Do those two words actually go together? Can you do anything in August besides water your trees and watch them endure the heat? The answer is a qualified yes. To be sure, you don’t want to go root-pruning and repotting your deciduous trees in August. Though I don’t grow them, I understand junipers can be worked on in August. But in the part of the bonsai world I inhabit, there are limited things I get to do – but very important things, nonetheless. I can do a late summer wiring of trees I unwired earlier in the summer due to swelling of branches. I can do some pruning of overlong branches. I can cut back an apical shoot that has done its job for the season. In other words, I can work on the fundamental design of my trees, in anticipation of next spring.
I can even do an initial wiring, for example on this trumpet vine, Campsis radicans:
This was fast work, as I only had three “branches” and the new leader to wire. But this bonsai-in-the-making now has its basic shape. This is one of the really great things about the art of bonsai: making the most out of not so much. In this case, I can express an entire mature tree in nature in only four shoots.
What’s next for this specimen? It’s in the process of storing food for the coming winter. Trumpet vine is deciduous, so metabolically the plant is only “thinking” about survival as it’s going to be dropping its foliage in about six to eight weeks. As for me, my only chore is to keep it watered and watch the wire for any signs of binding (which I don’t expect).
This water oak, Quercus nigra, has really taken off for me this year. Fast growth, properly managed, is just what you want when developing your bonsai. Fast growth means fast branch creation, fast crown formation and fast ramification. In the case of this tree, I’m building it completely from the ground up so fast growth is allowing me to build taper and branching. There are two primary efforts going on simultaneously with this tree: one is creating a tapering trunk, and the other is establishing the basic branch structure as I go along. Now, with this specimen you’ll notice that my first three branches are fairly close together. This would certainly be all right for a shorter tree, but I’ve decided this one needs to be on the order of 16″ tall. Because of this, I can’t leave all of the low branches. I have to select a first branch, then prune accordingly.
Notice I’ve also clipped the leader. It’ll be cut back farther next spring and a new shoot selected to run wild, continuing the process of building the trunk. I left it overlong so there won’t be any risk of dieback during winter.