I enjoy making new bonsai material by taking cuttings from the trees I work with. I also enjoy working with the species Riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca. Unfortunately, those two pleasures seldom happen together.
I have found Riverflat hawthorn cuttings to be extremely difficult to root. Maybe it’s operator error, but maybe it’s just a quirk of the species. Regardless, this photo represents a single specimen I got to take about six or seven years ago. It’s been completely container grown since that time, and this is how it looked back in 2017. That’s a standard small concrete mixing tub which measures about 24″ long by 18″ wide, to give you an idea of scale.
Here’s a nice smaller Water oak I started working on last year. Water oak is quickly becoming one of my favorite species, featuring small leaves, short internodes and ease of ramification. They are very happy in a bonsai pot.
This one budded fairly high on the trunk, but I’m going with what I have. You can probably tell I’ve been through two rounds of leader building already. That’s an indispensable process when you work with collected trunks. Usually you’ll chop fairly low, 10-24″ depending on the size of the tree, then build the tapering transition and a third to more than half of the entire structure of the tree from nothing. As you can see with this tree, you can make very fast progress.
Snip, wire, shape. Now the next iteration of the trunk line of this tree has begun.
Incidentally, one of the nice features of Water oak is they often hang onto most of their leaves through winter. Though certainly not as persistent as Live oaks, you could actually term them persistent-leafed.
I haven’t published an update on my world-class Willow oak in a while. Frankly, it had a tough spring and I had to give it some extra attention to get it back to good health. My secret? More sun. Where I have my garden, there are some Willow trees growing and as you may know they grow super fast. This has brought more shade to that part of the garden, including where I’ve had this tree sitting for a couple of years. So the extra shade snuck up on both of us. I relocated the tree to my Bald cypress bench, which is in full sun, and it responded by pushing a lot of good new growth. We’re both much happer now.
Here’s the tree after a trim last month. For those of you familiar with this specimen, you may notice I don’t have a low right-hand branch anymore. Unfortunately (?), I lost that branch this year. I also acquired some more dead wood. But is that a bad thing?
Here’s the fall almost-bare look, which gives you a better idea of the new structure of the tree. I’ve always been a little unhappy with the fact that I had more or less a bar-branch situation in the lower part of the tree. Of course, the traditional view of things is you would want the low right-hand branch and not the left-hand branch above it. Well, trees do what they want in the end. I actually don’t mind this structure at all. It’s not as unbalanced as you’d expect it to look, and that works for me. It may have to do with the incredible basal flare on the tree. I mean, it looks at least a hundred years old (I’d guess it’s about 60 or so). So for my money, this specimen has enough gravitas to carry just about any design.
I worked on the dead wood some while I was doing a general pruning back. Oaks have solid wood, of course, so the amount of punky stuff I had to remove was not that great. I painted on some lime sulfur, and will follow with PC Petrifier in the coming week.
This Sweetgum has been in training for just over a year. In the Progression I’ve posted, you can see the quick development including the potting that happened almost five months ago. Now, with the leaves about off the tree, it’s easy to see what needs doing.
Young Sweetgum branches are very supple, so there’s not a big chance of snapping one if you do fall wiring. Here I’ve put the branches back where they belong, in anticipation of spring.
It’s important to bear in mind, when doing the early development work on a Sweetgum, not to remove terminal buds in fall or winter from non-ramified branches. This increases the risk of dieback, probably due to auxin withdrawal. If the branch is ramified, meaning there are multiple terminal buds, removing one or two won’t hurt (just don’t remove them all).