I collected this American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana, in January of 2018. I couldn’t resist the nice twin-trunk structure and the trunk character, especially the rugged bark. I only run across rugged bark on a hornbeam occasionally, so I try not to pass up any specimens with this feature if they also possess other good qualities for bonsai.

I let the tree grow out all year, only feeding and watering it. The trunk base is 4″ across, and the height to the taller chop is 14″.

Now for the challenge. Half of the left-hand trunk failed to produce any buds, and over the season succumbed. Unfortunate, but it’s something that can be remedied.

I used my handy Japanese pull saw, and quickly had the trunk cut back to a nice leader that has a good shape already and plenty of strength. I carved the chop down with my knob cutters, followed by a carving knife to smooth it.

The new leader has a good start, but needs to be about four times as thick as it is now. That means I need to let it run in 2019 without any pruning back. That’s the fastest way to ensure getting this trunk back on track.

The work continues. I carved down the originally flat chop on the right-hand trunk. I wired two branches on the left-hand trunk and positioned them (they look a little funny right now, but as the tree grows in 2019 I’ll have new buds and shoots to wire that will complement these first two).

I also pruned off two strong shoots on the right-hand trunk, as they were two thick to bend to a believable horizontal position. The good news is, by not cutting them back flush I can expect dormant buds at the base of each shoots to come out in spring. These I’ll be able to work with while they’re still young and tender.

To complete today’s work, I wired and positioned a few branches on the right-hand trunk. That’s pretty much all that can be done for now. I did seal the chops and larger pruning wounds with cut seal, in order to prevent their drying out.

I’ll post updates in 2019 as this tree continues to develop. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this “rough-bark” hornbeam turns out.

Let me know what you think.