.
The low branches, over the years need to look the thickest on the tree, in order to make it look believable. In contrast, the upper portions will likely need to have hardwood pruned off frequently. Otherwise, the top branches become too thick and prominent.
Eventually I'll probably have to hard cut the entire top of this tree somewhere above the main side branches, and tend a new thinner trunk to become a better apex. It will look much better when the trunk has a good taper, starting with a wide base, and narrow middle, and many small, clustered branch divisions and leaves on top.
At the end of Autumn, I'll have to consider whether or not I want to wire this tree. That is my preferred time to wire Pussywillow, when most of the leaves are falling off, and the branches are still flexible.
This tree is starting to look like it could use some extra guidance to better differentiate the space between the large middle branches. Any branches I re-angle, are likely to harden and hold onto this shape after I remove the wire in late Winter.
Find me on discord and chat with other tree growers, bonsai enthusiasts, and gardeners.
This is my way of thanking each of you for your friendship and support. By sharing my talents on Hive, I can also share to help with your needs.
Let my success also grant you some happiness too.