Deciduous Early Development Part III: Styrax
Styrax is, like the magnolia featured in Part II of this series, a rarely seen deciduous bonsai. Mr. Takeyama in Japan has some remarkable styrax specimens, and seeing his was the reason I started trying them for bonsai.
This specimen is Styrax japonicus, also known as Japanese snowbell-
Continuing the theme of this series, you will notice some branches that seem overlong, or too thick, or out of place and yet left on the tree and not pruned off. In this early stage of development this ‘leaving what you don’t want’ helps build the tree faster, and also, counterintuitively, slows down some areas so that we get greater twiggyness. This is more fully explained in Part I.
Our young specimen, about eight years old. Styrax is a strikingly vigorous plant, almost stronger than trident maple. This photo is from the fall, in October, during our final pruning of the year.
David and Alan beginning on the branch shortening.
And where we ended the session of fall pruning, concentrating on the top of the tree so that taper would be retained. Many extensions were left on to keep growing into next growing season and to continue building caliper. Styrax are meaty trees, not delicate, and while not quite so heavy as trident or Chinese quince they are similar in build. The extensions left on the bottom half are to enhance that chunky quality that is natural to these trees. Also, the lower limbs are being considered for multiple trunk possibilities. Here we are not trying to over-style a tree when it’s young but let it help us decide its eventual structure. We’re leaving more possibilities than ultimately will be retained. Some will convince us and some will not, so not just to help build a tree do we leave more than we want, but also because with time some areas might become far more interesting than they are today, and may shift what we do with the design. Options are gold in bonsai early development.