Bonsai, December, Elaeagnus, pruning, winter

Once upon a time, on an very warm and pleasant December day, three Bonsai went to the bench for a winter cleaning. All three were Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). There was a big, thick Elaeagnus; a medium, curvy Elaeagnus; and a tiny, shohin Elaeagnus.

Mama bear before pruning (Elaeagnus umbellata, 2020)

The three bears had been allowed to grow out for the last months of the growing season so each had long branches to be trimmed before hibernating for the winter. Despite being so late in the season, none of them had dropped all of their leaves. But this is normal for autumn olive in Northern Virginia. The oldest, inner leaves had fallen away, and a gradation of leaves from green to yellow-brown still clung to the newest growth on the outer branches. This is how I knew the time for a winter pruning was just right… not to early… and not too late.

A range of leaf colors which had not fallen.

Because the remaining leaves were at the end of the newest growth, there was no need to cut the leaves away individually. Pruning to two or three buds at the base of the new growth removed the remaining leaves, and setup the tree for spring growth that will improve ramification.

Mama Bear after pruning. (Elaeagnus umbellata, 2020)
Papa bear before pruning. (Elaeagnus umbellata, 2020)
Papa bear after pruning. (Elaeagnus umbellata, 2020)

The largest tree still needs the upper trunk line to thicken and improve the taper and transition from lower to upper trunk. To help this process along, I left one long sacrifice branch that I will allow to grow freely next season, even as I begin to refine the lower branching.

Baby bear after a hedge clip but before selective pruning. (Elaeagnus umbellata, 2020)
Baby bear after pruning. (Elaeagnus umbellata, 2020)

All of the three bears need wire, but I will wait until late winter or early spring to apply it. For now, I will dress the cuts with cut paste and let them rest. Here’s hoping they will continue to develop, and live happily ever after.