Here are some of the details that you’ll need to have in mind when you set out building trunks that have good movement, taper and proportions.
Notice the new shoot that’s going to be my choice for continuing the trunk line. It just so happens that it emerges in a perfect location relative to the leader that I was able to chop the trunk to (you’ll often find yourself just chopping to a stump; in this case I was able to chop to a reasonably thick low branch that worked nicely).
Why is that small shoot in just the right spot? I’ve found that when building taper, chopping a trunk (or branch) usually works best if you don’t exceed two or three basal diameters from the previous transition point. Visually, this is ideal. So when I make this next cut, I’m maintaining a good sense of proportion. (To further illustrate this principle, if you measure the base of this tree at the soil and then measure three of those lengths from the soil, voila, you’ll be at the trunk chop I made when I lifted the tree.)
There’s no denying that fast development in our bonsai is a good thing. To be sure, time in training really brings a bonsai to a fullness of design. But getting the design established quickly is, in my view, very important. Some species lend themselves to this effort much better than others. Elms are in this category.
About a year ago I published this photo of a tree we had collected roughly a month earlier. Not surprisingly, it grew out with vigor and that allowed me to do the rough design.
The next phase of development for this bonsai is to continue refinement of the foliage pads. My technique over the years has been to shear to shape as the rough design develops. It’s only after that phase is completed that I zero in on specific sub-branching to finish the refinement. Of course, no bonsai is ever finished, but you do have distinctive periods where the tree is showable in its intended form.
The main chore I have right now is to continue developing the crown of the left-hand trunk. That will be completed during the 2020 growing season. I also obviously need to hard-prune that low right branch on the right trunk, which came with the tree when it was collected. But that too is a 2020 chore.
Not bad for three months’ growth, right? I’ve done some trimming and of course had to unwire most of the wire. It’s such a strong tree that when I went to lift it from the bench to photograph it, a pair of roots had escaped a tiedown hole and grown down through a bench slat. I’m talking eighth-inch roots!
So this one will get the same treatment as the others, little to minimal pruning going into fall, removal of the last bit of wire if called for, and then dormancy care. Next year should complete the design.
I’d love to hear what you think of these trees. I’m pretty proud of them.