At our September meeting we were treated to perhaps a bonsai first, a father/daughter presentation with Briana and Darren Wong. The topic was summer care of Satsuki azalea bonsai and Darren brought two trees on which to demonstrate techniques.
Darren began by discussing how the foliage can become very dense with summer growth, requiring deep pruning to prevent difficulty with branch structure and avoid die back of the inner branches. He emphasized that we need to do sufficient leaf pruning to allow light to reach the inside of the branches, which will facilitate back-budding.
Briana illustrated the techniques Darren described on a small bonsai Bob Gould brought to the meeting. She started at the top of the foliage mass and worked to the bottom. She carefully removed large leaves by hand, pulling upwards, so as not to tear the thin bark. After what seemed like a few short minutes, Briana showed off the leaf pruned apex of Bob’s bonsai. We could see a significant difference in the pruned section. The leaves were no longer clumped together and light could clearly reach the inner branches. Darren suggested that two or three leaves should be left on the branch tips, and that the two leaves should be those that lie flat as opposed to one on top of the other, or vertical. He also suggested that this is the time of year to switch fertilizer to 5-5-5.
Azaleas are basally dominant. The lower branches are stronger and more vigorous than those higher up. This requires that the branches on the bottom be pruned and leaves pruned slightly more aggressively than those on the apex.
While Darren answered questions and offered further advice on Satsuki azalea bonsai, Briana worked on completing Bob’s bonsai. When she was finished, the number of leaves on the table and floor dramatically showed how much leaf pruning took place. Bob’s bonsai now showed more branch structure and light penetrating the inner spaces. Lucky Bob, he was left with the job of light wiring at this point.
– George Haas