In my short life of being reintroduced to bonsai I was told that in order to build branches you let them run out until they’ve grown to your desired thickness and then cut them back to length. This seemed logical to me and as I slowly build my deciduous collection that was my plan. Along comes this podcast and Dennis is saying that to properly build a deciduous branch you only allow it to grow out to 5-6 nodes and then cut it back to one.
As I watched the pomegranate streams I noticed Ryan saying basically the same thing. Grow the branch out and cut it back to two. Idk if the difference there is because the pomegranate was dormant and about to push buds. Maybe once those shoots come out he’ll cut back to one?
I imagine that even with Dennis’ method you’d eventually cut back to two in order to start building ramification. It’s just crazy that that’s how he’s building branches. It sounds like a much slower process, but he’s adamant that it builds a stronger branch. Who am I go argue.
That’s how he builds all of his deciduous trees. It kinda makes sense in a way. The taper that builds in has to be amazing. Something he said about it really hit home too. By cutting back so often you’re building multiple callus points on the branch which will promote bud growth from those cut sites. That way when he has branch die-off it only dies off back to one of those buds along the branch instead of the entire branch.
Okay, watching the Zelkova stream and Ryan said that this pruning process (not allowing the tree to send out shoots longer than 6-7 nodes) is for trees that will die-back and shed interior branches like a zelkova, birch, willow or tamarisk. So many nuances, but this is good to know as I just added a zelkova to my collection and want to add a river birch and a weeping willow next year.
Yes, for the species that shed branches easily, it’s best to keep them in check by not letting them get too strong (that’s what causes the other branches to be shed). So far that seems to be working for my modest birches.
Yeah, and the results speak for itself. From what I’ve seen, I think it’s a technique that works for most (if not all) deciduous bonsai. IIRC this advice is mostly focusing on the branch development once you have a trunk where you want it.
Strangely enough I spent a good part of the morning catching up on a bunch of blogs that had to do with fall work for deciduous.
If I recall correctly Dennis said that he will always cut to one bud because there’s always bud sites without visible buds which will be triggered to grow by the pruning process. So even though he cuts to only one bud he still gets good ramification as those advantageous sites (without visible buds) will push growth and give him ramification.
And I’d think that this method (cutting to one bud) will give you tighter ramification than pruning to two buds because the additional new growth one gets is between the first bud an the previous internode basically cutting the internode length in half. I don’t know if my explanation makes sense so I made a beautiful illustration to try to further covey my thinking.
I enjoyed the podcast with Dennis and I completely get his angle. Cutting back and building the primary branch the long (but right) way, with taper and more natural movement is my preference.
However, personally, I think it depends on the girth of the trunk I’m working with and the proportionate thickness of the branches I want, to whether I let it grow longer than 5-6 nodes before cutting back. On a chunky sumo trunk it may (in my opinion) warrant letting the initial shoots grow out beyond 5-6 nodes to thicken up more but STILL cut right back to one, to achieve an even more pronounced taper.
The point Dennis was making is that if you cut back to the first bud there is further hidden buds behind this, so you are still cutting back to effectively two buds, and you keep the internodes small. If you look at the internode lengths the first is small and it can (but not always) increase between the first and second bud.
The old addage there are no real short cuts to making bonsai.
You’re completely right. My wording maybe wasn’t the best. What I was trying to say was that he cuts to the first visible bud. As you point out, this isn’t cutting to one bud but in fact cutting to two (or more) buds of which only one is visible.