How to prune and reshape an overgrown bonsai tree

How to prune and reshape an overgrown bonsai tree

 I started a bonsai for Micky about twelve years ago by cutting up a dwarf procumbens juniper and potting it in a clay saucer. I think the last time I pruned it was about five years ago. It was one of those things I kept meaning to get around to and didn’t.  So, the other day, armed with my pruning shears, a pair of scissors, and a cup of Micky’s good coffee, I tackled the job. Here’s what the plant looked like:

neglected bonsai tree needs pruning
neglected bonsai tree needs pruning

The first step is to look inside and see what the trunk looks like. I was pleased to see that the lower portion of this trunk was covered with moss.  I looked for unwanted growth and dead stuff. I found it, too.

Study the trunk of the bonsai before pruning
Study the trunk of the bonsai before pruning

The only tools I needed were a pair of pruning shears for the woody parts and a pair of scissors to trim the soft growth.

necessary tools for pruning the bonsai tree
necessary tools for pruning the bonsai tree

It is important to keep unwanted side shoots off of the trunk. I spent some time studying and cutting any growth that wasn’t supposed to be there. Taking away this growth will help with trunk development and maintain the “theme” of the plant.

cutting unwanted side growth from the bonsai trunk
cutting unwanted side growth from the bonsai trunk

I used the scissors to trim the growth tips. This will encourage branching and dwarfing as the plant grows. If you need to know what happens to a plant after pruning, I will place a link on the basics of pruning at the bottom of this article.

trimming the tips of a juniper bonsai tree
trimming the tips of a juniper bonsai tree

It takes time and patience to clean the trunks properly. There were all sorts of unwanted stems and little dead thingies that needed to be removed.

Cleaning the bonsai tree trunk
Cleaning the bonsai tree trunk

As I proceeded, I found myself alternating between working on the lower trunks and the green “heads” at the top. Here is a section of the plant before trimming

Bonsai top growth before trimming
Bonsai top growth before trimming

And here is the same section after trimming:

same section of bonsai after trimming
same section of bonsai after trimming

A number of years ago, a spiritual bonsai expert who I then perceived as very old told me, “You must prune the tree so that a bird can fly through it.”  I have always remembered that and the advice has served me well. The plant was looking good, and I tried to keep turning it, viewing it from any possible angle and cutting and trimming anything that didn’t belong.

Examining the plant from all sides to find places I missed
Examining the plant from all sides to find places I missed

The thing I like most about a job like this is that, in order to do it properly, I have to leave all of the cares and pressures of the world behind and move into another world, becoming, as it were, a “little elf man” who carefully and patiently cares for a tree in his world. As I work on the bonsai tree, it becomes, in my mind, as big as a giant oak. To quote Billy Joel, “You may be right, I may be crazy. But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.”  Anyway, the bonsai came out looking rather nice and I had a good time. Here’s the finished project:

The bonsai trimming is finished--for now....
The bonsai trimming is finished–for now….

 

Here’s an article on how to start your own bonsai

Another article, “Pruning as an art form-the basics”

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 These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .

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Published by John P.Schulz

I lost my vocal cords a while back due to throat cancer. The laryngectomy sent me on a quest to find and learn to use my new, altered voice. I am able to talk now with a really small and neat new prosthesis. My writing reflects what I have learned in my search for a voice. My site johnschulzauthor.com publishes a daily motivational quote and a personal comment. I write an article a week for my blog, johntheplantman.com which deals with a lot of the things that I do in the garden. I am also the author of Requiem for a Redneck and the new Redemption for a Redneck--novels portraying the lives and doings of folks around the north Georgia hills. I have an English Education degree from the University of Georgia and very happily married to the lovely Dekie Hicks. You may enjoy my daily Quotes and Notes at http://johnschulzauthor.com/

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8 Comments

  1. John,
    I love bonsai trees, so I find it interesting that you rotate the tree as you prune it to create interest from all angles. This is the same thing a skilled sculpture artist does when creating a 3-dimension sculpture no matter the media used. Every view should show beautiful and dramatic negative space as you circle around it, hence, birds can fly through it if the sculpture is large enough or the bird small enough.
    You don’t just dig in the dirt, you’re a 3-D sculpture artist. Wow!

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