bonsai odds & ends – eleagnus and muscadine

Sneak Peek

Monster sumo-style bonsai take time to develop, but the end-result is well worth it. This Eleagnus is two years out of the ground, but just at the beginning of the process.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Eleagnus and Muscadine

It’s been a while since I posted a blog. When the world changed in 2020 we had a shift in family and personal priorities, and this shift accelerated in 2022. I plan to get back on a more regular schedule of posting, however.

This Eleagnus x ebbingei was lifted from a neighbor’s yard in October of 2020. We had jointly bought a bunch of 3-gallon specimens in 2012 to line our respective properties, and the neighbors decided to remove theirs. That’s good news to a bonsai hunter!

From a 3-gallon specimen this one has advanced to an 8″ trunk base. Eleagnus is quite a grower once it gets started.


I left it alone for two years, and this is what I got for my neglect (except for watering and feeding, of course).

One thing you’ll find out with Eleagnus when you begin to work with them is the new shoots pop off very easily. This means they’re a challenge to wire. Once they thicken up enough, however, they don’t pop off anymore but you also can’t bend them anymore. This means they’re a challenge to wire. I think the message here is, they’re a challenge to wire.

The goal for today is to thin and cut back. I want the volume of branch and foliar growth directed into branches selected to be part of the design.

After a few minutes I have things thinned out enough to where I can see the basics of my branches. For sumo trees, you’ll often have a specimen like this one to work with where there’s not a definitive curving trunk but rather a squat but very impressive “body.” I’ll end up with a broom-form style when it’s all done.

With wiring these branches out of the question (except for that thin one on the right and the branchlets elsewhere), I’ll need to stick with grow and clip. That’s okay, though. Making this bonsai will take several years in any event, and I’ll get a good result taking my time.


I lifted this Muscadine grape, Vitis rotundifolia, last year. This photo is from January of this year. Cool root bump off the right.

I’ve done some wiring on this specimen in 2022, let it run wild in between, and here’s where I got to today.


With vines we tend toward cascade or semi-cascade specimens. As I studied this one it just didn’t seem like the way to go, especially with that “Loch Ness” root on the right, so I’ve decided to make it an upright specimen. This trimming gives you an idea of what my plan is.

Let me know what you think of these two trees.