Branches - Developing

Winter is the best time to make decisions when developing new branches, particularly on deciduous trees, plan out what you would like the branch to do, then as the buds develop you can select one pointing in the direction you wish the growth to go, and prune accordingly.

Later as the branch structure appears, on each extension cut beyond the second bud. This will eventually lead to a fine tracery of thin branches (this is called 'Ramification').

By removing more buds on branches at the top of the tree, than those lower down, you will see a better structure develop in the lower branches, they will thicken, as will the trunk lower down the tree, giving a better trunk taper.


This is what is meant by ramification, a mass of fine branches that add to the overall impression of a large tree in miniature. The tree  is shown in winter, after leaf drop.

The advantage of lots of fine branches are that they can only support small leaves (desirable in a bonsai), and the tree will still look good when it has no leaves on.

Conifers differ in that you will have to work within the existing branch structure, allowing some areas to grow on while pruning others back hard to develop a fine tracery of branches, and of course with conifers not shedding their leaves the viewing of a fine branch structure is irrelevant.

Pines because of their growth pattern can be developed by pruning.

The distance between the leaf nodes, or sets of nodes in the case of opposite leaves, should not be allowed to get to long. Remember that the leaf nodes are where the new branches will appear. Long internodes will create 'leggy' branches. This can be overcome by pruning.

When selecting garden center stock for converting to a bonsai try to avoid material where all the branch structure is on a straight stem, this 'lollypop' will look unnatural, however you can overcome this by wiring some curvature into it.

You may have a situation where you have a smaller branch below a larger branch, or wish to give extra 'weight' to a lower branch, The inset shows that allowing the leading shoot on the lower branch to extend, will cause the branch to thicken. Later when the extension has served it's purpose you should cut it off.


Developing branches on conifers is generally the same, however pines are slightly different.

Allen. C. Roffey 14:41 16/04/2018