I’ve written at length about American Hornbeam, Carpinus Caroliniana. It’s one of my favorite species for bonsai, and one of my five best bonsai trees for beginners. The tree shown here, collected in January 2015, was potted this June. There’s a lot of character in this small tree. The trunk has movement and taper. And while it doesn’t fit the standard “mold” for informal upright bonsai, I think it makes its own statement.

One of the best things about American Hornbeam is its habit of growing all season long. And I don’t mean it has periodic flushes of growth throughout the season – it literally has new growth on it all the time. As you might expect, this makes for much faster development than for many species, and much faster ramification. The leaves also reduce in size very quickly. In this photo, I’ve taken off the larger leaves to encourage new growth and smaller leaves. The tree responded as expected.


And just two weeks later, this tree has taken a big step toward becoming a true American Hornbeam bonsai. From the first photo above, this represents a total of five weeks’ work. The leaves are much more plentiful now, and no more than half the size of the original set. With diligent pinching, I should have a very full set of foliage by the end of the growing season. What’s more, the small twigs on American Hornbeam persist through winter. This means I won’t lose any progress in terms of ramification between now and the 2017 season.

If you haven’t tried our native hornbeam, you’re really missing out. It’s hardy to Zone 3, is easy to grow and has wonderful characteristics. The trunks of older specimens become “muscled.” Almost any style (except for the deadwood styles) works just fine. They aren’t fussy about watering as long as they stay somewhat moist, and are seldom bothered by pests or diseases.

This specimen is a shohin bonsai, only 10″ tall, and is available at our Hornbeam Bonsai page.