When and Why to Pinch New Growth on Spruce-
Of course we all love fiddling with our bonsai, and pinching is one of those fiddly things. And spruce, playing into our tactile desires, is a tree we can pinch.
Back budding is created by pinching the shoot tip. Normally a spruce’s back budding is most prolific at the union where the shoot began growing. And shoot density thereby increases.
When do we apply this technique?
- Break the spruce shoot as it elongates in the spring, when not yet hardened off
- Too tight a bud, and the fingers can’t get a purchase
- Too elongated, and pinching will often remove the whole hardened shoot
- Partway out, and the shoot is still tender (this is like the three bears…)
- Pinch the strong ones first, then few days later pinch the next ones that have come out; they don’t all come out at the same time
- High temps will make this cycle go faster
- Taking vacations during spruce pinching season is naughty
How do we pinch?
- Pinch with the fleshy part of the finger pad
- Fingernails can break needle foliage
- The goal is to snap the shoot and leave the foliage undamaged, and the finger pad does this well
Too early to pinch these buds.
Selected shoot to pinch—mostly out, but not yet hardened off
Grabbed with the finger pads, the shoot is snapped with an upward or downward movement
The shoot now broken roughly in half. In a way, a beekeeper does something similar: takes half the honey, leaves half for the hive to live on. We pinch half for visual goals, we leave half so the tree can have new needles.
What do we NOT pinch on spruce…?
- Small buds
- Weak trees
- Branches that aren’t yet long enough for the desired design
Wimpy looking spruce branches that lack vigor. Best to let these grow for a year or two before pinching.
May 2021 Bulletin Board:
- Plans are underway to reschedule the postponed Bonsai Heresy Book Tour for 2022. Rather than a ‘Hey! I just wrote a book…’, the tour—a long Amtrak loop around the country—will address the many questions the book raises through presentations and blogging.
- Additionally, my next book should be off the presses in 2022, a memoir about living in a tiny home. So there might be two books to share by train.
- Dates are up on the Seasonal page for our summer in-person sessions…yes, those are back!
- And check out our Spring Seasonal-lite online course coming up May 15-16…