Bonsai are by definition miniature trees, without the interference of man these trees would grow and develop as normal.
So what makes a Bonsai tree a bonsai?
The answer is, what we do to our trees that makes them remain small. Pruning is the main thing we do as Bonsai growers to make trees, and keep them as bonsai. The other major factor is shaping, however a miniature tree is still a bonsai, shaped or not. Without the shaping it may not be as pleasant or interesting to look at as we would like but it remains a bonsai tree.
There is a lot of experience and expertise needed to prune correctly and develop top class Bonsai trees. But to keep a small tree looking good is within everybody’s capability with a couple of pointers.
The major difference between pruning a Bonsai and pruning regular plants is that bonsai require top and bottom attention. In other words we prune not just the tops of bonsai trees to keep them looking good but also the roots.
Pruning the roots restricts the size and therefor the amount of water and nutrients the bonsai can absorb. It is easy to see why this helps maintain and encourage the miniaturization of bonsai trees.
So rule #1 you need to prune tops and roots of a bonsai tree.
So what do we prune and how?
Well the pruning of the top of the bonsai is for two main reasons these are.
- To encourage the development of the branches in a particular direction.
- To maintain the shape and look of the tree.
Again we are trying to shape the bonsai tree by deciding what direction any growth should take, and to shape the tree by deciding how much grows on any branches we let develop. It is all about looks and with most bonsai they are developed to look good mainly from one direction.
Now the pruning of the root system is obviously not directly done for any aesthetic reason, as they can’t be seen. So why do we prune the roots? As stated previously the roots supply the majority of the nutrients and water.
So they do help decide the size of the bonsai and this then impinges on the final shape of your bonsai tree.
So bonsai tree roots are pruned not directly for shape, but to restrict the amount of nutrients for growth that the bonsai can take in and therefore restrict growth.
There is a balancing act required, as the roots still need to keep the tree strong and healthy as well as giving it stability to prevent your poor bonsai ending up on its side.
So there you have it an outline of why and what you need to prune on your bonsai tree no matter what the variety of your bonsai , maple, cedar, juniper etc.
We will cover pruning in a bit more hands on detail in future posts keep a look out for those, and let us now what you think or make a contribution via your comments.
All the best from the maple bonsai crew.