Bonsai Odds & Ends – Eleagnus and Muscadine

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.

Silverberry Bonsai

silverberry bonsai

Sneak Peek

I’ve been wanting to grow Silverberry, or Eleagnus, as bonsai for some time now. A bonsai friend gave me one early in 2020, and today I got around to styling it after a year of growth from a bare trunk. But that’s not all ….

Silverberry Bonsai

A bonsai friend gave me this Silverberry, or Eleagnus, back in Winter 2019-2020. I chopped it to a bare trunk, and sat it on the bench to grow out. I learned during the season that they root slowly, so my earlier plans to style it in summer did not work out. But no matter. You can work on the above ground parts pretty much any time. The Eleagnus species are evergreen and very tough customers. They thrive in poor soils. What more could you ask for?

I decided it was time to do an initial styling on this one, in part because of the rest of the story you can read below.


Slanting style bonsai are always a challenge, because they slant. That may sound redundant, but when you think of a typical bonsai – the most common style is the informal upright – things such as branch placement and balance are very easy to accomplish. Not so much with the slanting trees.

We always begin by removing those branches that emerge from the bottom of the slanting part of the trunk, which usually can also be seen to be emerging from the inside of a curve. Tough to make those work!

We start wiring branches from the bottom. I left the right-hand branch long so it could keep on growing next year and thicken up.

More editing of branches. The look of the tree is getting “cleaner,” and it’s easier to see a design taking shape.

Now I’ve got the leader defined. Once you have your trunk line established, it’s a lot easier to evaluate your planned bonsai and adjust the design if needed.

I think this is a good start on a nice Silverberry bonsai. I’ll wait until next summer to (possibly) slip-pot into a bonsai container; it depends on the root growth I get in spring.


Now for the rest of the story. Way back in 2012, when I first had my property cleared of a huge number of trees I no longer wanted (and which also was intended to give me more nursery space), I lined the back and sides of the property with Silverberry. My next-door neighbor also put up a hedge at the same time. Fast-forward to now, and they decided to remove their hedge. Well, since I have steadfastly decided not to fool with really large trees anymore, I of course decided to grab a couple of huge specimens while I had the chance. Here’s one of them. The base measures about 8″ across, and it’s chopped at about 10″ from the soil. I’m pretty confident it’ll recover; I’ll know come spring.

Here’s the other one. It’s also 8″ across at the base, a little less front to back, and also 10″ tall. Two very nice sumo-style specimens.

Let me know what you think. Have you ever worked with Silverberry?