By Ryan Chang,  Journal contributing editor (Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii)


                I have a few trees that were similar to Jayís and here are my efforts to create ramification within the multiple branching network. I did light defoliating in Spring.  From my recent visit with David, I learned you should have no fear, but need a strategy and plan when executing such cuts.  Itís a good thing that I left them longer than I wanted because now I can see the new growth points and can make the cuts according to where I want new growth. I color coded where I hope new growth will appear. 



        The first picture shows a tree that I had pinched earlier at the beginning of spring.  Coming back from Hilo, I felt I could do more to create more ramification. This roots tree will have a nice compact crown one day.  Iím into the windswept scenes and am looking to have this be a roots style windswept tree.




         This 2nd picture shows the tree after I removed top and bottom growing branches of the branches that I want to slow down, basically all of them except for a small growing branch on the other side.  I tried to leave most of the leaves on that small branch to grow and thicken the branch in hopes of transferring the energy to that branch. 


          NOTE FROM DAVID.    Iím not sure what you mean.  If the tree will be windswept left,  leave the bottom left branch long,  but shorten the one above it and remove most,  leaving just one red arrow as the future primary apex.  Shorten also the upright to the right below the large cut scar below the lowest blue arrow.  Also  remove all of the branch on the right at the base of the lowest blue arrow. See attached PDF. 


        After reviewing Davidís notes, I was sure we were on the same page in regards to the bottom left branch being the longest as well as having a strong apex.  However, I was unsure about the right side and how to mimic a windswept.  I kept wanting to grow upwards tall, while David mentioned it should be upwards, but not tall.


       Short and compact is best for the windswept style because the wind will push the right side down and wonít allow it to get to high. The blue is what I was hoping to do, while the red is probably what Iíll go for, or maybe Iíll try to do a little of both, leave myself some options.


       This picture shows my strongest growing small sumo.  I tried to show the new growth points with RED and going for a tight crown.  The trick is to not let any of the branches hit each other.  It will be like a puzzle, but a manageable one. 


       The object is to get it to zig and zag and branch off into multiple branches.  If in doubt leave it and come back to it.  David refers to this practice as leaving options for the future.


         Ryan,  for a relative novice,  the above is really, really good!    You're pruning tighter than most beginners are willing to do and as you develop more confidence and see exceptional results due to that tight pruning, I think you'll prune tighter in the future --- especially when working towards high-potential mini-bonsai!  Your primary apex is good in the middle and your far left trunks good.  The three smaller shorter trunks on the right of the apex branch is also very good.

            BUT YOUR RIGHT HAND BRANCH TRUNK IS MUCH TOO LONG!!!    THERE SHOULD BE A FLAT CUT SLIGHTLY BELOW THE ďoĒ ON THE ARROW POINTING DOWN!  While it may be possible to create a wide crown with your current design, at one point you will have to drastically slow down both the left and the right sides to allow your main apex to bulk up.  Your tree will really have a weird look with heavy outer trunks but a weak central apex!    I think the left side is okay, but the long right trunk is much too long and will need to be greatly reduced in the future.  RECOMMEND SHORTENING IT NOW AND AT THE SAME TIME START BUILDING BULK ON THE CENTRAL APEX.


         David's notes again were helpful.  Even though I generally knew what I was doing, David really helps to tighten things up and to execute a plan.  Hopefully, this drawing helps to see what Iím going for. 

         Note: each tip will be cut to create the branching structure, but I left it so readers can see each growth and new growth point.  Again, the blue is where Iím hoping to fill areas out, but the red is expected new growth. I ended up shortening both the left and right sides that David mentioned and I think it works. 

       Ryan,  nice improvement! Do you notice that a triangle is forming with the high point being the end of the top apical growth and the bottoms being the ends of the outermost end of the lowest branches?  For impressive SUMO crowns, the triangle should be fairly flat.  So allow your apical point to increase slowly and keep favoring your lowest branches to keep extending them outwards.  If you have a low of tight branches close together,  keep the branches growing outwards and removed branches growing towards the center of the tree.  Don't worry about branches piling up one atop the other as some will grow stronger and you can remove the weak ones later.  If you create a tight crown, train it using KASA (umbrella crown) techniques.



         The 6th picture shows a tree going for a small windswept tree.  The trunk has a nice bend and the foliage is already suggesting itís swept by the wind. The goal will be to create a branching structure that is exciting and easy to see and still allow the foliage to be a small leafed tight crown.


           Two views of the windswept crown.  The blue are options, but Iíll follow the red.

          Ryan,  consider a partial loosening and shoving the tree so it leans over the pot a bit in the direction that the wind is blowing.  When you decide on the styling of your tree,  you need to be able to close your eyes and almost feel that you're in the environment that created your windswept tree.  Do you feel the wind?  What direction is it coming from?  Why is the lower portion to the trunk not also growing in the direction of the wind?  If the wind was strong enough to style the top of the tree,  when that tree was younger, the same wind would have pushed the tree over and it would not be growing into the wind. You should make note of this when it's time to repot and do the major styling. 


            Jay, this one didnít bounce back as strongly as I wanted and ended up having to cut back most of the two non-growing branches because they were rotting at the tips.  this is what it would look like if you removed the 2 crossing branches.  Or at least similar to it.  Hope that helps.  


            I had it in a shaded area but it would catch direct sunlight in the later part of the afternoon.  By not letting it dry out, it started to rot. However, since it was catching sun, it also developed shriveled tips which needed to be removed. So from 4 branches, I have 2.  There may still be life in the bases of the cut branches, hopefully, they will sprout new growth.




            It has taken a little over a year, but I think I'm finally reached the stage that I know some of what bonsai is all about.  I thought Iíd be an old man before Iíd have something nice to look at.  Little did I know Iíd learn to grow plants from seed  and the various steps all the way to learning refinement in less than 2 years! Fuku Bonsai has been more than a resource and a blessing.  Fuku-Bonsai is creating a new modern American style of bonsai.  I hope all who have followed my progress can now see what bonsai is and can be for anyone. It's not just for the elite anymore. 


           While the limits of thinking never stops, the lessons are always improving.  The more who are willing to share; the more the quality of bonsai around the world will be noticed.  When my friends ask me what is the difference between Japanese bonsai and Chinese penjing, Iíve gotten quite tired of explaining because I tend to go on and on, but Iíll just respond, ďWhat is the difference between Karate and Kung Fu?Ē   - - - Ryan  (ryan_a_chang@msn.com)    


             If you can't make it good, at least make it look good. - Bill Gates     (Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/b/bill_gates.html#R0D7s1iDeMBeMicZ.99)



             I don't think Ryan intended this as an article.  In its original form it was part of an email chain amongst the Journal editorial team. Jay had sent out a photo of a prepared stock that he was working on.  He saw defects in the tree and asked our thoughts whether he should remove the two smaller trunks.  THAT'S A BIG NO-NO, BUT BEFORE I COULD PUT TOGETHER A RESPONSE, RYAN BEAT ME TO IT AND ADVISED JAY NOT TO! 

             I BURST WITH PRIDE!  RYAN GOT IT!!!   I think Jay is still influenced by his early bonsai instructors who insisted on teaching branch selection as an integral important part of basic beginner bonsai instruction.  I disagree. 

             Most beginner classes utilize scrawny trees with poor weak branches and few if any multiple trunks or low branches.  Somehow the objectives seem to emphasize removal of branches that had  fault such as branches that were too close to each other,  that were above or below each other, opposite each other, etc.  If you pruned off branches from a tree that was scrawny to begin with,  all you'll have left is pathetic trunk!

              At Fuku-Bonsai,  the initial emphasis is on creating maximum health and growth.  Don't remove branches until the trees are growing very strong and vigorously.  Weak branches will naturally die out and some branches will grow stronger than others.  Wait until the tree tells you which one will become strong. 

              Trees tend to be apical dominant.  In other words,  the top central growth has the most vigor and if this is not pruned, the lower branches and small trunks tend to die out.  So overly strong apical growth must be slowed in favor of low branches.

              In traditional outdoor temperate climate bonsai that are primarily styled utilizing a single apex-tier branch pointed crown structural model,  there's a preoccupation with preserving the central apical growth.  Better bonsai are created when a new apical growth allows height reduction to create a stouter tapering trunk.  Most beginners and novices are afraid to replace the apical growth and this prevents them from increasing the potential of their bonsai.

              But the basic tropical tree structure is multiple apex -arched branched rounded crown.  So tight pruning of upward growth is a basic recommendation.  Those who prune heavily have a better chance of producing higher potential plants.  While wiring is important in traditional temperate climate outdoor bonsai,  in tropical and True Indoor Bonsai, it is more important to develop strong pruning skills.  I think this article shows that Ryan is beginning to master this concept.  Jay is also making progress and the goal is to now assist all in the tropical and True Indoor Bonsai community!  ~~~David (david.f@fukubonsai.com


              © Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014