TGray tgray at
Sat Aug 31 01:41:43 EST 1996

"how, in that context, do you explain 
the viability of bonsai-ed trees?"

There are many differences between bonsai and topping, primarily in the
size of the cuts and the amount of foliage that is removed at the time of
pruning. The effect is similar - a reduction in size and growth rate - but
topping has side effects which bonsai does not.  In topping, the long-term
health of the tree is compromised, whereas in bonsai it is not.

I have seen some very viable full-sized "bonsai" trees, notably Cedrus
deodara and Pinus radiata, which have excellent viability (of course, root
pruning was not possible). In topping, much larger cuts are made than in
bonsai, and without respect to the arrangement of the parts of the tree,
particularly the parts responsible for compartmentalizing the cuts. A
well-placed bonsai cut is a small one that has a much higher probability
of compartmentalizing properly. True, bonsai pruning depletes the tree's
energy stores, but much less energy is needed to recover from a bonsai
pruning than from topping, and there is a much higher success rate as a

T. Gray Shaw
Certified Arborist

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