Eastern hophornbeam, Ostrya virginiana, is a good species for bonsai though seldom grown. It’s a member of the birch family, as is its close cousin the hornbeam. The leaves, however, are coarser. On the good side of the ledger, they produce a rough bark when mature which is quite attractive. Another negative is that they’re hard to lift successfully relative to the hornbeam. I’ve had this smaller specimen for a couple of years now, and I think it’s reached a point where I can style and pot it. You can see I let a leader grow out, in order to produce a nice apex tapering from the trunk chop.
Step one: prune the leader. This is not the ultimate length for the leader, but I don’t yet have obvious buds at the nodes so I’ve pruned long to prevent dieback. Once I get the buds I need, I can train the next stage of the leader.
Next comes wiring some branches and doing a final trim for today. You may be able to see the bud on the left side of the trunk about a third of the way up. I want this bud to grow out; a branch lower on the trunk should produce a more stable design.
You may remember this Roughleaf dogwood from last fall. At the time, I mentioned that the second branch on the left side of the trunk is way too heavy. My intent for this year was to simply chop it off at the right time, counting on the tree to produce one or more buds at the base. To that end, I pruned it pretty hard last fall.
The branch behaved better than I hoped it would. If you look closely you can see two adventitious buds, one near the base and the other halfway between the trunk and the first sub-branch. So I have a couple of options for today: either chop the branch near that second bud, or prune more off the branch to push more energy inward.
I took the conservative approach, taking off two branchlets at the end of the branch. Yes, the tree will activate buds where these were removed; however, it will also send more energy to the two buds that popped on old wood. My plan is to prune the branch back to the bud nearest the trunk; that will enable me to carve down the stub of the original branch, and end up with a branch more in scale with the others on the tree. You may have noticed a lot of ugly leaves on this tree. For whatever reason, the tree never dropped its leaves over the winter; they did endure some freezes, so they got some discoloration. But they didn’t fall. My plan is to remove them soon, as there’s plenty of new foliage now. Let me know what you think.