A Sneak Peek

Like all bonsai enthusiasts in the dead of winter, I’m excited about the potential of the growing season ahead. I’ve a lot catch up on after two years of inactivity in the garden but in some cases this has been a good thing. Some of the field grown material has flourished and thickened considerably and today I decided to check if some projects were progressing as I’d hoped. The following trees were all ground layered two years ago to hopefully produce a better surface root system:

First was a European Hornbeam

It was planted in cat litter in the ground and I found lots of fine root throughout this. Didn’t go down to Nebari level though as I didn’t want to do much damage at this point. I am satisfied though with the new flare at the bottom of the trunk. While I was at it I took care of some top pruning but left the bottom branches. I’ll airlayer the sacrifice branch in spring. Can’t wait to lift this tree when buds fatten up!

Field Growing Oak

Now that leaves have mostly dropped and trees are almost dormant, time to do an annual prune of material growing in the beds.  This oak was a seedling planted this year.  It fairly thrived but had too many branches coming from a single point on the trunk, and these had to be thinned out to avoid inverse taper.


Lower branches left on to allow thickening.  I’d like this to be quite a chunky tree so I’ll keep new growth short next year.

Blaaw’s Juniper Potting Up


Just bought from an online bonsai nursery in 2012


Close up of trunk in a 2L pot.


Four years in the ground and then dug up.


It was on a tile in the ground, so not much root to remove from underneath.


Straight into a big ceramic pot for training next year.


Close up after thinning out of unwanted branching/shoots.


After pruning extended trunks.  Bottom right sacrifice branches left on for later jinning.  Could be a nice multitrunk tree in future.

Creating a Forest Bonsai Part III

Finally! This was the project as assembled at the end of the last blog post.  The last step was to complete some pruning and adjust some crossing trunk lines.




inverse taper and an unattractive kink in the main trunk to be removed


Various wires used to loosely secure trunks


From the side


From the opposite side


After.  A new beginning.

Some things to improve in the short term future:

  1. Shift the planting to the left at the next repot so that more negative space is to the viewers’ right.
  2. Encourage back budding on the thinner trunks so that they can be reduced in height.
  3. Perhaps add an extra minor trunk at each end in future.
  4. Encourage thickening of the two major trunks.

Any other suggestions would be welcome.

Forest Chump (Creating a Beech Group Part 2)

An apt title given that I thought it would be a good idea to start putting the forest together at 8:30 last night.  Chump indeed!  Anyway, I was raring to go and one of the saplings was breaking out in leaf so I went ahead, naively thinking that it wouldn’t take that long.  Here’s a photo timeline of the composition so far…


8:30 – 9:00pm Looked for this wire rack that I knew was somewhere in the garage.


9:00 – 9:30pm secured rack to the tray and filled a base layer of soil.


9:30 – 10:00pm sketched the tree positions on paper to give an idea of how to proceed.


10:30pm First three trees in rough positions and secured.


More added. A slight windswept look beginning to emerge.


11:30pm Only a few left to add.  The original plan abandoned long ago…


Post midnight. The forest assembled.  Soil was added outside in floodlit conditions.  Well watered in.

I don’t mind admitting that it was a demanding project but I enjoyed it.  The biggest headache was doing it in the kitchen (garage is full of baby related items…)  I underestimated how long it would take me to secure each tree in the right position and how much concentration was needed to ensure spacing was appropriate, perspective developed and all the other ‘rules’ suggested for creating a bonsai forest.  The project is a bit rough and ready at the minute but will hopefully look better when I get a chance tomorrow to prune tree heights and some long branches.  Have to keep reminding myself   that this is only the start of a project which will take years to mature, develop and improve. Part 3 later in the week.

Creating Beech Group Part 1


You may be wondering why I’m posting the above picture of my son but if you look closely you may notice tell tale signs of bonsai related activity…

Work out what it is yet?

Yes, you’re right, he was sieving pink cat litter on a windy day and unfortunately for him, he was standing downwind. Darned dust!! I had to open a new bag for more repotting work and he was keen to help out.  Some great memories formed today as Jonah and I set about creating a European Beech forest. Unfortunately we didn’t finish the project but will do asap.


Garden centre saplings


Plus bulked up garden material


Tray prepped


Garden material dug up and Jonah removed the old leaves.


All material washed and graded according to trunk girth.

We ran out of daylight hours so I wrapped them in wet newspaper and placed them in a bag in my garage (More late frost expected tonight!). Twelve saplings to choose from, I know an odd number is traditionally used so I may drop the least suitable.  We’ll see once I start placing them together tomorrow.  I’m off to read what Peter Adams has to say about it.  Part 2 coming soon…