At our August meeting Jay McDonald presented a program on training field grown flowering trees as bonsai. Two flowering plums and a deciduous pomegranate were the subjects of the demonstration. Jay emphasized strongly that these trees are grown for their profuse spring bloom and that the challenge is to develop an attractive tree preferably with and old appearance to serve as a scaffold for this delightful annual springtime event. The trees Jay offered up had a head start on the process. Grown in five-gallon containers out of doors and pruned back each year the twenty-six to thirty year old trees had rugged trunks and relatively short branches.
Jay described how the grower he had acquired the trees from trained them through selectively cutting back and allowing some suckers to run to aid in healing pruning wounds and thickening the trunks. The trees had been growing all summer and Jay demonstrated how to cut back out of proportion branches and keep flexible branches, which could be trained. On one tree he left the apex on to run and help to thicken the trunk and refine the taper and proportion. It will be cut back when the trunk taper is more gradual. In this process as the branches were reduced and the trunk became more evident Jay began to look for the front of each tree. Determined by the way the apex moves toward the viewer.
Jay talked about care for these trees, which are sun loving and should be fed well on a regular schedule from spring through November to encourage flowering. If you are trying to reduce leaf size on the trees Jay says you will need patience and a lot of hot weather but it can be done over the course of the summer through several defoliations. The real pay off in these trees however is in the dramatic effect of these beauties in bloom for a spring bonsai show. He feeds them “Super bloom”, by Greenlife, a water soluble fertilizer to encourage flowering.
With these rough trees the work to come is in root development. Jay allowed how this was one area the grower has neglected and that it has been many years since the trees were repotted and root work was done. He figures with close attention and timely intervention the trees could be ready to show in three years.