I think this is a significant American hornbeam (Carpinus Caroliniana) bonsai in training. With a trunk base measuring 6″ near the soil surface and a projected final height of 30-32″, great nebari and taper, and characteristic muscular trunk, what’s not to like about this tree? Nothing, really. But there’s a lot of work that needs doing as this bonsai enters the next stage of its development – it was dug in Winter 2010, got an initial wiring once new shoots had formed that same year, then was initially potted three years ago. During this time I worked on building the tapering transition in the apex, grow-and-chop by grow-and-chop.
This tree needs repotting next spring. It could have been repotted this past spring but I had other, more pressing chores. (Hornbeam roots very vigorously, so I generally recommend repotting every second year.)
Before I pull the tree from its pot, however, there are some significant chores that need doing. If you look closely at the upper trunk area, the tapering transition is not at all bad except for what looks like a “shoulder” where the original chop was made. This basically needs to be carved down to make the transition look better.
Here’s a closeup of the area I’ll be carving in the apex. It began as a straight chop when the tree was first collected. Once the new leader had grown strong enough, I made an angled cut. Once the healing began, I did some initial carving of the wood inside the rolling callus. That was four years ago.
Now I need to undertake the next carving project in this area. By angling the cut downward and taking off the “shoulder” on the left-hand side that makes the tapering look awkward, I should get the appearance I want. It’ll take several years to heal the way I need it to, but that’s not a problem. Time is always on the side of a maturing bonsai.
Here’s another carving project whose time has come. When the tree was originally collected, there was a second trunk emerging from the spot you see in the photo (it was hollow inside and destined to die, and certainly of no use to my design plan). I cut it back, but was careful not to make the cut too close to the trunk in order to prevent dieback down the trunk on that side. I was blessed with a bud beneath it, in a great spot for a primary branch and available to feed the roots on that side. I’ve worked on that branch since and refrained from carving the old trunk stump so as not to risk its health. Spring 2016 will be the time to take it back with my Dremel®.
As with any tree, there are always minor problems that eventually bother you enough that you decide to correct them. In the case of this tree, I have a thick branch in the crown of the tree and a bit of reverse taper in one of the apical curves. I think both of these problems can be solved without overly dramatic cutting; but I’ll make these decisions next spring while everything else in happening.
Let me know what you think of this tree. I’d love to hear from you.