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Bonsai Odds & Ends – Water Oak and Privet

You’ve been following the development of this Water oak (Quercus nigra) since last year. The tree was collected in February of 2018, but failed to bud except in one spot. The obvious answer was to make bonsai lemonade out of that lemon.

Here’s the tree last November, after a good whacking. Because I had good taper where the transition was, I didn’t hesitate to pot the tree in this Byron Myrick rectangle.
Now we’re a year from the first photo above, and the branch development is clearly robust. I like the way the proportions of the tree are coming along. The only chore to be done today is to do some strategic pruning.
With a few branches taken off, and the overlong branches trimmed back, you can get a much better sense of where I’m going. I’ve left the leader alone, in order to continue to beef it up all along its length. That will be vital in making this a believable bonsai.I’m beginning to question the value of the low left branch in the final design, but I’m not willing to take it off yet. What do you think? Does it add to the design?

Here’s the next Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) that gets styled. I’m always amazed at how fast they grow.

Easy peasy.
I love it when I run across a specimen I can chop to make a short, fat bonsai out of. This one has a 1.5″ trunk base and is chopped at 4.5″. I can make the whole design in under 10″.
And one last privet for today. This one also has a 1.5″ trunk, but is chopped at 8.5″. It’ll make a nice 12″ tall bonsai.I collected this one and the one above on July 28th. I’m betting I’ll be wiring both of them next month.

Water-Elm Collecting 2019 #2

Our second Water-elm hunt of the season happened today. This is the biggest specimen that came home with us (trunk base over 3″). Here’s one view of the tree before it got re-chopped top and bottom.
I’m not sure which front is going to be best. What do you think?
I’ve been trying to find a nice raft-style specimen for a few years now. I think this is a good candidate.
And finally for today, this is a smaller specimen but isn’t the character just terrific. Not to mention that it’s going to be an exposed root bonsai once the buried roots are visible again.Let me know what you think of these.

Fun Fast Bonsai Development

I love fast-developing trees. Some species and styles naturally lend themselves to rapid progress. The flat-top Bald cypress is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

This specimen was collected in Winter 2019, and here’s how it looked after the initial styling in early June.  Not much to look at, but you can see where I’m going.

This is where you can take a flat-top BC in two summer months. The basic structure was established at the initial styling. From that point, there are two main chores that must be done. They aren’t hard to do, but sometimes they conflict with one another.Chore number one is vigilant control of the crown structure of the flat-top. What does this mean? BC is powerfully top-dominant. If you don’t keep a tight rein on the growth in the apex of the tree, the leaders will quickly overthicken and ruin your desired proportions. Following that initial wiring, if you don’t step in and wire the secondary branches while pruning (“cooling off”) the leaders, you won’t be happy with what happens next.The second chore is somewhat more passive: you let the lower branches run, and encourage any strong shoots that grow straight up (you can see this on the two lowest branches). These branches need to get thicker, but the top-dominance saps energy from them and there’s little you can (or should) do about it. All you can do is manage what’s going on. In year two, it gets easier to balance energy as the crown gets more finely developed and its growth rate slows.
This is the Dwarf yaupon I styled just last month. You probably remember where I started with it – essentially a hedge shrub that had been cut to some lines. So it got a big haircut and some wiring.
Yaupons grow very well in summer, so I knew this specimen would fill in quickly. This is just over a month later, and I had to trim away a lot of extra shoots before I snapped this photo.One thing to keep in mind about Yaupon, you need to wire the branches while they’re relatively tender. Once they get stiff, wiring and bending tends to produce broken rather than shaped branches. Not what you want.Summer can be one of the best times to make great strides with certain species. I hope this has given you a reason to brave the heat!

Water-Elm Collecting 2019 #1

Today began our Water-elm collecting season. Each of these trees you see has been under about 20 feet of water since winter. Now it’s time for their growing season, which will only last a few months. The short growing season is why these trees, though they may not have huge trunks, are actually pretty old.This planting is actually three separate trees that seem to go together well. I’m looking forward to working on this group a little later this year, and more so in 2020.
This is a nice twin trunk. I really like the left-hand trunk, and it’s going to be my model for building the right-hand trunk. This one has a 2.5″ base, and is only about 10″ to the taller chop. It should make quite a shohin specimen.
And now a tall-tree twin-trunk. This is going to be a great Water-elm bonsai, in just a couple of years.
This one is two separate trees, but they go together. ‘Nuff said.
And another tall-tree twin-trunk.
And last but not least for today, a single-trunk specimen. This one has great movement and taper.Let me know what you think of these specimens. If you haven’t tried Water-elm yet, you should seriously consider the species.

A Specimen Water-Elm Gets Some Attention

I potted this Water-elm earlier in the season. It came home last August, and recovered very well. Since Water-elms love the summer heat, I know I can do some development work now.
It’s common to have to make choices as you develop your trees. In this case, I have a situation where there is a large chop on the trunk that was necessary post-collection, and I have what was originally another upright branch that had to be cut back. I can’t remove the stub from this original branch, or I risk losing the entire right-hand trunk. So the better-developed branch has to go.
This is an example of giving up something now for something better later on. You’ll do this a lot as you continue on your bonsai journey.
The young branch that’s left needed to be wired and positioned.
Next came the lowest branch on the left-hand trunk. I’ve also done a very rough trim to shape on the tree overall. This should be part of your development plan for every deciduous tree you work on (excluding American beech, but that’s another story).
This is also a good time to start carving some of the chops that were made when this tree first came home.
The stub where the young branch emerges on the right-hand trunk also needs an initial carving now. As the branch thickens, it’ll make the transition look very natural.And that’s all for today. I’d love to know what you think about how this specimen is progressing. Leave me a comment below.