Pruning, and Removing Branches

As part of the ongoing maintenance, and development of your tree, you will find yourself having to prune, often dramatically the branches. You may indeed as part of a re-styling of the tree decide to remove a branch.

While repeating other parts of the Primer this section attempts to show you where, and how to make the cuts.

I should start by saying that you should not be to eager to start pruning new growth on your branches. There are two reasons for this:

Firstly the new extended shoots are needed to provide energy to the tree.

Secondly the vigour in those shoots will be translated into potential buds at the leaf axils when you do cut them back, increasing the Ramification of the branches.

The ideal time to prune them back is mid to late Summer.


You will find that the upper branches will tend to outgrow the lower ones. this can be overcome by pruning them further back than the lower ones as shown here.
You will find that the upper branches will tend to outgrow the lower ones. this can be overcome by pruning them further back than the lower ones as shown here..

. On both conifers, and deciduous trees you will find the occasional shoot that will become over vigorous. This shoot will tend to grow straight and long and when compared to the flowing, curved lines of the rest of the branch will look unnatural. These shoots should be removed, either totally or by being cut back to the first node.

More radical pruning is also carried out in spring. If for example a branch has been allowed to become overlarge, perhaps overpowering a branch below it, this is the time to both rectify matters and add shape to the tree. .

. You may wish to change the direction a branch is developing in. In the upper illustration, the branch's major axis is in the direction of the arrow, the lower image, with the section of branch removed shows the axis moved through 45 or more. This could be achieved with wiring but could prove dangerous on a thick branch.

Pruning, and Removing Branches

The removal of a branch is usually something you would do when creating a tree, however as your skills, and awareness of shape, and form of your trees develops, you may decide to make an alteration by removing a branch or part of one. This is not as simple as just hacking off the desired wood, as the last thing you need is to spoil the tree by leaving a scar.

Trees will attempt to heal over a cut, the bark growing over the wound until it meets, forming a barrier to keep out what is usually a fungal attack. You should aim to make the cut in such a way as to help the tree heal quickly, while disguising the cut.

In the section on tools you will see the first specialist tool you should get are 'Wen' or Parrot beak cutters, these make a concave cut into the tree. This both heals rapidly, and allows the growing bark to roll into the wound hiding the cut.

Making a flush cut with a saw will cause a mound that will spoil the trunk line.

If you do not own a pair of wen cutters, use a saw but hollow out the cut with a knife or chisel, being careful to cut away from you.

Having made the cut you should cover the wound. There are 'Cut wound' pastes available from Bonsai suppliers, and they are well worth the effort of obtaining as they contain substances that promote bark growth, however the bottom line is that anything that will keep out fungus spoors will do the job. This usually means a paint of some sort.

A tub of cut wound paste

When tidying up the trunk, after removing a major branch, try to get the main axis of the cut running up the trunk. This allows the rising sap to heal the wound quicker than a horizontal cut, which creates a 'dead' area above the cut, killing the bark there, and increasing the time it takes for the bark to roll over the wound.

Here we see two major cuts, both of which were made the previous year. Both have just about healed over, and when the do, will take on the colour of the surrounding bark. You can see the remnant of the cut wound paste at the top of the wound.

The three red plastic containers have pelleted Chicken poo in them and when the tree is watered the nutrients flow out over a period.


Larger wounds made when branches are removed can also be diguised as a natural hollow. This is called a 'Uro', and when the wound is hollowed out you should try not to leave a depression running down into the trunk allowing water to gather. This will provide a place for rot, and fungus to develop. Uro, unlike Jin are seen more often on deciduous trees.


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Allen. C. Roffey May 18, 2018 21:17