Partial Defoliation of a European Beech

I bought this early last year from an auction at the local club.  It’s the biggest bonsai I have and it was grown from scratch by someone else over a long period! I can only hope my efforts at field growing turn out as well in 20+ years.  Anyway, it spent last year recovering from being lifted from the ground and this year flushed out pretty strongly.  I read up a bit on defoliating beech and am informed that they don’t like entire removal of foliage but only partial and a leaf must be left on the end of each branch as a sap drawer.  There’s a lot of ramification to develop and I wanted the inner branches to receive more light so I was selective.


I think that the tree would benefit from a tilt at repotting time  so that the trunk is more vertical.  We’ll see.  I’ll branch prune and wire in the autumn.

Pruning a Beech to Shape

About six weeks ago I performed some drastic pruning of this European Beech material that I’ve been growing over the last six years.  Since ground layering a new root system three years ago, it’s been slow to recover.  Finally off to a vigorous start this year so I knew it was ready for shaping by pruning.


Before work: May 


Spreading newly established nebari


Before: leggy growth and few primary branches


Step 1: Establish a final height of the tree and future apex.


Step 2: Prune back leggy primary branches.


Step 3: Go one further and eliminate undesirable primary branches.


Step 4: Feed heavily and wait for possible backbudding along the trunk.


After: Late June.  New growth on branch tips.


New buds from above


An abundance of adventitious budding.  Happy days!

All being well, I’ll wire growth in the autumn and then put it into a bonsai training pot next year.

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.

Shamma Beech Prune

A very quick lop off the top of the main trunk.  I initially did this to promote better taper but  I like the idea of a possible kifu sized twin trunk tree.  It would be unusual as a bonsai style though, with the minor trunk at the back.  It’s been supported by its new roots for a year now and growth was minimal last year.  I plan to feed very heavily this year to beef it up a bit.


This side presents the best width of trunk and nebari



I could reduce it down even further to the first vertical branch on the main trunk. Any opinions?



































































































































































































































































































































































Shammah Beech

1 jul 11

July 2011

This is a European beech that is nicknamed after the friend whose garden I ‘rescued’ it from in the summer of 2011.  I say rescued because he thought it was a weed and was in the process of resurfacing old flower beds in the garden of the house he just bought.  By chance I happened to be there for a barbeque and having started my bonsai interest, I noticed the plant and asked him of I could give it a home – not because it was really nice, mature material, just because I wanted anything I could get my hands on!  Anyway I knew enough to realise that it was definitely out of season for rootpruning/repotting and that it was a big gamble trying but had a go anyway.  I just took a spade to it and cut around it.  It didn’t come out easily but I persevered and took it home in a plastic bag.  It was potted straight away into pure cat litter, placed in the shade and frequently misted. I crossed my fingers for the next while.

3 aug 11

Aug 2011

Over a month later it was still green so I started giving it a low dosage feed.  You can see the lower trunk suffered considerable strimmer damage and was quite thin at the point of the scarring.  I knew that this inverse taper was a major problem so the following spring I decided to put the tree in the ground and put a wire tourniquet on to produce a new root system above the damage.  The tree didn’t have existing nebari and I found out that the root mass was concentrated around one heavy tap root.  The tourniquet would solve both issues.  So I left it for three years in the heavy clay soil of my new house and it hasn’t grown much at all above ground but a couple of weeks ago I lifted it and I can see where all the energy went – into the new root system.


Note the length of trunk between the two root systems.


Note the original thick tap root – unsuitable for bonsai. The trunk is also thicker above the new root mass.


Close up of new nebari

I’m really happy with the new nebari which circle the trunk and show a lot of promise for the future.  Everything was washed out and I cut back the two heaviest roots on the left of the picture to give the others a chance to increase in girth.  The tree was planted into a deep plastic tub to promote more growth above soil level now.  Once it recovers I’ll feed it heavily and start development into an informal upright chuhin tree (hopefully!)


May 2015

Since this last photo was taken a few weeks ago, it has now budded out and leaves are making an appearance.  Looking forward to working with this one.