I’ve never grown Korean hornbeam, Carpinus coreana, as bonsai. I bought a few small specimens last winter and planted them out so they could thicken up in the ground and provide me with stock plants for cuttings. This past summer was pretty hard on them. One died and the other three struggled. I’m not sure if they didn’t care for our excessive heat down here in the Deep South, or if they simply weren’t well-enough established to make it through with robust good health. Regardless, the season ended with three left and I’ll be watching them closely this year to see how they like it in my landscape.
Here’s where it gets weird. Today I’m out strolling in the growing field and I stop to take a close look at these small Korean hornbeams. What do I see? Buds swelling and a couple unfurling! Now, I’m used to Chinese elms emerging early in the season, but early means late February or early March. It’s just what they do. But having no experience with Korean hornbeams, I can’t explain why they’re wanting to break dormancy now. Our weather has been pretty cool since Christmas, with a number of light freezes and highs ranging mostly into the 60s. We got one day late last week with the high around 70. I’m not willing to believe that’s enough to make most species start to move sap. Oh, the Japanese magnolias are blooming and the Louisiana irises are pushing, but that’s their programming. I saw some out-of-season leafing of landscape trees back in the Thanksgiving-Christmas interlude, thanks to unseasonably warm weather. But these Korean hornbeams were not budding then; this has happened in the past week or so.