June is the first summer month, and the time of year to do summer shohin strip. Deciduous trees like the Japanese maple, Crapable, trident maples i.e. are trees that will benefit from being total or partly defoliated. Healthy trees will cope well with a total removal of the leaves, if the health is equal at all branches. Weak branches should not be defoliated, or leaves can be cut in half’s to secure the health of the branch. Keeping leaves keeps sap flow and photosynthesis generating vigour.
Branches defoliated will be weakened a little, but if healthy growing, the weakening will only result in shorter distance between the leaf pairs (internodes) and smaller leafs. The trick is to leave the stem when removing the leaves with a sharp scissor. At the base of the leaf stem a sleeping bud is reserved for future growth, if the tree in nature is hid by disasters. Like insects ruin the leafs. The sleeping buds are then taking over the growth and the tree survives with the recovery leaves taking over.
It is important that you observe the tree and analyses its growth. Weaker areas should not, or only partially, being defoliated. Strong areas can be totally defoliated. So the tree may look a bit weird for some time, but four weeks after the strip new growth will show and fill in the tree nicely.
So why do the stripping? Because smaller leaves having the leaf pairs with shorter distance, are aesthetically appreciated fitting the size of a small bonsai. Shohin-bonsai needs very much this detailed work, as well as conifers needs a detailed pinching.
The photos shows the Fuchi Bonsai workshop where we did the stripping among other summer tasks. Trees may look out of form for a period of time, but remember healthy grown bonsai does not look exhibition ready all the time. It is necessary to let the trees grow a little out form to improve health, as well as cutting them back to achieve future balanced health and design.