Today we hunted hornbeam. The native species is American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana. It ranges from Canada all the way to the Deep South, and west a little past the Mississippi River. I rate it as one of the best bonsai trees for beginners, because it takes readily to pot culture, it grows all season long, and ramifies easily with good leaf reduction. If you don’t have one and you love deciduous trees, you need one.

This specimen has nice trunk movement and taper. There’s also trunk “muscling,” that’s not readily apparent in this photo. The root base is very nice, but it’s buried to protect it. Assuming it survives collecting, I expect to have a good start on a bonsai by summer.

The trunk base on this specimen is 2.5″ across, and it’s chopped at 13″.

Here’s another nice one I brought home today. When you’re collecting hornbeam, look for specimens with low forking of the trunk. This will often allow you to chop to a tapering trunkline with good movement, as is the case here. I’ll be able to go a long way toward completing a branch structure, including the crown, by the end of the growing season. Nothing like shortening the timeframe.

The trunk base on this one is 2″, and it’s 11″ to the chop. Very very nice.

Native Yaupon, Ilex vomitoria, is tough to find with decent taper and trunk movement. This twin-trunk specimen was a treat to run across – not to mention the fact that it’s a female. So I had to bring it home. Yaupon is easy to collect successfully – just hard to find.

The trunk base of the larger trunk is 1.5″ across, and it’s 17.5″ to the chop.

This isn’t something you’ll often see at Bonsai South. It’s an American beech, Fagus grandifolia. American beech is a very challenging bonsai subject. Why? Because it only wants to grow in one flush, which happens in spring. Any pinching of foliage you plan to do, you do it when the shoots extend. But don’t expect anything else to happen. Occasionally I’ve seen some additional growth in late spring, but it’s just not enough to move your design along. So everything you plan for an American beech must be done before budburst, with a little pinching after. Slooooooow to make into a nice bonsai.

With that said, don’t you just love the light gray bark and persistent golden leaves? These features do make you want to try your hand at them, even if you’ve been frustrated a bunch of times. So here I go.

The base of this one is 2″, and it’s chopped at 18″. I was encouraged by the nice branches already in place (another reason I went for it).

That’s a good overview of today’s work. Let me know what you think.