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!

Sawara Cypress Repot


This chamaecyparis was rootpruned  last year but has made such a good recovery that I can reduce the rootball further this year and reduce the time it’ll take to get it into a suitable drum pot.


Into a spare glazed pot that was lying about.  I quite like it for the time being.  I’ll continue to keep the sacrifice branches on until it goes into the next pot.

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£10? Yew must be joking.


March 2015. Taxus Baccata (I assume)

Either this was a bargain or else I’m sure some folk may think it was overpriced for what appears to be a sickly shrub.  I was out with my family at a garden centre celebrating some Easter activities but as always I was also on the lookout for anything unusual/cheap that could be used for bonsai purposes.  This 80cm tall tree was the only one of its kind in a corner of a display bed and disguised behind some magnolias.  No information on it at all just a small sticker saying ‘special offer £9.99’.  Now, material like this would usually cost 5-10 times as much depending on where you can find it.  I’ve rarely come across Yews for sale at this size and definitely not this cheap!  The discoloured foliage appears to the only reason for its low price – no apparent signs of fungal/pest problems and when I upturned the pot, there were no roots protruding.  Couldn’t pass it up!


Relatively healthy foliage on one side that was facing outwards, receiving more light.


Discoloured and sparser foliage on the other side that was facing the back of the display and perhaps has not received adequate light for a long time?


Discoloured apex – is exposure to winter frost responsible?

I have a healthy yew growing the garden already and am used to some discoloration over the colder months so I am not too concerned about the lack of health at the moment.  Maybe I’ll know better when I inspect the roots shortly.


The interior.

It’s difficult to see clearly but there are three main trunks that are pretty straight.  One is considerably thicker than the other two.  Not much foliage in the interior so this is definitely a long term project that will involve a lot of regrowing.  If it turns out to be a minger of a tree, at least it’ll be material that I can practise deadwood and wiring techniques on.  To start with though, tomorrow, I’ll inspect the roots, improve the drainage and thin out dead branches.  If I do no work on the roots, I’ll feed it immediately.  Either way I’ll shelter it from the wind for a while yet and make sure there’s enough sunlight and water to help it recover.

If anyone has any advice or suggestions, It would be great to hear from you.


Formal Upright Hornbeam


All the leaves have finally dropped on this hornbeam which was growing in a flower bed for the past three or four years.  It initially had a poor root system so I placed a tourniquet at the base of the tree at the beginning of 2013 and fed it like mad.  It was worked on while in the flower bed to promote good trunk taper.  At the start of this year I inspected the new roots that were produced and decided to lift the tree at the same time.  The thick tap root was cut back some and it was planted in this training box.20140301_154216

The tree has been untouched this year as it’s been recovering from losing a significant bit of its original root mass.  I decided it was now time to tidy up a few old pruning wounds from last year.


The base of the tree has flared out a little and by allowing unlimited root run over the next few years, hopefully this will increase.  Fungi has made an appearance in the box but I assume this isn’t harmful? Please correct me if I’m wrong! I scratched away at the top layer of grit to inspect the nebari but found the growing medium thick with fungi – I hope it’s the beneficial stuff.

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I love the formal, gradual, taper of this tree but I’m starting to think that it’s too tall and that if the top was air layered, it would make a great wee shohin tree. The remainder of the tree would look more mature too but still needs thickening. So I have the possibility of two promising trees from this piece of material.   I haven’t decided yet.

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It’ll be protected this winter and then next year allow more free growth.  Health permitting, it could be ready for work again next autumn.








Two Amur Maple Trunks

The last few beautiful red leaves were falling from two of my Amur Maples (Acer Ginnala) over the weekend so I decided to carry out some heavy pruning.



New front with large wound hidden. Apex leaning towards viewer.

New front with large wound hidden. Apex leaning towards viewer.


This first one was the subject of an earlier post regarding a failed threadgraft.  I’ve decided to take it back to a bare trunk because I’ve never been happy with the straight lower half and kinked upper part, as well as being dissatisfied with the very heavy low branch.  If I get the right budding in the spring I’ll then have complete control over the branch development, aiming for a formal upright style .


September 14

This one was started three years ago as a hardwood cutting from the mature parent maple in the photos above.  It grew in the ground for one year and then was planted in this seed tray two years ago to give the roots plenty of room to run. I let it grow unrestrained last year and pruned last autumn and did the same again this year to develop some taper. The result is now a stocky little shohin sized piece of material.


After pruning

After pruning.

Front view. Turning the tree to the right slightly more will give a better view of trunk movement.

I’m relying on a lot spring budding in hopefully the right places for both of these trees and if I get that then these maples will give me a lot of hands on experience throughout the year of developing deciduous trees.  Fingers crossed.