This series of four articles first appeared as part of Chapter 12 of my first book Bonsai Inspirations 1 and this excerpt contains what I believe to be essential information on how to design, build and improve the branches and branch structure of a deciduous or broadleaf bonsai.
Note that extensive information of how to build the branch structures of coniferous bonsai, such as Juniper and Pine, are contained within Bonsai Inspirations 2
SHAPING DECIDUOUS TREE BRANCHES
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To further illustrate deciduous tree building it is necessary to see how they are grown and developed over the years and the overall shape that one should aim for in a deciduous branch.
Year One: The new branch as seen from above.
Year One: The new branch seen from the side.
Year One: A new shoot is allowed to extend from the trunk and it is then wired in Autumn to provide movement. This first shoot is also known as the ‘Primary Branch’.
Notice that there is movement from side to side and up and down. It is worth putting some slightly exaggerated movement into the shoot as over time, as the shoot thickens the bends will become less pronounced.
Year Two: The unwired branch as seen from above.
Year Two: The unwired branch seen from the side.
Year Two: At the end of the growing season and after pinching back the new shoots that have appeared on the Primary Branch there are 4 new shoots that require pruning, wiring and moving into position.
Year Two: The wired branch as seen from above.
Year Two: The wired branch seen from the side.
Year Two: After pruning and wiring. One of the new shoots (also known as secondary branches) has been removed because it was growing from the inside of a curve on the primary branch.
The three remaining secondary branches have been shortened slightly and had movement added to them.
See from the side it is possible to see that the secondary branches roughly follow the same line as the primary branch from last year. Two important aspects of the positioning of these shoots is that they do not cross each other or the primary branch and they have similar (but not exactly the same) movement.