I love working with unusual species, and making bonsai that defy the normally accepted rules for design. Here are a few examples of current projects.

First off is a Red oak, Quercus nuttallii, that I collected in East Texas a couple of years ago. (East Texas lies at the extreme western end of the range for the species). This is another example of a tree that decided to only bud low on the trunk. I let it get strong last year, and this year chopped the trunk way back. It’s nothing to write home about at present, but I have a leader I let grow that was cut back hard earlier this season. My original thought was to just grow it out. However …

Considering how big the leaves of a Red oak are, it struck me that making a shohin bonsai out of this specimen will absolutely fly in the face of bonsai orthodoxy. Imagine a tree only 8-10 inches tall, with pretty big oak leaves. That’s got to be something pretty cool, if I can pull it off. the base of this one is 2.5″ across, so it’ll taper pretty dramatically when all is said and done. I’m thinking it’ll make a nice statement.

I’ve blogged before about edible fig, Ficus carica. I made this one from a cutting a couple of years ago, and it’s now grown into a decent shape. The base is up to 1″ at the soil, and as you can see it produced a good bit of fruit this year. I may pot it next year, if I think it’s ready.

Edible fig is one of those species you can’t make much headway wiring. It’s best to just prune them to shape – with the understanding, of course, that they decide which branches to keep and which to shed.

I’m posting this Boxelder (Ash-leaf maple), Acer negundo, with trepidation. I know, it’s a terrible species for bonsai and I don’t hesitate to share my disdain for them. At the same time, what’s bonsai without a challenge? So I lifted this one in August(!), and defied it to live. Naturally it did. Had it been a prize anything else, it would have audibly croaked as I lifted it from the ground. But not Boxelder!

If you’re going into bonsai no man’s land, you have to go all the way. So I wired and pruned this survivor. Now I ignore it till either the wire bites in or next year, whichever comes first.

Let me know what you think of all this.