There are many words and phrases used in bonsai. One of the bigger ones is the word ramification. We all know what ramification is, but can we explain it? For all of you that speak a romance language, we can plainly see the root word rama. Which we understand to be a branch. So, ramification is the way branches grow. Booyeah, hit it on the head. Shortest post ever. No, I wish but in bonsai, we like to make things complicated.
In bonsai, we are looking for miniaturization. We are looking to reduce the size of the tree by reducing the size of the trunk, and the branches, and the leaves. How do we do that? Well, here is the basic theory:
First, we must let branches grow from the trunk. These branches we will call primary branches. These primary branches should grow around the tree in strategic places. The primary branches will become the “skeleton” that will support the rest of the tree’s growth.
Once you have established the primary branches and the tree will grow new branches on the primary branches. These new branches are called secondary branches. Because these branches are younger they should be thinner. A third set of branches will grow on the secondary branches and so on and so forth. These branches will be thinner than the secondary branches. As the branches get thinner the leaf size will also reduce.
The Ideal pattern for branch ramification is to have a pair of new branches grow from the tip of each level of branches. I’ll illustrate below.
This is the ideal situation. Of course, we all know that ideal may not happen consistently in bonsai. There a few things you have to take in mind when you are planning out a plants growth and ramification. Understand your plant species growing habit. Azaleas grow very different from ponderosa pine trees. Learn when and how to prune. This will help develop small compact branches.
You may be asking your self why do the branches have to grow in pairs? Let me show you what happens:
The branch keeps on growing but you only have the one branch. where you could have had 8 branches with small leaves now you have one. There is no ramification.
One last thing is this very interesting article on the growth habit of trees (http://ofbonsai.org/techniques/pruning-trimming-and-pinching/ramification-techniques). There are two types of plants. First, we have plants like palm trees and most pine trees. These have a dominant growth usually at the top. The dominant tip seems to keep growing the strongest and fastest. These type of growth especially among conifers leaves a conical shape on the tree. These trees are monopodial.
|Monopodial Pinion Pine|
Next, you have trees that grow new branches on lateral buds on different branches. Those trees do not have a dominant growing point, so these trees grow in a much more round shape like many of the deciduous trees. These group of trees is called sympodial.
I think it is important to understand this so we can plan how our trees are going to grow. Cheers.