fun with dogwoods

Sneak Peak

Dogwood (Cornus) is one of those species that just about anyone you ask would say they’d love to have one. Yet they’re uncommon as bonsai. The Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is a Southern icon. Yet as bonsai they’re hard to come by and not so easy to develop. Their cousin, the Roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), on the other hand, is a delight as a bonsai subject. Here are a couple I’m working on.

Fun With Dogwoods

I picked up some Roughleaf dogwoods recently from another collector. I was really excited to get them, because I’ve worked with the species for about a decade now and they are simply a delight as a bonsai subject. Their flowers aren’t as showy as the Flowering dogwood’s, but they more than make up for it by their tendency to have a denser foliage and a much more vigorous growth habit. Combine that with awesome bark and naturally good trunk character, plus ease of cultivation, and you’ve got yourself a real winner.

This specimen may not look like much at first glance, but there’s a hidden gem here.


If you look closer at the tree, the hollow in what’s going to be the front really stands out. Who knows how it came to pass – maybe a mowing crew passed by some time ago – but regardless it’s going to make one of the unique features of this future bonsai.

In case you were thinking that those two trunks didn’t seem to hold much promise, this is the trunkline I spotted when I first got the tree. The base is terrific, and now I’ve made the taper stand out.

One other thing worth mentioning with this chop is: notice all of the energy demand I removed from this tree. I took off probably two-thirds or more of the branching with the chop. That energy is going to be redirected into the remaining trunk, and that’s exactly what I need. The branches on this trunk are thin, though not necessarily weak, and by redirecting the energy I can count on them to take off and thicken up as they grow.

I’m planning to keep this specimen for myself. The trunk base is a solid 3″, there’s nice taper in each of the trunks, all of the tree is barky, and there’s even dead wood. Now, I know we’re not supposed to have dead wood on our deciduous trees, but it’s common to see this on older dogwoods. Their wood is good and dense, and holds up well. So if it makes sense on your dogwood bonsai, I say go for it.

The first chore was to work on the lower trunk. I chopped off all of it that didn’t look like a bonsai. I also removed a couple of branches that weren’t needed, and shortened others.

Next I simplified the taller trunk, removed unneeded branches, and then it was simple chore to wire and position the branches.

I think this specimen has a huge potential as a bonsai. I’d love to hear what you think of both these trees.