Over three years ago I came to the conclusion that I lacked sufficient sunshine for my bonsai growing endeavor – which was also my growing bonsai endeavor, hence the shady concern. My home is on a couple of acres, and came with probably close to 100 large trees. Most were not particularly desirable, either. So I finally decided it was time to do away with a large number of them. Two years ago I hired a tree removal service and turned them loose.
Now, one interesting fact about where I live is that it’s in plantation country, and my lot was carved out of an old plantation property long since sold off for development. This in turn means that I got an unexpected dividend when I bought the place, namely, some hundred-plus year-old wisteria vines climbing hundred-plus year-old water oaks. Japanese wisteria was introduced to the U.S. in 1830 – meaning around here also, as we had a number of dedicated horticulturists living in the area – and it’s since become invasive both here and throughout the Southeastern part of the country. I learned years ago, from experience, that you can’t collect really large wisterias. While wisteria is a “woody” vine, its wood is not durable – in fact, you might call it “rot waiting to happen.” Meaning they invariably rot away to what seems to be live veins of growth (these feel solid). So I’ve left my big wisterias strictly alone all these years; no point in killing them.
After all the trees had been cut and the dozer had come in and leveled things off, we were walking our newly cleared property one afternoon and what do you suppose I happened across? It was a big wisteria stump, previously clasped to a very large oak, lying in a drainage ditch. It had been there for days – dry days. This was late spring, and the stump was good and dry. I mean, dried out. Did I mention it was a dry wisteria stump? Well, overcoming my natural reticence – what did I have to lose? – I picked up the stump and planted it in a tub.
Vines are super tough bonsai subjects, which is another way of saying you have to work really hard to kill them. So my dried-out wisteria stump naturally produced new shoots in about two weeks. You can see where I started with this guy. Really nice looking, but I knew there was rot in its future. If you look closely, you can see a hollow already running up the back side of this specimen. Not that that would have been required for it to rot out; that was going to happen no matter what.
But here are the important questions I asked myself: was there a point at which the rot would arrest itself; and if it did, would I be left with a piece of material worth making a bonsai out of?
I’ve left this wisteria alone for the most part since I put it in the tub, only doing limited pruning to develop a viable leader. It’s actually bloomed in each of the past two years. True to form, it did start rotting in 2014 despite vigorous growth. It’s just what large collected wisterias do.
Here’s where this specimen is today. I don’t have any intermediate photos, unfortunately, as I felt there wasn’t much point. But I think there may be some potential in it, and it may have reached a decent point of stability.
I plan to continue working on this one over the next few years, just to see what happens. I’ll take a photo next spring when it’s in bloom.
Incidentally, though you can’t tell it from this shot the original trunk rotted through and separated into two parts. This is the larger one, but below is what I ended up doing with the smaller one. I’ve been told it’s pretty ugly, and I guess I can’t argue the point (excuse the stand; I don’t grow cascade trees). But if it hangs in there for another year or two I can work it into a smaller cascade pot. Who knows what might happen? Oh, and this part blooms too.