Bonsai Odds & Ends – Hawthorn, Cypress, Spekboom

bonsai odds & ends – hawthorn, cypress, spekboom

Sneak Peek

Fall brings a little color to our part of the Deep South. The growing season is over, but it’s still fun to work on tropicals.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Hawthorn, Cypress, Spekboom

Here is the Deep South we pay for relatively mild winters with a general lack of fall color. That doesn’t mean we don’t get the occasional overachiever. My big Riverflat hawthorn just turned the other day, and I think it was all at once. Hard to miss on the benches full of green and bare trees.

The Bald cypresses that weren’t defoliated in July usually look pretty ratty this time of year. This big specimen is an exception. It’s the last BC I’ll be posting for sale this year. If you’re looking for a big one, check it out in the Shop.


The redesign of this Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) is progressing well. It got a hard pruning earlier in the season, and has responded with a ton of new growth. I don’t know if other enthusiasts work on tropicals as winter approaches, but I’ve always had good luck considering the fact that they’ll be moving into heated spaces soon anyway.

From the bottom up, time for this one to lose a good bit of foliage. It was a bit “bottom-heavy,” but that’s not a huge surprise given the characteristic growth habit for the species.


And the end-result. The crown of the tree needs a lot more development, but by the end of 2022 the new design should be complete.

Let me know what you think.

Portrait Time – Hawthorn, Oak, Elm

portrait time – hawthorn, oak, elm

Sneak Peek

There’s nothing like the combination of spring, sunny weather and nicely developed bonsai.

Portrait Time – Hawthorn, Oak, Water-Elm

Well, after the winter we had it does your heart good to see your trees responding to spring. Here’s my Riverflat hawthorn, 10 years in the making.

The next step for this one is a hard-pruning, but I’ll wait until next year when it’s time to repot again.

“Rip van Winkle” is finally leafing out. I thought it would be nice to catch him while his leaves are still tiny. They’ll get somewhat bigger, but the leaf-size reduction has been gratifying (that part has taken some years).

This one has also been with me for 10 years.


And here’s the newcomer, a very large Water-elm I potted this year. I’ve only had it for a few years now, but in another two it’ll look like it’s been in training for a decade. Lovely tree.

Let me know what you think of these guys.

Riverflat Hawthorn Progression

Zach’s Personal Collection

riverflat hawthorn

Progression Carousel

Riverflat Hawthorn



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Updates are in date order beginning with the first date Zach began documenting the progression.


The tree was collected as a bare trunk – which is most common for collected material. Buds form directly on the trunk, then extend forming shoots, and these shoots are then wired into position to create the branch structure of the bonsai-to-be. A shoot near the chop is wired into position as the new leader. This is the first stage of developing a bonsai from collected material.


Nearly a year later, the shoots have gained thickness in their first year. You can see that the apical shoot, the new leader, grew the strongest (along with other shoots in the upper part of the tree – this is caused by apical dominance, which most species exhibit).


What a difference a week has made.

Next, I will pot this tree.


The tree is placed in its bonsai pot, a fine piece by the late Paul Katich, just over a year after it was collected. All of the development of this tree as a bonsai can be done with the tree in a bonsai pot.


A couple of months later, and the tree continues to develop.


The tree has filled out very nicely. There’s more to do, but the tree is just about showable.


The Fall 2015 appearance.

The apex, along with further ramification, is all that remains in completing this bonsai.


In the beginning of the fifth year since collection. A fine Riverflat hawthorn specimen.


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It’s time to repot this hawthorn. While some species do not root vigorously, the same can’t be said for Riverflat hawthorn.

I’ve got a pot full of roots here. In addition, I have a large root in the front of this tree that’s visually just a bit too large. So I need to do something about that during this repotting.


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In this case, some judicious carving is going to help make this root less obtrusive while allowing me to keep it as part of the nebari.


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The tree out of its pot.

Ignoring the root zone for a moment, isn’t the structure of this tree just superb?

I’ve gotten very nice ramification all throughout the tree in the course of the five years I’ve been training it. As a bonsai, this specimen is reaching maturity.

Now take a look at the root mass. If you strain you can see that the tree did indeed fill the pot with roots in just a few years.


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It usually surprises people when I show them how much root you can cut off on a tree like this one.

It’s common to be timid when you’re new to bonsai and just learning how to repot your trees.

Eventually you get bolder.

I know from experience that this tree is not going to mind having over half of its root mass removed.

In fact, the result should be more vigor.


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Back in its home, and waiting for spring.

It may be a bit hard to see, but doing bit of carving on the large root in front has really helped changed its appearance.

As the raw wood fades in color and the root begins to heal, it’ll blend in much better.


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I haven’t touched the tree all spring. After a root-pruning and repotting, you should allow your tree to grow without any restraint until well into spring. This allows it to recover from the drastic root-pruning you’ve done (when you’re experienced enough to be so bold).


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I gave the tree a light trimming, removing branches that were crossing others and those running back into the tree.

I also trimmed to bring the silhouette back in.


Today I gave the tree another light trim to bring the silhouette back in, and removed some minor crossing branches and a few unhappy leaves. Other than that, I think it’s really stunning at present.

I may show the tree this fall if it finishes out the summer in good shape, otherwise I don’t have any work planned until next spring. At that time, I’ll do a harder pruning to encourage renewal growth and further increase ramification.


Today I gave the trunk of this tree a good cleaning.

A lot of the foliage has dropped, so it won’t be long till we’re back to winter bareness. The crown of this tree has really filled in well this year.

I’m at the point where all I need to do is work on increasing ramification. But there’s no denying this bonsai has turned into a stunning specimen.


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Here’s the tree in March. After much study I came to the conclusion that this pot, though a fine one, was just too small for the size of the tree. I ordered a custom oval from Byron Myrick.


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I’ve removed the tree from the old pot, and you can see here the extra space I’m giving the tree. I’m convinced this will make the composition much better.


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Soil added and the tree is all wired and tucked in. Compare this photo with the first one, and I think you’ll agree I made the right decision.


What better way to end the year than with some really nice fall color? This is the best show this tree has put on since I started working on it. As I noted in a blog post about it, this is a portrait of what we all work toward with our trees.

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