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The best time to prune Japanese maples is June. When the leaves have fallen from May until mid-July, is better than waiting until August, the standard root pruning time for greater metropolitan Sydney. My reason being – the stored food supply that the plant has manufactured via the photosyntheses process, is still safely stired. However, pruning later casuses the fluid food to seep away.

The reason for this – when the plant awakens, the energies within begin advancing to the terminal for renewed growth, thus, when pruned the leaking sap becomes wasted.Warmer or colder areas may vary from Sydney, but I always say, allow the plant to tell you when it is ready. Make a minor cut; if it doesn’t weep immediately, wait a minute or so and then proceed. Your bonsai will thank you.
By the time June arrives in Australia, most of our deciduous bonsai are bare and its lineal structure is revealed. June is also the best month to prune Japanese Maples, without losing the precious stored sap.

Conifers with copious foliage should also have a plucking or trimming to remove excess twigs & foliage along the inside of branches towards the trunk, leaving the remaining foliage toward the ends of the branches. The mass & depth of the remaining foliage is then reduced.

The LINE OF THE DESIGN thus revealed is the perfect time, both artistically & horticulturally to adjust & improve the DESIGN OF THE LINE.

Many enthusiasts forget the fundamentally important lineal structure concentrating more on the surface beauty of foliage, which often disguises unsightly skeletal structure.

The taper of LINE is as important with bonsai, as is the complementary air space between. Air space should supplement the beauty of LINE, as LINE should complement the profile of its space.

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Winter is the slow-down time of year in the cold temperate zones; too cold outside. Warm temperate where the winters are more kind to some, there is a lot that can be achieved. The usual advice is to clean & tidy the Bonsai, especially remove the fallen foliage. Sharpen tools & weed and clean etc. But it is also the time to assess your progress & plan your direction. It’s pleasant to bring into a sheltered, warm spot a bonsai at night after work, and ‘fiddle’ with it. Having removed excess foliage one can more unhurriedly easily assess its next step I think it’s also a good idea to go over the winter tips, the details were mentioned previously.

Japanese Maples are better pruned & trimmed before the middle of July. Pines & Conifers should have the foliage & twigs removed back towards the trunk. Deciduous trees painted or sprayed with lime sulphur. 10 water to 1 L.S. Remove from the surface slime & liverwort if not repotting perhaps wash away the surface & replace with you fresh mix. Wire at the start of winter rather than later.

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Our thoughts at this time are on rootpruning, here are some facts for your consideration.

The need to rootprune annually or not, will be determined by the type of potting mixture used or state of maturity of the bonsai. In order to increase trunk girth, young plants need to grow. The more quickly they grow the sooner the trunk thickens. In order for this to occur plants need an adequate supply of air and root space. In many mixes the air supply is limited hence the usual advice given is to repot annually.

The volume of air in the potting mix will determine the plant rate of growth. In a more open mix the roots will not need to lengthen to obtain their sustenance they do in a regular mix, consequently you may find the roots have not filled the pot at the end of the growing year. This makes the need for annual rootpruning unnecessary, and the saving of your time actually benefits the plant at the same time.

Bonsai should not be considered a static art, but one that is constantly developing. New growth brings new development, so consequently new directions become obvious. Only when a good basic structure is established, can refinement begin, but that is another story.
August is the correct timing for Sydney to place Bonsai outside, elsewhere will need to be adjusted.

Reflecting sunlight from a wall or fence can burn the part of your bonsai that is facing it. If you turn your bonsai from time to time, it is the foliage facing the wall that will suffer. This applies in the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. The sun’s rays are altered from their beneficial application, which reduces leaf size & stalk length; to a detrimental burning one. The safest distance to avoid burning is about 45 cm. (18 ins.) away from the wall.

Reflected light where the sun’s heat is not so severe can be used to advantage especially where the low light intensity requires the turning of the tree. Bonsai placed close to a background, especially one painted white can avoid the need to turn them. The only consideration therefore is to ensure a there is a flowing air supply.
The plant elixir of life is the reduction of the root system, which has the effect of restoring an ailing bonsai. It can also reinvigorate a healthy Bonsai, keeping it in the prime of life. >

An aged plant can remain young by occasionally shortening old roots: at the correct time of course and producing new young roots. This procedure extends eternal youth to an old tree.>

The right time for Sydney is now before, or at the onset of new growth, but definitely before leaf buds open (late winter in Sydney); the roots of deciduous trees are usually the first to be pruned. It is normal for growers to bare root and cut back quite severely. Novices tend to be afraid of the roots; perhaps thinking it is cruel. Knowing the effect of pruning the roots provides stimulation to the Bonsai can change ones’ attitude to this technique.

At this time in many zones of Australia & indeed in many Southern Countries, late winter is the time our plants i.e. Bonsai begin to prepare for re-growth. To explain, terminal leaf-buds are appearing to open thus indicating the time for safe re-potting. By the way, whilst flowering & until the leaves begin to appear is a safe time re-pot which is a bonsai term for cutting the roots. This procedure retains plants youthful energy which, despite their age in time are remaining as young as their active new roots.

In keeping with the current series of desirable & undesirable surface-covers for bonsai I will continue with ways of enhancing the surface especially for display. At the start of the annual new seasonal growth, the old surfacing should be removed & flattened. This is a way of increasing its quantity, and allowing moisture & air to pass through. Replacing thinner sections in appropriate places the moss will continue to grow as long as the night time temps. remain low enough for particular varieties of moss to grow. Remember most moss becomes dormant when particular factors cause their shutdown.

Dorothy Koreshoff.
Bonsai Koreshoff Nursery ©