As a restyling "bonus" we "harvested choice "outriggers" which are excellent opportunities for exciting creations. We had one very large outrigger section and two smaller sections to be assembled into a composition to include a beautiful lava stalactite. The initial training container is a redwood outer frame with a plywood floor and a coal tar painted sheet metal liner. It includes a drain. We're utilizing a lava stalactite that is especially attractive on one end.
|Michael holds up the tallest outrigger that has a tall free-falling aerial root. This will be the highest apex of the composition. Plants will be established on the least attractive areas of the lava rock. The rock had already been mounted on a cement base to hold it at the desirable and most attractive position. It resembles a sloping ledge. The trees will be partially elevated by being on the lower part of the ledge to create a high leafy canopy.|
|The tallest section is positioned with paper covered twist wire. Note that the rock formation is placed at a diagonal to provide greater depth compared to having the rock parallel to the container. Generally, when making a group or multiple tree planting, start with the tallest tree.|
|The largest outrigger section was then positioned below and facing a slightly different direction. The sections are positioned high to allow the aerial roots to have maximum impact. At this stage, it's preferable to use a lot of potting media rather than expose any roots. Once established, it's a simple matter to remove excess media.|
|Originally, we had planned to use the third outrigger in the back and to the right. Looking down, the three outrigger sections would create 120° angles and form the basic structure for a well-rounded future crown. But the primary front looked a little weak and the third outrigger was used to the right of the major large section. An aluminum foil wall was used to hold the media vertically in place and to protect roots of the third outrigger..|
|With branches trimmed it's easy to see that this view will be very attractive with a lot of aerial roots showing. While the aluminum foil currently hides some attractive stalactite formations, it and the media currently supported will one day be removed. Much of the beautiful "mural-like" sculptural lava wall will then be viewed through the aerial roots.|
|The view from the other side. Another small plant was added to fill out the area where the third outrigger was originally to be planted. The small tree was planted low so roots would be at different levels when exposed. Once the excess material is removed, small pieces of similar lava stalactites and small accent plants could be included to create a more realistic scene.|
|Upon completing the first major pruning, note that the profile is a sharp triangle. To create a very strong healthy tree, it is necessary to have the top apical point very clear and prominent. The lowest branches must be the longest. By cutting off all growth between the apex and the end of the lowest branches, each branch gets its share of light to ensure optimum maturing into a scenic grandeur.|
- MULTIPLE-APEX PRUNING PRINCIPLE:
- "Determine the dominant apical point and the longest possible lowest branch end tip. Connect these two points with a straight-edge and ruthlessly prune everything that grows beyond that line!"
The shape of multiple-apex type structures are largely formed by light. The top parts of the tree will always have more vigorous growth because it gets the strongest light. If the upper sections of the tree gets early refinement training, that portion will develop quickly and nicely . . . but to the detriment of the sections below which will be shaded out and not ever develop strongly. Too often potentially nice bonsai have weak lower branches that limit the tree's potential.
- THE TRAINING PRIORITY:
- "First the roots, the lower trunk, the lowest branches, then the upper branches and top."
The usual goal of bonsai is to create a tree with the feeling of an aged majestic specimen. It will take time for any bonsai tree to mature and have the grandeur that is the reward of years of careful pruning and refinement. Without the proper long-term training strategy many bonsai will never get there because strong lower branches will never ever develop!
The lowest branches reach out from under the shade of an enlarging canopy. If it cannot grow out fast enough, it gets shaded out and dies. In a dense forest, trees only have branches on the outer edges of the forest or at the top of the trees. In bonsai, it's necessary to prune away growth that shade valuable lowest branches. Without strong lower branches, it's not possible to create the illusion of an aged tree. A mature tree may be as wide as it is tall. Tropical banyans may be twice as wide as it is high.
A tree naturally grows strongest at the top. To get strong lower branches, it is necessary to continually prune strong growth to force growth to desirable areas. In bonsai, we often prune the top of the bonsai ten times as much (or even more) than the lowest branches! The top is drastically pruned and from time to time, a new primary growth tip is chosen and the most previous top is pruned off. In this manner, the bonsai stays at the same height and interesting ramification is created.
- THE LONG-TERM RAMIFICATION PRINCIPLE:
- "As branches become more complex, they also become more crowded. From time to time, remove whole sections of a branch to allow remaining sections to continue to divide."
In training gradually lengthen the branches. Don't take a branch out to the full future length. Start with a third or a fourth of the future length. Prune back to add just a little more. Each branch will continue divide and become more complex. But there's only a limited amount of room for each branch to develop.
The choice usually comes down to pruning out whole branches to allow remaining branches to become more complex, or retain all branches and thin out each branch. This is difficult for novice trainers who hesitate and are afraid to remove weaker branches or to remove large sections of a well-developed branch. Either prune or watch the tree naturally thin out its inner branches.
It is very common to see this in once beautiful bonsai that have not been given good care for many years. A bonsai that is severely pot-bound will steadily grow weaker. Stunted aging roots will produce insufficient growth and branches die. Usually these are the lowest branches and inner branches that receive the least light. In extreme cases, growth is only at the ends of branches and it's very difficult to bring such a tree back to its former glory.
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