I’ve been working on this nice piece of loblolly pine stock for a while now. In the last round of pruning, wiring and shaping, I wired up a new leader in order to continue building taper into the crown. I’ve left the tree alone for a while, but now I can’t put off the next step in its development any longer. Here’s why:
If you look closely, you can see the wire is biting into the new leader that began as a thin side branch a few months ago. You can see that wiring the side branch upward prompted rapid growth. Pines are no different than most tree species; they want to get as tall as they can, so in order to do this the topmost shoot (or a shoot the bonsai artist wires up) grows very quickly.
After removing the wire from the strong leader, I cut it off without hesitation. This is one of the challenges faced by the beginner and sometimes the intermediate bonsai artist as well. Cutting back a trunk to build or improve taper, and cutting back branches to build or improve taper, can be a frightening prospect. This is especially true if you’ve worked long and hard to develop part of your tree that you now know has to come off. But I promise you, if you take the plunge you’ll be rewarded. Yes, it’s costly in terms of time. But you don’t want to find yourself looking at a tree you’ve developed for five years and realize all the work you’ve done has to be chopped off in order to make your bonsai look right. It’ll bug you until you do something about it.
In the case of this tree, a shoot I’d wired as a side branch a couple of months ago is in just the right spot. It only needs to be pointed upward and bent a little bit to make it consistent with the existing trunk movement.
Here’s the result. I have my new leader in position and won’t trim the tree any more in 2015. It’ll set dormant candles as fall approaches for spring 2016.
The great news here is I’ve successfully gotten two rounds of development in the current growing season, which will certainly shorten the process of making it into a fine pine bonsai. In fact, next year this tree can go into its first bonsai pot.
If you compare this photo with the first one above, you’ll notice I’ve done some work on the thicker, first three branches in the lower part of the tree. I’m working them back toward the trunk, all the while improving their taper so they properly reflect the taper of the trunk when this bonsai is “finished.”
Technically, this tree has the height and mostly the shape of its finished self. The silhouette is just about right. The crown needs to fill in, and I need to build ramification in the branches. I’m betting that two years will be enough time to get this done.