Energy positive


I’ve started the fundamentals streams, and Ryan always says that the elongating species have to be pruned when the new foliage is mature. Until this point, the tree is not be able to create energy, and removing the new shots the tree suffers wasting energy.

I’ve never heard nothing of it…In my case I have quite mature trees and at the early spring I cut the new shoots…for exemple in a Trident Maple.
To avoid large internodes, I cut to the first two leaves before it opens completely.

I don’t know if I explain it well. I wanted show the tree but I don’t know.

Thank you

Ryan has said to prune only when new foliage has hardened off if the tree is in development or if you are trying to achieve back budding. We prune differently depending on what we are trying to accomplish .

You mention you have many mature trees in refinement in which case Ryan has said that we pinch new growth to transition energy from strong to medium branches, and from medium to weaker branches. So in spruce for example, that means pinching out a portion of the new growth with your fingers as it extends in the spring.

But in deciduous that would mean pinching out that apical merristem between the first two leaves before it can extend any further, thus creating shorter internodes and transitioning strength to weaker parts of the tree. You say you use scissors for this and cut back to two pairs of leaves, but you should give tweezers a try, and pinch out that bud before it can grow another set of leaves.

@Vicky I think the main thing that’s confusing you is that Ryan always talks about how we prune or pinch or feed differently depending on if the tree is in development or refinement. Go back into the archive and watch the “Spring Fundamentals” stream I think it’s called, from almost a year ago, that stream should help you understand this better.


Hi Mike,

Thank you for your explanation, this is what I do in quite advanced trees, pinch instead of cut all the mature shoot.
In the case of Larch and Yew, I cut in Summer all the new leaving a small part, but I must to start pinching.

strong text
In other post I show you my Larch, I have some doubts about design.

I thought I understood quite well but it seems not at all :joy:

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When it comes to deciduous species I would avoid pinching unless you are showing that tree that year. Partial defoliation or hedge cut is what I would do. If you keep pinching a tree every year that tree will become weaker and weaker and all of a sudden you’ll notice weaker flushes every year, basally dominant trees will usually get a flat apex and you risk loosing that tree.
By cutting after the flush has harden you can still control the length of the internodes because if your tree is healthy you usually get new buds forming near the cuts.

Here is a great article by Walter Pall were he discusses a restoration of a Japanese maple using the hedge cutting method.

@Alex Yes I am familiar with Walter Pall’s hedge trimming method. I read the article, good article. I’m a huge fan of Walter Pall. But Let’s be very clear, Walter is promoting hedge trimming for trees in Development . I was specifically talking about pinching for trees in Refinement . Ryan may not use the Hedge trimming method in terms of just cutting back to a silhouette without consideration to each branch. But he gives the same advice as Walter… in development let it grow, harden, and then cut back to buds. Same thing as the hedge trimming method. Same thing.

What Walter is arguing against is pinching a tree aggressively year after year after year. He’s saying you cant keep a tree in refinement forever. Ryan’s advice coincides with Walter’s. Every tree goes through cycles of development, to refinement, and back to development, and so on. Even Walter himself pinches when his tree is in refinement and getting ready to be shown in a year or two. To quote the Walter Pall article you just shared:

Broadleaved trees can be markedly improved when this method is consistently applied over a number of years as the featured maple demonstrates. When it finally is ‘finished’ one can pinch again, especially when it is to be shown at an exhibition. At this point it will be showable for a couple of years - the goal for all bonsai enthusiasts. But eventually, the tree will deteriorate and has to be strengthened again with strong, new growth.

I think part of the reason why Walter Pall is such a proponent of the hedge trimming method is because he has a TON of trees and he doesn’t employ anyone. He does all of the work himself. It’s alot more time efficient to hedge trim all your developing trees than to consider each branch when it is time to prune. Nothing wrong with hedge trimming, I just think if you’ve only got 30 or 40 trees, considering the branches individually when its time to prune can help you get more exact results faster. Though I’d like to experiment with hedge trimming on a bunch of small elms I’ve collected. Thanks for sharing!


Everyone I hear about Walter Pall’s hedge pruning praise it a lot then come with a but… I don’t think there’s a but there. If you do it right, it works. As I understand it: Hedge prune during the year two or maybe three times, then in the winter come and select the branches to keep developing next season, selectively prune the others. Next season get an inch or so above you hedge trimmed to last year and so on.

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Hi Vicky,

You can prune new shoots in early spring before the leaves come out on deciduous trees like you said, but Ryan is saying that, if you miss the window and wait too long (after the leaves begin to emerge), then you should wait until they harden off before you prune so that the tree will regain some much needed energy (and therefore be in an “energy positive”). It’s really all about timing.

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