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The Study Group


A reminder for new study group members and seasoned study group members.


The intended purpose of the study group is for us all to learn more about bonsai and take home skills that we can apply to our own bonsai. I am here to help guide you (not do it for you) in the process of learning bonsai and exploring the possibilities of your material.  You have a voice in the process too!  I will let you know my thoughts but I’d like to hear your thoughts and plans as well.  The only expectations I have of the participants is an open mind and an eagerness to learn.  Give me that and I will teach you everything I know!


All in all, at the end of the day, we should all be having FUN doing Bonsai.


The first 2-3 weeks of April is generally a slow time for Bonsai.  Not much to do during this time except continual pinching or cut back of many of our deciduous trees.  It's not till the end of April or beginning of May is when we start to focus on techniques such as Defoliation, Wiring, Cutting back and Thinning.  I will cover more on those topics in the May write up.


The concept of Pinching isn't much different than cutting back.  You're removing the terminal end of a branch which weakens the area and causes the tree to branch out to the buds you pinch back/cut back to.  The main difference is the time of year that you perform these techniques.

Pinching generally is done when the foliage is young and hasn't fully hardened off yet.  When you pinch the foliage back at this time, it will do a couple of things:

1. Weaken the area

2. Create a division

3. Division is weaker

If you wait till the foliage has hardened off (about the beginning of May) similar things will happen except for one:

1. Weaken the area

2. Create a division

3. Division is stronger

The reason why the division on a, "cut back," is stronger is because we've allowed the branch to continually grow throughout Spring which means it's allowed to get stronger.  Once cut back, the built up strength in the area will go to the division that is created from cutting  back.  When pinching (foliage was not allowed to gain strength) the area was never allowed to strengthen so the responding division tends to be slower.

In the case of deciduous trees that potentially have long internodes, you can see how pinching can give you an advantage in controlling the new growth.

Just remember that Pinching is just another tool you can use in controlling the growth of your Bonsai.  There are times when you need to use this technique and times when you don't, e.g. allowing a branch to run to gain strength and size. For the most part, we tend to pinch the top of the tree to keep it dividing and slow whereas we tend to grow out lower branches for size.  At some point, when the tree is well developed, Pinching will be done on the entire tree.


Now that the temperatures are finally increasing, be sure to keep your trees hydrated.  Though the humidity is higher in the Spring, they can still dry out on warm days and will need water.  If a Bonsai has been repotted this year, water is even more important because new soil dries very fast.  If you’re having a hard time keeping you Bonsai hydrated, try wetting some Sphagnum moss and lay a thin layer on top of the soil.  This will help with evaporation of the soil and give you a little more time in between waterings.


Growing Towards the Light

Since our bonsai hasn’t gotten much sun this Winter, when they start to grow in the Spring, you’ll notice the new foliage will start to point towards the sunlight.  Be sure to rotate your Bonsai every now and then so that it gets even light.  If you can turn your Bonsai 180 degrees each month, you will be in great shape.

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