Today I did a one on one workshop with a new bonsai enthusiast. One of the specimens we were worked on was a three-tree Parsley hawthorn composition, very similar to this one. I love bonsai forests. The three-tree planting is the smallest expression of this style of bonsai. While this may seem like a real challenge, you can evoke a great deal of emotion in a very small space with just a few items. In this group there’s dramatic tension, complementary movement, depth, and perspective. It doesn’t get much better than that.
(This specimen is available at our Hawthorn Bonsai page.)
You may remember this Muscadine grape, Vitis rotundifolia, from last summer. It came out of the ground with two trunks, so I planned to make a twin-trunk bonsai out of it.
Something of a start. There’s a lot of character in the trunk. Major development work needed in the structure of the bonsai (it was pretty ho-hum at this point).
Last fall the smaller trunk died. I have no idea why. But that completely changed my plan for this bonsai.
Here’s the tree with this year’s spring flush of growth on it. Obviously strong, so I’ve got something to work with.
I’m not seeing how I can make a viable upright bonsai from this specimen, given how it’s grown out. So I either have to chop it back and see what happens, or change the design. I’m thinking a semi-cascade may work. Let’s find out. First order of business, change the position of the trunk.
I lifted this Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, in June of 2017. Why not go straight to a bonsai pot with it? While this is not a good idea most of the time, vines are hard to kill and are reliable at producing roots.
Here’s the tree a year later. The growth has been good, and it’s shaping up into a nice upright tree form.
So I decided the pot was not quite right for this specimen for a couple of reasons: one, it’s a personal piece in my collection, the tree not necessarily; and two, I felt it was a bit “heavy” for the composition. So I picked out another pot and lifted the tree to transplant it. What did I find coiled up in the pot? Well, it’s not a snake though it sure could pass for one. This is about two years of Trumpet vine root growth. It all had to go.
Here’s the tree in its new home, a fine Lary Howard oval. This pot is a lot “lighter” than the previous one, which I think complements the graceful trunk line much better.
Now we wait and see if the root surgery was a success.
I spotted this specimen recently, growing in a tangle of weeds, Monkey grass and oak saplings. What could you make out of this?
A few weeks later, the vine is re-establishing itself. I trimmed off the stubs that weren’t needed, giving me a perfect trunk line.
Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, is commonly called Lacebark elm. This common name was given due to the fact that the species exfoliates its bark annually, revealing a lovely underlayer with a nice orangey-salmonish color. I was cleaning up this specimen today and for the first time since I potted it the tree has shed some of its bark. That’s a milestone in this tree’s life as a bonsai, which began in 2014.
I’ve done some trimming on this tree, and will do a little more before spring. Chinese elms are among the first species to bud out each spring for me. Even though winter just began, I can’t wait for warmer weather!
I potted up this Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, in 2017. Since that time I’ve just let it grow and recover from lifting. The trunk is nice, as you can see. Today I rubbed off the shaggy bark, leaving the smooth true bark of the species. It’ll put on another layer of shag in 2019, as it continues to grow.
The foliage is mostly off of the Cypresses, but this one is clinging to some pretty fronds. I thought it would be fun to share the image.
In another month or so, I’ll make the year two chop in the apex to continue the development of the tapering transition. When I do, I’ll post another blog on it. 2019 should be a good year in the life of this future bonsai.
I lifted this Crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, in May. True to the species, it came back quickly and with great vigor. Within a month I had this design under way.
Crapes love summer. They grow fast and bloom like crazy from about July through August and even into September. If you’re developing a bonsai, the fast growth is just what you want.
Today I had to do some more trimming (that vigor thing, you know). While I was cleaning up the chop point and one of the earlier trunk chop points lower down on the tree, I happened to turn it. What did I see? I’m thinking a better front. What’s your preference?
This Hackberry, Celtis laevigata,came home in February. Spring brought some cool weather, so I’ve been patiently waiting for this and a lot of other specimens to kick into high growth gear. It finally paid off, and today looked like a good time to do an initial styling on it. The leader remains thin, so I’ll let it run wild for the remainder of the 2018 growing season. Next year, this tree should develop quickly.
You may remember this photo from March. This is a branch on a Sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana. That big fat bud at the terminus is not a foliar bud – at least that’s what I thought at the time it set, namely last fall. I’ve never grown the species, so I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.
I decided to advance my knowledge of this species the hard way, by slip-potting this specimen. Yes, the branches are way too long, but once the flowering is over I should be able to cut them back and reduce the profile of the tree.
I think I’ve got a nice literati bonsai to be, assuming it doesn’t object to the “out of season” potting.
Back in May I posed the question, “Is this a Catbird grape?” This was because of the leaf shape as the specimen recovered from collecting. I figured once the initial recovery growth settled down, I’d find out for sure.
It’s not a Catbird grape; it’s a Muscadine. You can see that very large leaf in the left of the photo. While the older leaves are of a very different shape, all of the growth now is quite round. So the scientific name, Vitis rotundifolia (“round leaf”), makes perfect sense.
I decided to slip-pot this specimen too.
Plus some wiring and trimming. You can see the connecting root of the two trunks, which I’d buried to protect it when I first lifted the specimen. It’s 3″ across at the base. This was the time to expose it. The pot is an exquisite handmade piece by Lary Howard.
I’m planning to keep this one for my personal collection. If you’d like a Muscadine let me know. There are plenty around here.
And that’s what I did today.
Let me know what you think.