Winter is a time to reflect on the wonders of the twiggery of your trees. Think of the ramification of your branches with the twiggery being the skeleton,  its foliage when it has some, as the flesh. The foliage relies on the structure of the twigs to then be able to fill in the gaps and make the overall picture that you want to create. Without the right amount of ramification and twiggery, you cannot expect the foliage to then make the lovely silhouette that you dream of.

Some trees respond to early winter pruning. The theory behind this is if you cut back the branch, then those less dominant buds will suddenly become the leader, and the tree will then create further buds back down the branch, thus starting to build your twiggery. Others may prefer the more common routine; waiting till it starts shooting approach and continually remove leading and dominant buds thus forcing energy back down the branch.

All in all, unless you are very lucky and you have a tree that already has delightful twiggery, you have to work at it. It certainly is worth it though as then you can have a collection of trees that you can enjoy marvelling at all year around. The Japanese actually have two types of shows a year, one for winter image and one for trees with foliage If a dog is not just for Christmas, then a bonsai tree is not just for summer!

It is easy to forget to look at our trees at this time of year, especially when it’s cold, wet or even icy outside, but sometimes it is well worth the effort.

Deciduous trees (those that drop their leaves in the winter) show a completely different form during the winter. Although in the summer, you are looking to create that overall shape taking into account that the leaves fill the gaps and create the canopy. In the winter you can appreciate the finer things on the tree like the branch placement and the …wait for it….ramification!

There were a large number of trees on display at our meeting, and all of them were in various stages of creating a beautiful winter image. So why were some trees admired more than others? Well, it is the effect that the branches give to the overall shape. Balanced structure, with balanced ramification and pad distribution. One particular tree reminded me of a windswept tree on Dartmoor. It had a ruggedness, and yet delicate branches making up the overall effect, quite clever.

Russ's beech
A windswept beech, winter image

As one of our members pointed out, you grow bonsai because it makes you happy. If you don’t like something about a tree, you have to try to work out what it is. Can you cut it off? Wire it into position? Trim it back? If not, and you’re still not happy, find someone who will love it, pass it to them and spend time enjoying your other trees more! Bonsai is about trying to recreate nature in miniature, so therefore we are manipulating our trees all the time. If you do not know what to do with your tree, then bring it along to a meeting, because it is amazing how often someone spots something in your tree that you had never thought of!