Pruning Young Chojubai in Summer ~
The last post was about energy balancing older shrubs, using a Chojubai as our example. Here is a younger Chojubai, in a large training container, and to balance it requires a different approach.
Early summer is a good time to cut extensions back on developing Chojubai. If vigorous you can cut them twice, once in the growing season and once in the fall. But Chojubai may weaken if cut more than twice too many years in a row.
Normally a Chojubai, like many other plants, will grow out from the last bud. A few shoots will arise from further back down the branch, creating ramification, but generally we can only rely on that last bud extending into a shoot. Directionality then becomes key for this cut and grow technique.
Chojubai in training, 9 years old from a 2″ / 5cm cutting. Pruning is half complete with the left side yet to do. Container is a 14″ / 35cm Anderson flat, with the strongest shoots 15-24″ / 38-60cm long. After this summer pruning nearly every cut shoot will grow out again.
Buds arise all around the shoot, which you can use to your advantage; prune back to a bud going in a direction you like. Cut haphazardly and the next shoot may grow into the tree, rather than out. We want to make best use of tree energy, and our time, too. Otherwise, shoots that grew into the tree will need to be later cut back to a lower, older bud growing in a positive direction, usually, out, and we’re back where we were three months ago.
Fruits should be removed. We have so many Chojubai that we can miss fruits hidden in their interiors, but we just fertilize more and it doesn’t seem to weaken the young plants. For older plants in bonsai pots, remove flowers as they are fading to prevent fruits from forming and potentially weakening the plant.
Here’s the difference from the previous post about older Chojubai: On a young specimen, the shoot strength is random, no ‘zoning’ into top (weak) and bottom (strong) which is seen in an older Chojubai. Here, just cut the strong and moderately strong shoots, wherever they occur. The thinnest shoots are left to gain strength and will be cut in the fall.
In this example the structure is still being built, so shoots are cut longer than one would for an older bonsai.
The last photo shows branches trained for 2-3 years solely by pruning. Though plants develop faster with some early wired structure, no wires were used in this late phase of development. This prevents wire scars, saves time, and makes the most of plant energy.
Here the plant’s natural growth habit is used in its own design. Collaborative work—trimming and pruning—enhances what the tree might do on its own.
For more about Chojubai, try our podcast episode.