You’ve been following the development of this Huckleberry bonsai-to-be for the past year or so. This is where the specimen stood just over one year ago, in July of 2018.
And here it is in February of this year. I had done some carving on the trunk chops in order to begin creating the tapering transitions that will be necessary to a good design.
Voila! Five months later, I’ve got myself a Huckleberry bush. They do try to grow the way God intended them to. Our job as bonsai artists, however, is to direct the growth so as to create a believable tree form. So here I go.
At each stage of your bonsai’s development, you need to assess your progress with certain chores. This photo illustrates the thickening of the new leader on the left-hand trunk. This is excellent progress. It won’t be long before the tapering transition is just the way I want it.
Here’s where the right-hand trunk stands. I left two potential leaders, because I wanted to have the option later on depending on how the tree looked. I couldn’t make up my mind at the time, in other words. Don’t be afraid to leave yourself options. You don’t always have to know the answer right then.
So down in the bottom of the tree, on the right-hand trunk, I’ve got this first branch. I left a shoot near the base in order to thicken the base of the shoot I want. As is common with Huckleberry (and other species), I got another shoot near the base but it isn’t coming off the main shoot so it serves no purpose.
This is a routine chore you will need to do on pretty much every tree you grow. And you need to be diligent about it, or the unwanted shoots will sap energy from the growth you want.
Here’s another chore you need to attend to. Notice that there’s a very strong shoot growing almost straight up near the base of this branch. Again, I left it on purpose and now it’s done its job of thickening the base of the branch. But I can’t leave it any longer, or it’ll sap energy from the branch and I could lose it.
It’s also the time of year for unwiring whatever you haven’t already unwired. You can see I’ve got some biting here.
A lot of the trimming has been done, but there’s still more to do. This is the time when you want to remove downward and upward growing branches (for the latter, leave those you still need to use for thickening purposes). Bring in the profile of your tree, and selectively remove sub-branching that isn’t going to be part of the design.
And this is the result for today. What you may notice is that after each round of trimming, the tree looks a lot like it did after the previous round. But if you look closer, you’ll see branches and leaders that have thickened nicely, and ramification that will ultimately form the foliage pads. It takes many rounds of “grow and clip” (this technique is used regardless of whether or not you wire your trees) to achieve the goal of a well-designed bonsai. Let me know what you think of today’s work.
If you think you’d like to give Huckleberry a try, here’s a specimen I collected this year that will be available in 2020. Pretty cool twin-trunk, eh?
And a smaller single trunk specimen, which got some design work earlier in the season.