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More Collecting, A Couple More Examples

Here’s a quick update for today – a balmy Deep South winter day, high 75, meaning the weather wasn’t miserable for lifting trees.This triple-trunk Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, is actually a connected root specimen. The trunks are nice, with great taper, and the one on the right has beautiful movement. The small trunk in front is also pretty gnarly, but I’m not sure I can keep it considering its position and the fact that this needs to be the front of the future bonsai. But that can be decided later on.For a sense of scale the largest trunk is 1.5″, the next 1″ and the smallest 3/4″. Height of the tallest is 5″ at the chop. This one has a lot in a small package.
I’ve had this Zelkova, Zelkova serrata, in the ground for a few years now. Last year I chopped the trunk to build taper. The trunk base has reached just over 1″, so I decided to go ahead and get another specimen going for the 2020 inventory. I’ve got others still in the ground that I’ll continue to grow out.
Potted up and trimmed a little more. The tree is chopped at 10.5″, but that’s just until it buds in spring. I’ll re-chop to a leader that’s in the right spot relative to the transition point. For now, I want to protect the leader from dieback.For those of you who haven’t worked with Zelkovas, I can highly recommend the species. They grow very quickly, as many elms do, and this allows you to create a showable bonsai in just two or three years. This one already has some branching I should be able to use to create a design. But I’ll wait till spring to wire it, to give the roots a chance to firm up.

Layering To Improve Trunk Base And Rootage – Privet

It’s not uncommon to have a less than stellar base or rootage on your bonsai. This Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, is a good example. The tree is nice, for sure, and will be just about fully developed next year after a good start this year, but there’s an issue at the base in front that just doesn’t add to the tree’s appearance. In situations like this you’ve got a couple of choices: carve until it looks better or “work around” the objectionable area.

Privets don’t lend themselves to carving, especially low on the trunk, as the wood has a tendency to get punky and rot out after a few years. If you do utilize carving on a Privet specimen, be sure to have some PC Petrifier wood hardener on hand. You’ll need it sooner rather than later.

So in the case of this tree, I’ll need to “work around” the problem at the base. And what better way than to layer the tree?

Once you’ve figured out where you want the new roots to emerge from the trunk, you’ll need to carve a band of bark and cambium all the way around. It’s vital to take the cambium with the bark, otherwise the tree will only produce callus tissue over the wounded area and you won’t get the roots you want.
The view from the other side. I made the band pretty wide, and you don’t want to learn the hard way why this is done. Callus tissue will form at the top of the band. If the band is too narrow, the callus will bridge it and simply heal the wound you made, in preference to producing roots from the area.
After dusting the top of the stripped area with rooting powder, I used this high-tech method of making a “pot” for my new roots to occupy. It’s literally a nursery pot that’s had the bottom cut out, been cut to wrap around the trunk, and bound with good old duct tape. There’s nothing like simplicity!
The makeshift “pot” is filled with soil and watered. All I need to do now is wait.

You’re probably wondering if this is a good time of year to do this work. For most species the answer would be no. Privet is semi-deciduous down South, so there will be active root growth through much of the winter. If I’m lucky, by the time spring gets kicked off next year it won’t take long to produce enough roots to allow me to separate the layer. I’ll update when that happens.

Privet Work And Slip-Potting

Privets seldom disappoint. This one has put on a lot of growth in just a couple of months, and I can tell by the strength of it that a slip-potting now shouldn’t cause any problem for it. But first, some design work.
Most bonsai design work is “grow and clip,” regardless of how you approach a tree. Wiring is certainly important for branch placement, but you’ll prune and pinch many more times than you’ll wire any tree. In this photo, you can see how much growth I’ve removed.
The final step before potting this tree is to bring in the profile. It’s often hard to make yourself cut a tree back as much as it needs to be, but over time you get better at making those decisions.
And that’s all it took!This privet is going to fill out in 2020, and should bloom for the first time in 2021.Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Things To Come

I wasn’t able to blog last week, so I’m going to try to make up for it this weekend. For a start, here’s the Chinese elm forest that I’ll be developing this coming year. As you can see, the growth is already lush. All that needs to happen with this specimen for the remainder of the year is to grow and get strong. In 2020, I’ll create the basic design and move it to a bonsai tray. I have a feeling this specimen is going to end up being really nice.
I’ll bet you remember this Dwarf yaupon from a few weeks ago. This is a variety that just loves to grow in summer. I knew I could take advantage of this feature when I first did the styling. By the end of the growing season, I’m going to have a nicely filled out specimen on its way to becoming a fine bonsai.
This is another Chinese privet I had off in a corner of the nursery for a few years. It had originally been part of a larger, multi-trunk specimen. I finally figured out that this trunk was better by itself, so I separated it from the rest and potted it up. This tree will go from “stick with shoots” to bonsai in 2020. Stay tuned for updates.

Don’t Take Your Eyes Off A Privet

I lifted this Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, in Winter 2019.  Here is it in late March, just pushing new shoots.

Here we are, two and a half months later.  Privet is very vigorous.  You literally can’t take your eyes off them for long.

Time for a taming.  First the long, long shoots get pruned back.

More pruning, especially the conflicting branches on the inside of the tree.  I’ve got that third trunk down to a single leader … and, I’m not sure that trunk does anything for the composition.

There, that’s better.

Working our way up.  That left-hand trunk ended up with only its new leader, and that’s where all of the new growth is needed.

On to the right-hand trunk.  This one has some branches to work with.

And a few minutes later, we’ve got our initial design.  The tree will push lots of new buds in the next week, so it will flush out again by early July.  I’ll post updates, unless of course someone wants to take over.  This tree is available at our Chinese Privet sale page.