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Alberta Spruce have a poor reputation as bonsai. In their natural form they are very tree-like and as a result, they often appeal to novice enthusiasts who then struggle to prune, wire and style them into to shape as bonsai.
My experience with these trees is that they require thorough wiring to form a good quality bonsai and they require repeated re-wiring before the branches hold into their new postions. However, pruning is very straightforward and if carried out correctly, tight pads of foliage can be created in remarkably little time. For more details on these techniques please see Picea Pruning,Wirinng and Styling
December 2005: The main two trees in this group planting were a lucky purchase. I discovered them growing in two half-barrels at a nursery that was clearing out an old display for just £6.
As can be seen in the image above, they both look very much like 'proper' trees as they are. So why prune or style them at all?
Both trees have an immature 'pointed' apex and the foliage mass dwarfs the relatively thin trunks. To rectify these faults, both trunks need to be reduced in height, their branches shortened back and the apex rounded. Unfortunately, this work results in two very ugly looking trees until they are then styled!
Having pruned back the foliage hard, reduced the height of the trunks so that the trunk height to trunk diameter was roughly 10:1, the trees were planted into a shallow wooden box.
September 09 2006: The trees were allowed to recover through the Spring and Summer and were well fed. By September, I had decided to use the two trees to build a group planting; late Summer/early Autumn is a good time to prune and wire Picea. In the UK, repotting can also be carried out once the heat of the Summer has subsided but the first frosts are at least 6 weeks away.
The trees were pruned back again, thinning away branches that were not required for the final design, while trying to retain branches that had foliage closest to the trunk.
The sap of Picea will still bleed at this time of year (after pruning heavier branches), wounds can be effectively dressed with vaseline or to ensure that the sap stops flowing immediately, a little wood hardener can be applied to areas where the sap is weeping. This hardens the sap and stops it running.
The trees were wired and planted into a large bonsai pot I had previously acquired (not shown). The roots were arranged into the pot but not pruned.