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Hokidachi or Broom Style

By Bernard Coetzee

The broom style is one of the most famous of all the bonsai classifications. Alas, this is probably the least tried style of all, yet ask anyone what they think of Hokidachi and they will all answer with the appropriate adjectives describing its beauty. Well, if this is how we all feel about broom style, why are there so few grown? Nobody can complain about lack of material for this style because all our local nurseries seem to have an abundance of chinese elm which is by far the best subject for Hokidachi.

As the name implies, Hokidachi resembles the shape of a broom in the upside-down position and can be truly appreciated in the winter months when it has lost its foliage. It is desirable to develop many small branchlets on the main branches so that when in full leaf, only the trunk and one or two thicker branches are visible. Generally speaking, it can be classed in the formal upright style, for this is the typical method of growing and any deviation from the Chokkan style would spoil the effect.

When selecting stock for this style, try and find healthy straight-trunked trees, thickness ranging from 1/2" for mame and up to 3" or 4" in diameter for larger trees. You should first pot it up in a suitable nursery bag. Now ascertain the overall size which your tree will take, then cut it down to approximately one-third of this height. This cutting down should obviously be done in either spring or summer so that almost immediately new shoots will appear on the stump. Do not allow them to grow too rapidly for, by doing this, you will thicken up the trunk unevenly and perhaps spoil its shape. Pinch continually all through the summer so that the branches will develop evenly and slowly.

Prune in early autumn whilst the tree is still growing, keeping the overall shape in mind. The pruning method to adopt would be to hold back growth on the side branches yet allow your main leader with its side branches to remain. By leaving this centre branch, it will tend to thicken slightly more than those which have been cut back giving a gentle taper away from the original wound.

This new leader should be selected as close to the wound as possible and in front of your tree. Do not allow branches to sprout too far down the trunk for these will tend to unbalance the shape. In the following spring rub off all new shoots not wanted but leave as many as possible which appear on the cut edge of the bark surrounding the hard wood centre. These can be left on to help heal the wound over and once this is achieved, they too can be removed. Selective pruning (with the finished tree in mind) should be carried out whenever necessary for it is important to maintain steady growth.

Remember when pruning, leave your cut side facing upwards to ensure quick healing.

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Random Bonsai Tip

If a tree lacks a branch in a specific place you could in arch or approach graft a branch in the required area or thread graft through the trunk using a long shoot of the same plant.