I potted this Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, into this nice Chuck Iker pot earlier in the season. I had had the specimen for a few years, but neglected it, but for those of you who know privet you understand that it didn’t really affect the tree that much. Privet are very hard to kill.

This is how it looked today, with a nice flush of shoots. There’s a design in there somewhere – it’s just a matter of finding it.

First, the easy part. Those two little shoots on the left have no role in this bonsai in the making. (What about that small shoot in the back? I’m leaving it to help with the healing of the trunk chop above it.)


So we got bottom to top for the informal upright style. I selected two branches that will definitely be part of the design, then wired them as a pair (always try to do it this way, it makes life a lot easier!).

As you work your way up any tree doing your styling, you’ll be confronted with multiple choices for your branch layout. It’s almost guaranteed that you won’t have the “ideal” set of branches. By that I mean the so-called “spiral staircase” of branches, left-right-back-left-right-back and so on all the way up the tree (with perfect spacing between the branches, too!). This is all right. If you had the ideal branch set each and every time, there wouldn’t be much challenge in the styling process and what fun would that be? Not to mention that your trees would turn out boooooooring. And who wants that?

Continuing up the tree. Some shoots stay, some go. The ones that stay get wired and positioned.

Ever close to the apex. The tree is taking shape.

And the work is done for today.

You may be wondering how important it was for me to wire this tree today. To be sure, I could have waited a bit longer. But one thing about Chinese privet is that once the branches get a little thick, they become impossible to bend. So you need to make it happen early on, or you’ll need to cut everything off and start over.

This specimen doesn’t look like much yet, but privets grow so fast that by summer I’ll have a nice set of ramified branches. The wire will also have been removed by then.

Stay tuned for updates. And let me know what you think. This bonsai in the making is about 10″ tall, with a 1.5″ trunk, just to give you an idea of scale.