Need help with Spruce 'Conica' restyling (from nursery stock)

Discussion in 'New to Bonsai' started by nairb, May 2, 2009.

  1. nairb

    nairb Sapling

    Hi I'm fairly new to Bonsai and bought a nice little White Spruce 'Conica' from a garden nursery.
    Its about 55cm tall with approx 2cm thick trunk at the base.
    I'm thinking of styling it in a formal upright but have a lot of questions!
    I'd like to try and keep its height as is but that would break the usual height-width ratio. Any suggestions?
    I of course need to remove a lot of branches to open up the tree. With the branches that I leave behind, should I cut them right back to the first set of needles ?
    I live in Ireland in Western Europe and its mid-spring currently, should I do this cutting back activity immediately?
    And I'd like to wire the branches, I think I read somewhere this should be done in late summer ?
    Lots of questions, I hope I haven't bored you to tears!

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  3. Bonsai Nut

    Bonsai Nut Administrator Staff Member

    OC, CA
    Hi Nairb; Welcome to the Nut House!

    The key to success in bonsai development is to have a good design in mind as you start to work on your tree. Bonsai masters can visualize their designs in their minds, but for the rest of us it helps to have an image - be it a drawing, a computer virtual image, or even a photo of another bonsai to work from. I would recommend finding a picture that represents what you want your tree to look like when completed; it will help a lot with your development decisions.

    I would not worry about height/width ratios. Those are the most general guidelines. A good bonsai design will work, regardless of ratios. In fact, many of the most striking bonsai specifically break design covenants in order to create stress, or generate a strong emotion. Always use nature as your guide. If you want a tall, thin spruce bonsai, make sure you refer to tall, thin, old spruce in nature. They look very different from the standard "Christmas tree" shapes of younger white spruce. Don't forget to leave some dead branch skeletons where you are removing branches. They contribute greatly to the illusion of age.


    The best time to trim is in the spring when the tree is starting to push strong new growth. Do not trim back too hard. For the branches you plan on keeping I would recommend (on this first trimming) you leave at least 50% of the needles (since you will also be removing many branches in their entirety). Our goal is to keep the tree alive first and foremost - you can work on detail branch work later as you refine the design.

    Wiring can actually happen at any time of the year when the tree is active. Just don't wire too tightly, and keep a close eye on your wiring and remove it when it shows signs of biting into the bark. Wiring is a complicated task to do correctly - I would refer you to many book chapters and articles on the subject (in magazines like Bonsai Today, or Bonsai Focus).

    Good luck!
  4. nairb

    nairb Sapling

    Thanks very much for the quick and informative reply , BonsaiNut!
    I do have a picture in my head of a tall, thin old spruce but it would be good to have a photo of a real one to formulate the view for real!
    I love this site, getting some hands-on advice from experts is a great way to learn, sometimes its hard to filter all the info you read in books, on the web etc.
    I'll post back soon with my spruce's progress!

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