Sunday, 8 December 2019

Hard Pruning a Schefflera

When someone at a bonsai workshop advises me to chop trees back to leafless stumps, I'm often reluctant to do it. Although I've had some success with trunk chops, most of the time I'd rather cut trees back to the lowest growth, wait for back budding, then cut back further. Progress is a little slower that way, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.

With some species that approach doesn't work though. When I prune Scheffleras they tend to grow back from the point at which they were cut, not lower down where I want new branches.

So when I decided that this little Schefflera needed pruning, drastic measures were called for.

November 2019 -  before pruning

Some of the newer members of my club were horrified when I told them my plans, but I knew what had to be done. A few quick cuts later I was left with this.

November 2019 - after pruning

Scheffleras are slow growers and now, four weeks later, there are only a few tiny buds starting to put in an appearance on the branches. I know that my little tree is doing okay, but looking at it still makes me nervous.

At the time it was chopped I discussed my plans for its after-care with another member of my club. I said I intended to return it to its home in my greenhouse. He felt it should go outside.

At the time his idea seemed a viable option as the weather was extremely dry, so I felt a bit foolish when I said I wanted to protect it from the possibility of excess rain. But I feel vindicated now because it's been raining almost continuously for nearly five days. Slow persistent rain which is showing no sign of abating. Grey skies have become the norm and I've almost forgotten what the sun looks like! That's not normal weather where I live, but it happens every now and then.

I've seen what damage that kind of weather can do to a tree in this state.

Years ago I defoliated a similar Schefflera. That was back in the days when I still tried to grow some of my trees indoors. Keeping it inside shouldn't have been a problem. Scheffleras are very tolerant.  I kept my big one in a very dark room for years before I realised the error of my ways and moved it outside. My problem was that I lost patience. When it was progressing too slowly on a sunny windowsill, I decided to move it outside.

As luck would have it, a few days later we were hit by the kind of weather we're experiencing now. Too much water for a tree without leaves! In a few days it was dead.

Had I left this one exposed to the elements, it would probably have died too.