New Articles

New Galleries

Basic Bonsai Refinement

Text and Diagrams by Jim Smith, USA
Discuss this article >>

First defoliate the entire tree, then wire all branches that need to be moved, after they have been repositioned shorten them as needed. Make sure you remove all wires before they start to cut into the bark. Remove all terminal buds except those that you want to grow longer.

After new buds start to develop, it will be necessary to remove all the unwanted buds that have sprouted on the trunk and branches, keep any new buds that are needed to complete the design. Study the design and remove any growth that is too long or growing outside the silhouette, keep in mind the triangular shape of the tree. Remove all the terminal bud except any that you wish to lengthen.

This new flush of growth will develop with smaller leaves and if pinching is continued on a regular schedule the leaves will remain small. Pinching is the removal of the young tender growth at the end of a branch, it may be just the terminal bud or it may be longer and include several leaves. Remove all leaves that are too large.

The position of a leaf on a branch determines the direction the bud will grow. There is a bud at the base of each leaf, if we pinch back to a leaf that is growing on the side of a branch the new bud that sprouts will grow on that side. It is therefore possible to direct the terminal growth on each branch in the direction we wish by pinching back to the leaf that is growing in that direction.

When pinching always keep in mind the shape you are trying to create and pinch accordingly. When looking at the branch from the top it should have a triangular appearance as in Fig. 1. The side view Fig. 2 will have a flat bottom with no branches extending downward the top should be contoured so that the highest part of the silhouette is closest to the trunk. The end of the branch will taper to a point.

When working with small bonsai we sometimes need to shorten a branch to a leaf that is not growing in the direction we desire.

This can be corrected by wiring the tip of the branch then twist until the leaf is in the direction you wish the terminal bud to grow. The wire must be removed shortly after the new bud starts to grow.

Surface roots and aerial roots that look too large and are not in proportion to the size of the trunk should be either reduced by carving or removed.

The trunk can be cleaned with a stiff brush, a smooth bark may be wiped with an oily rag to bring out the color of the bark, experiment to determine which works best.

The surface of the soil may be improved by adding new soil or moss. When adding moss contour the surface so that it does not look artificial. The surface should taper down to the edge of the pot so that it is just below the rim.

The pot should be clean but not necessarily look like new. An old rugged looking pot may compliment an old looking tree.

Jim Smith is well known in the world of bonsai. He has exhibited at the BCI Convention in 1975, at all the BSF Conventions since 1976, at all the BCI Conventions in Florida, at all the Epcot Flower shows, and at WBFF in Orlando. He founded the Treasure Coast Bonsai Society in 1975, the Dura-Stone Nursery in 1979, and he has conducted workshops and demonstrations in many major venues.

Discuss this article >>