I’m somewhat a creature of habit when it comes to bonsai. I have a group of species I prefer to work with, and whenever I go collecting I pretty much stick to the known. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the occasional odd species. As for the impossible? Well, I mostly steer clear of them, but ….

Let’s start with the odd. I don’t work with pines all that much, but I’ve made it a goal of mine to learn more about them. I truly love the way pine bonsai look – but I haven’t had much success in the past.

On yesterday’s collecting trip, I ran across this unusual specimen. It was growing up through a fence, though fortunately none of the fence wires had been engulfed by the tree. After cutting away some of the wires, we got it disentangled. I took as much soil with it as I could, knowing that there would be mycorrhiza on the roots that must not be disturbed. When I got it home, I put it straight into a nursery container and surrounded it with my normal soil. But no root disturbance past cutting off the tap.

Where’s the front of the tree? I don’t know yet, and fortunately I don’t need to know for some time. The main thing is that the tree live and gain strength in a pot. Then I’ll figure the rest out.

What species of pine is this? I’m not sure, but I’m thinking short-leaf pine, Pinus echinata.

This one measures 2.75″ at the base, and is 26″ to the tip of the taller apex.








Now on to the next odd species. I collected this one last week. I believe it’s a Sweet bay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana. Southern magnolia is common down here and commonly thought of. I wouldn’t attempt to make a bonsai with Southern magnolia. But Sweetbay magnolia? Well, it’s an odd species for bonsai but why not? Now, I have no idea if this species can be collected successfully, no idea if it’ll backbud and no idea if it can be trained. So we’ll just wait and see how all of those things go.

The base on this one is 3″, and it’s 11.5″ to the chop.


And finally, the impossible. Here we have the venerable Sycamore tree, Platanus occidentalis. Among the champions in terms of leaf size, these clock in at 4-8″ long and wide. This wouldn’t be so bad, considering that some species feature dramatic leaf-size reduction in a bonsai pot, but you can tell just by looking at Sycamores in the wild that they don’t want to produce small leaves and ramification. I’ve never seen a Sycamore bonsai, and I’m sure I know why. But this particular specimen came up near a larger one I had taken down when I cleared my property a few years ago. The nice thing about it is, it’s grown with some trunk movement. They’re usually arrow straight without any hint of taper. So as long as I’m going to tackle the impossible, I figured this was as good a subject as possible.

The trunk base on this one is 3″, and it’s 20″ to the chop. I can hardly wait for the giant leaves to start appearing.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress. In the meantime, let me know what you think about any of these.