I think by now most people doing bonsai for a couple years can understand what a trunk chop does for helping improve the shape and movement in an otherwise boring trunk line. The need for additional chops in the future helps preserve the taper we seek. It may take as many as 5 or 6 trunk chops to induce the proper taper and keep it smooth looking. Too few chops and the trunk will build bulges and bumps that can otherwise ruin a pretty trunk. To build nice branches, the same thing must be done to them as in a trunk line only on a much smaller scale. The branch will be tapered much the same way as the trunk and the only way to get that look and feel is to grow and prune back, grow and prune back. This pruning back is the hard part because it means cutting off all ones work each year.
A maple tree cannot build a good branch in a few years without chopping. You could, but the branch will be as much a twelve inches long and about as big as no. 4 copper wire and have no taper. There are few key things to look for when building branches.
- Keep internodes short.
- Prune as needed ( daily if needed )
- Fertilize and water
- Prune back seasonally
Keep those internodes as short as possible. Everytime a twig is pruned make sure to cut back as soon as the leaves unfurl to keep the internode short for the next cutback. On a shohin tree if it grows longer than half an inch it is too long and you will need to start over. This care is only needed once the branch is as big as you want it. Much like building a trunk with chops it is not so necessary to build branches at that time. It is always important to make that first cut after bud break though and allow it to become rote. eventhough you may cut this stem back, it is important to have a node to cut back to.
Pruning must be done religiously to get a good looking branch. I wish I had more time to devote to this task. Mostly I work on the trees on weekends and a weeks growth is too much to deal with in the middle of summer. Fertilizer and water is important to get the tree to build leaf mass quickly. fertilizing is one of those things that is rewarded by vigilence.
Prune it back each season till it is finished. At that point it will only last a few seasons and another branch will take its place. So branch building on shohin trees is continual.
The pictures are decieving, because the internodes look fairly long in the pics, but it was shot with a macro lens and none of the nodes are over 1/4 inch apart.
This tree is a prime example of ruining what looks like a good deal of ramification from this season. It is and it really hurt me to take it all off. The tree will be better and it will look the same next year, except that I will have a better base branch on which the ramification will grow.
This is another Ed Clark trident from a couple years ago at the bonsai swapmeet. This tree was bought as a stump and I have been growing an apex and hopefully what will become some branches down the road. Mostly the tree was allowed to heal some chop scars and try to get a better taper up top.
Who says a tree needs soil to grow in. This plant grows roots right on top of the bench looking for more water where ever it can find it. They even grow under other pots in search of water. Soil just provides spaces for vapor, its not really needed as long as the benches stay wet from misters, which these do.
A couple of these views are blurry, sorry about that. They are clear enough to get the jist of whats going on. These are just some before shots of how I will deal with the apex. Just follow along.
See the preserved bud to the left of the larger stub, while the new leader going to the right has been pruned back to a set of double buds. In colder enviroments pruning like this might freeze off these buds. I can seal the cuts and be OK here.
Here we have a plce where three shoots all the same size have grown from one place. One will have to be chosen and the others cut off. Notice the cut paste on the trunk from last year. This apex has been chopped twice this year (at the same time) and once last year, for three chops in one year.
Notice that the first buds are half the distince of the thickness of my finger. That is only about 3/8 inch. That is a good place for a bud, and the branch will be cut back to that bud in about April or so.
See how close I kep the buds to the trunk? I do this maybe three times. This will allow me to prune back to reliable budding points later on down the doad compare that to the larger branch below and how far out from the trunk that first node is.
Here is the tree all wired up and ready for another season of improvement. Now it can be seen the direction of the apex cuts. The apex should always move forward to greet the viewer.