|Eastern White Cedar - Thuja occidentalis|
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By Reiner Goebel
Eastern White Cedar
When growing in the open, cedars are straight-trunked with a slightly conical, columnar crown that extends to the ground. The foliage is dense, and the tree has an almost pruned appearance. The root system is shallow and wide-spreading, making the trees adapt easily to life in a bonsai pot (figures 1 and 2).
In areas where they are subjected to abuse by wildlife and the elements, cedars attain the trunk shapes that make them ideal bonsai subjects. Because of poor soil conditions and periods of extended drought during the growing seasons, cedars growing under those conditions are naturally dwarfed, and can frequently be found with shari and jin in place, although requiring some refinement. Cedars are suitable for all bonsai styles with the possible exception of literati. It is their rugged appearance and usually well tapered trunk that make them unsuitable for this style.
Cedars grow throughout the growing season without a period of rest if conditions are appropriate, which they should be if they are being grown as bonsai. They therefore need to be pruned and pinched frequently. If you time your pruning sessions to coincide with the appearance of Haley's Comet, your cedars will not look good. Each of my trees is subjected to at least two scissors pruning sessions per growing season in addition to being pinched whenever something sticks up, down, or out. Unless this pruning is carried out religiously, cedars will develop elongated shoots with long internodes.
While I have seen cedars bud back on 3OO-year-old trunks in the bush, I have never had that happen on the trees I grow as bonsai. There must be special ingredients in the air "up north." Anyway, they do bud back on younger twigs, and also on areas of the trunk where branches are already growing (figure 6)-a somewhat redundant feature.