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The Great Cut Paste Debate

There has been a great deal of heat and not much light shed in recent years on the interwebs about so-called bonsai “myths.” One of these “myths” is the age old question, “to seal or not to seal?”

Brent Walston doesn’t use wound sealant, and gives a great deal of good information about them. For instance, in his blog, (“The Great Sealant Battle”), Brent goes into excellent detail about a couple of ways to handle this. Some of these techniques work better for growing trunks, others work better for finishing trees. Walter Pall agrees.

Other bonsai practitioners have  mentioned that there are pros and cons and times to seal and times not to seal. Kudos for some sense in the matter.

When dealing with pruning wounds, there is a great deal of latitude as to how to cut, how to finish, and how to seal, depending on the species being cut.

Boon teaches the use of cut paste, but not just because of pathogens. It improves the quality of the healed scar in many cases. Dan Robinson, on the other hand, never saw a scar he didn’t want to keep and enlarge.

I use cut paste in most instances where the cut is larger or on the trunk. With trunk chops on deciduous species, for example, it is always best to chop back higher than you intend, leaving some inches of trunk above your new leader, if possible. When dieback occurs, it will allow you to then carve the chop without experiencing even more dieback. The following series of photographs shows the process.

The tree ready for work:

Reducing the stub to the leader.

Using a grafting knife, pare the rough cut down to the finished level.

The final cut sealed.

Note that while the remains of previous trunk chops have been sealed, the current one was not when it was chopped last season. This gives much better predictability on where dieback occurs. The same can be said of pines. Leave a stub, let it dry out. It makes it much easier to get a beautiful result.

I don’t think the question of wound sealant can be answered by Googling, copying, and pasting, even with attribution. I also don’t think being dogmatic or bristling when someone disagrees is a very positive way to get one’s point across.

Being upbeat, positive, accepting of others’ right to disagree, and having a great deal of real world experience is a far better foundation for having others accept your ideas or even give them consideration.

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