Hornbeam3-1-16-1Here’s my big American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana. Six years on, it’s developing into a unique and impressive bonsai. The trunk base is 6″ and it stands about 28″ tall (the apex needs to finish out).

You can probably see the two big problems with this tree: one, there’s a sizable hunk of wood where I originally took off a big side branch/secondary trunk; and two, the point where I chopped the trunk has an abrupt-looking transition into the apex. The solution? Carving time!





Here’s a closeup of the area where the big side branch had been removed. I’ve started to bite off chunks of wood with my trunk splitter and knob cutter. The idea, ultimately, is to make this area smaller and to look as if it was part of the natural development/life of the tree. Not, in other words, like a bonsai artist did something to it. The art of bonsai is largely illusion, as I’ve mentioned before. Our job is to make something look like something else – and something natural at that.

Hornbeam3-1-16-3I’m getting closer to bringing the knob flush with the trunk. Now, it’s worth noting here that when I originally removed the big side branch that emerged from this point, I intentionally left the branch collar. The roots on this side of the tree were undoubtedly being fed by this branch, so to take it off flush at that time would have almost certainly resulted in the death of those roots. By leaving the collar, I left a route around the removed branch for sap to pass. I hoped for a bud under the removed branch, which I got, and I planned to wait for years to take off the excess wood. Often we get in a hurry to get to a certain result we can visualize. But as I tell my granddaughters, “Patience, grasshopper.”


The biting and fine carving are now done. Once the wood weathers, it’ll blend in better with the trunk color. I’ll also get some callus rolling over, though I doubt it will ever completely close. But I don’t think that will mar the appearance of the tree.






Now on to the second problem with the tree, namely the “shoulder” left over from where I first made the trunk chop. You can see the callus has rolled over nicely; however, I do need to do some carving to improve the appearance of this uro. But first thing’s first.






After a few minutes of judicious biting and carving with a knife, I’ve improved the taper of the tree. Should I have cut it more acutely? Perhaps, but I want to be careful not to make too dramatic a tapering in this area. I want to get more thickening at the base of the new apex, and I’ll see if the tree won’t give me a sacrifice shoot for that purpose this year. If I can add another 50% to the basal thickness of my new apex, the whole thing should blend together well. I’ll know in a couple of years. If it doesn’t work out, I can do some additional carving in the shoulder area.

As a final step, I put some cut seal on the living carved edges. This should protect them until they can heal.

This tree is ready for both a root-pruning and to be placed in its final bonsai pot. With a little luck, that should happen this coming weekend.