Sunday, 20 November 2016

Hooked on Propagation

Sometimes I wonder whether my efforts at growing bonsai are just the work of a glorified gardener. It's not that I don't want to create beautiful trees, but sometimes I doubt my ability to do so. The fact that many of the trees I see at my club are far superior to mine doesn't help. But when my desire to propagate more trees gets in the way of styling those I already own, I have to wonder where my priorities really lie.

Patience has never been one of my strengths. I guess that goes a long way to explaining why I've propagated so many trees over the years. What it doesn't explain is why I still feel the need to do so when I've already got far more cuttings and seedlings than I know what to do with.

As my collection has grown I've become a bit more disciplined, and I'm slowly learning to restrict my propagation efforts to a few favourite species, mainly indigenous varieties of Ficus. They aren't usually a problem because for the most part I simply prune as required, plant the cuttings and wait to see what grows. However I'm being held back by an air layer on a Ficus Ingens right now, and it's getting a bit frustrating because I really want to start work on developing the existing tree.

My real problem, however, is Japanese Maples. They're not even a particular favourite of mine - I far prefer the growth habits of the humble Trident Maple. But when I visit a nursery and see what they're charging for very ordinary Japanese Maples, it makes me feel that throwing away my large cuttings would be like throwing money on the compost heap.

So today I find myself facing the same predicament I did last summer (and the one before that) - should I remove those big unwanted branches? It's summer here and the only time I've had success with large Japanese Maple cuttings was in July - the middle of winter - so they're unlikely to root if I cut them now. In previous years I've decided to wait, but come July I never get around to pruning the trees, so how likely is it that next winter will be different?

Right now I've been working on the one tree that didn't offer any decent cuttings and I'm trying to convince myself to go ahead and cut the rest. They'll never make decent bonsai if I don't commit to doing what's best for the trees rather than waiting for the right time to propagate more.

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