Peter Tea’s April Write-Up

April 2014


Spring is officially here, but for many of us in bonsai, that doesn’t necessarily mean a specific time of year.  Depending on when our trees start to push new growth can signify Spring for that particular tree.  For some, deciduous trees are just starting to push new growth, whereas for others, the tree has fully leafed and hardened off.

April can be a tricky month to work on trees sometimes.  Certain trees during the first months of Spring really don’t like to be worked on.  A very good example is High Mountain Pines such as Ponderosa or White Pines.  Once the candles on those trees start growing, it’s about the worst time to wire them.

On the other hand, there are many trees that can handle work in the Spring just fine because they are so much stronger.  Trident maples, Olive and Junipers just to name a few, though we do still have to be careful not to damage the new sensitive growth.

April Pinching

In Spring, you will hear a lot of people talk about the concept of pinching.  It can reference deciduous trees such as Japanese Maples or conifers like Junipers.  Sometimes there is a lot of confusion around the subject because everyone has an opinion about it.  Most will say it’s a good thing to do whereas others will say it’s a very bad thing to do.  Lets not approach pinching in that fashion. Instead of looking at it as good or bad, lets try to understand what it’s all about.  Cutting and pinching are essentially the same thing.  Depending on the timing of the cut, the word cutting or pinching is used.  Cutting usually requires scissors whereas pinching requires our fingertips.

Normally, pinching techniques are applied to refined trees. This is a way of slowing growth, to create density at the branch/foliage tips and maintaining shape during the growing season (Note I didn’t saying anything about back budding). If the tree is not refined or correctly developed, normally, pinching isn’t done. Trees in branch develop stages require more substantial cutting than pinching techniques.

Note that I underlined the word, “Normally.” During our workshop this month, I will discuss when we move out of the normal ranges and find ways of using pinching techniques to achieve a certain goal we have for our trees. We will also discuss how to properly pinch trees in normal circumstances.  (There is a normal pinching technique that is done on more developed White Pines during this month.  If you have one, bring it to the meeting and we’ll talk more in depth about it)

Ready or Not Ready

There are many trees we can work on this month. It just depends if they are ready for the techniques we apply to them.

Junipers – Can be thinned out and wired.

Deciduous trees and Leafy Evergreens – Can be cut and wired only if the leaves have hardened off. If the leaves have not hardened off, only cutting should be done.

Pines or Pine like trees – This month is not a good time to work on any pines


Air-layering on Deciduous trees should only be done either before the leaves come out, or after the Spring leaves have hardened off.  Air-layering a Maple in the middle of its Spring push is extremely stressful for the tree and may kill it.

For April, if the leaves have hardened off on your Maples, then you can air layer the tree. If not, hold off till the leaves do hardened off. Most maple leaves will have hardened off by May.

If you plan to air layer, you will need the following items:

Grafting knife

Sphagnum moss

Root cutter or Knob cutter

Aluminum Wire

Plastic growing pot (to put around the air layer)

Bonsai soil

Black marker


If you plan on wiring your trees this month, be sure to bring the proper wire size ranges.  Aluminum wire should be used for deciduous and broadleaf evergreens, whereas copper should be used for conifers.

Water Consumption

This part was in last months write up but still important for this month as well.

Once the weather start to warm and Spring is in full effect, the trees will start to pull large amounts of water.  We will see our soils drying out faster which requires us to water our trees more often.  Keep an eye out on your trees and be sure to water them when they need it. This is especially a sensitive time for trees that have just been repotted.  If the soil gets too dry, the tree may die due to the sensitive root system.

Remember to only water trees when they need it. Take time this year to really understand how much water each tree takes during the different seasons and adjust accordingly.  Having said that, I do understand that many of use cannot water our trees at the perfect time due to work or other aspects of our lives.  Do the best that you can and come up with a strategy to fit both the trees and your personal schedules.

See you all soon!

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