I’m really excited about the future of this bonsai. Crabapples are one of the best species to grow for bonsai, as they flower and fruit freely in a pot. I don’t know if I’ll get any blooms next year, but it’ll happen in time.


I got this Crabapple, Malus sp., along with a number of others, from a bonsai friend in Pennsylvania. I was really struck by the trunk character and taper. It had grown with a fork in the trunk, which I normally use to chop to the smaller trunk for enhanced taper. This time I did things a little differently. I deliberately left the stub of the larger trunk, with the intention of making a more “Crabapple-like” design.


A few months later, this thing has thrown a huge amount of growth, rangy and coarse. But with this growth lies the future design of the tree. It just takes some imagination, and tried and true techniques.


Things are looking a lot different in this photo. Sure enough, I’ve identified and wired out a rudimentary branch structure. The stub of the second trunk has gotten a first-pass of carving (there’s more to come, but not this year). All in all, I think we’ve now got a tree structure.


I’ve pruned back the leader. There’s new growth all over the tree, which means all the attention must have been welcome.


In just 10 more days the growth is really pushing hard.


And here we are, two weeks later. I’ve had to wire two more branches in the apex.


There’s plenty of recovery growth on this tree and plenty of roots down below. Why not slip-pot into this nice custom round by the late Paul Katich.


How about this for growth! By May of 2018 my Crabapple had absolutely become a weed. All of the shoots I’d wired into place in 2017 were allowed to grow wild, in order to thicken them. This is perhaps the single more important development technique you’ll use as you build the structure of your trees. Without sufficient branch thickness, your trees will not look like trees. So always remember “grow and clip.”


And here we are, after the “clip” part. As a general rule you want to prune back your new branches hard. Some will lag in strength, and those you allow to stay longer and continue to run.


The tree put on additional growth following the May pruning. I gave it its fall trimming and cleaning up today. You can also see that I did some carving on the stub of the left fork of the trunk. This reduces the “weight” of the stub, which enhances taper and believability.

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