I wrote last evening’s post a bit hurriedly. I was fighting the daylight to get the trees chopped and potted, so much so that I ran out of charged power packs and had to delay this specimen until today. But it gave me an opportunity to explain a little more about the decisions we have to make in order to create a bonsai – in this case from the ground up.
If you look at this tree you’re bound to be thinking one thing: fencepost (or its equivalent). And that’s exactly correct. This tree was originally grown for landscape use, meaning perfectly straight. But what works for the landscape does not generally work for the bonsai artist. The fact is, there are only three styles of bonsai in which no taper in the trunk is necessary: broom-form, literati and forest plantings. Now, since this is a live oak I plan to grow it in the live oak broom-form style, which is one of the variants on live oak style. Okay, so far so good. But then we have to ask ourselves the question, how long should the trunk be before the crown begins? For most species, the answer is longer than for a live oak. You may have seen live oaks either in nature or in photos. They tend to have a relatively short main trunk, from which proceed multiple sub-trunks that form an informal fan shape. Some of the lower growing sub-sub-trunks can even reach the ground on older specimens.
With that in mind, then, how long should the main trunk of this live oak be? As dug and chopped in the field, the trunk is 22″. I can tell you that’s way too much. So I go back to my rule of thumb: chop a trunk without taper two to three trunk diameters away from the base. This trunk is 4″ in diameter, so if I chop it to 10″ it should look fine.
Here’s the result. Though there’s nothing but trunk and root, this specimen already looks better. I can visualize sub-trunks emerging as buds followed by shoots from the chop area. Then it’s a matter of wiring and positioning them.
Finally, the stump is potted in a tub with the roots buried. Hopefully it’ll make it. I should know in early March; that’s when the live oaks start replacing their leaves.