a big huckleberry gets styled
Huckleberries are one of my favorite species (actually multiple species) for bonsai. With small leaves, and flowers and fruit in scale, you can’t ask for much more.
A Big Huckleberry Gets Styled
On December 26th of last year I lifted this large Huckleberry (Vaccinium species). With a trunk base of 2.5″, I’m guessing this specimen is about 30-35 years old. I was able to cut to a fork and induce some nice trunk taper, and the trunk came with enough movement to make for a nice future design.
Huckleberries are easy to lift – I’ve had 90% success with them. So if you’re inclined to collect your own, you should be able to find one or more of the native species in your area as they are widespread across the U.S.
One thing to bear in mind about Huckleberries is that they root slowly in a pot. This is not a problem, you just have to plan your styling and ultimate potting work with that in mind. They have a fine root system, similar to azaleas, and like the azaleas they love acid soil. Also something to bear in mind for those periods where drought visits. Keep some soil acidifier handy, or be prepared to water with vinegar solution (1 tablespoon of white vinegar per gallon, once weekly during the drought, is usually sufficient).
As you can see, and as you’ll experience if you delve into the blueberries, they produce multiple buds/shoots wherever they come. This is common to many species, of course, and isn’t all bad. You get to choose from among slightly different possibilities, both in size and direction of growth.
So with this specimen I have a couple of chores today. I have to select strategically placed shoots/branches and cut away the rest, and I have to pick a leader and wire it up. Blueberries, bushes that they are, do not exhibit apical dominance. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a leader to run, you just have to encourage the shrub/tree to do so.
It’s always best to work from bottom to top, so here’s the first obvious edit – I need my first branch on the right-hand side of the tree, since the trunk line on this one runs from right to left. That low left branch had to go.
You can see here that I’ve worked my way up the tree, removing excess branches from all those clusters. This process took about 10 minutes altogether. But the result is worth it, because now we can see what’s going to be a real tree form when I’m done.
Finally, I wired up a leader near the apex. There’s some more wood above the leader, but I won’t do the angle chop until next spring to take advantage of what will be strong growth at that time for healing.
Here are the final edits plus a little more wiring and branch positioning. You may have noticed that the Huckleberry produces naturally horizontal branches (along with some that want to point a little upward or downward). This really facilitates your styling work. In this case of this specimen, I’m well on my way to a good design thanks in large part to the growth habit of the species.
I’m a big proponent of blueberry bonsai, and I encourage you to collect or acquire at least one specimen. I’ll be offering this one and a few others in Spring 2021.
How about another Spekboom? This is one I started last year, and I left it alone until recently to grow out enough so I could start a somewhat larger bonsai with it. Today I did some strategic pruning to get the design under way. In 2021, this one is really going to develop nicely.
In this awesome reverse progression you can see where I started with this one a month ago. (The rocks are there to help stabilize the tree.) It has already put on new growth, so today’s editing was a next necessary step.
Let me know what you think of today’s show and tell.