We have now come to the part of our bonsai adventure where we need to prune the plants. This is where we create form and structure. We must determine which limbs we want to keep and which ones we want to let go. And we want to stimulate growth. This is kind of the romantic, zen part of the process. So we have a deciduous plant and a conifer and talk about the different ways we prune each of these categories. They are a little bit different in the sense that with a deciduous tree the first part of the year is when it produces the food that feeds the tree. Once that’s over, cut it back. It’s mainly directional pruning so when Rodney does something like this he prunes to the second or the third bud, cutting off that bud is going to produce a branch that runs that direction. He shows us a juniper, a very common landscape plant one can find in nearly any retail garden center. And a great place to start with bonsai, it really is. It is a tough plant, the difference is you let this run. The energy is in the foliage itself and so let it run, then prune back. Flatten the branch out just like a pine tree grows, flatten the branch out, shorten it on top and let the outside edge run. That produces foliage back inside, then prune it back. One thing we need to remember with junipers, and is also true of many conifers, don't cut back beyond the last green leaf. If you go beyond you often won't get new buds emerging. Rodney can't say this enough that the outside layer of growth is very, very important.
By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
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