Monday, February 8, 2010

Bonsai Pruning

Last week I spent two days at the Myriad Botanical Gardens as a volunteer, and it was great.  There's really not a better working environment than to be surrounded by tropical plants all day long.

The first day I spent working with the Education Coordinator, who is also in charge of taking care of the Bonsai trees.  The Myriad Gardens' Bonsai trees are kept in the propagation room, outside of the public view, until there is a special occasion to show them.  This room is packed with hundreds of orchids, which are moved into public view as they come into bloom.  The Bonsai were donated by a grower more than 20 years ago and have been maintained by the same person at the Myriad Gardens since then.

Pruned and wired bonsai tree (Ficus sp.)
Having never really worked with Bonsai before, I was given a 5 minute introduction and a pair of pruners.  I forgot to take my camera the first day I worked, so the only  pictures I have are after my pruning work.

Several bonsai trees after being pruned and wired.  The small-leaf Ficus tree in the center has had two branches anchored with wire to the roots, to create two areas of low growth.
I went to work, hacking away at four different Bonsai trees: three Ficus (two different species) and one small-leaved Schefflera.  We pruned both the growing shoots and the root ball, before repotting them with new soil and replacing them on the growing benches.  I also had the opportunity to work with the growth angles of several branches, wrapping them in wire and reorienting the growth or weighing the branches down by anchoring wire to the base.

Wired branches to redirect growth
Before the trees were donated to the Myriad, some of them had been neglected due to the owner's poor health.  Some of the trunks had been wrapped in wire that was not removed soon enough and left scars in the trunks.  Although the trunks have been healing, the scars are still apparent after 20 years.

A branch anchored to the roots for lower growth.  Scars are apparent on the main trunk on the right side of the image.
It will be exciting to see how full these trees become as a result of my pruning and to see how they respond to the wiring.  Unfortunately, this May the gardens will be closing its doors for a year, to go about extensive reconstruction.  Many of the plants (including most or all of the Bonsai) will be sold in a plant sale this Spring.  This might give me the opportunity to buy one of the trees I have been working on.  But the prices might be a little prohibitive, too.


  1. That must have been so interesting.I would love to hear when the spring sale will be.
    If I had a bonsai I would be so tempted to have tiny houses and people in its shade. :-)

  2. This is something I'd love to try. You are getting such a good education and having fun too!

  3. Just found your blog from somewhere and i am an instant fan. Your plant photos and links are excellent.