(225) 784 - 2168 zach@bonsai-south.com

It’s not uncommon to have a less than stellar base or rootage on your bonsai. This Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, is a good example. The tree is nice, for sure, and will be just about fully developed next year after a good start this year, but there’s an issue at the base in front that just doesn’t add to the tree’s appearance. In situations like this you’ve got a couple of choices: carve until it looks better or “work around” the objectionable area.

Privets don’t lend themselves to carving, especially low on the trunk, as the wood has a tendency to get punky and rot out after a few years. If you do utilize carving on a Privet specimen, be sure to have some PC Petrifier wood hardener on hand. You’ll need it sooner rather than later.

So in the case of this tree, I’ll need to “work around” the problem at the base. And what better way than to layer the tree?

Once you’ve figured out where you want the new roots to emerge from the trunk, you’ll need to carve a band of bark and cambium all the way around. It’s vital to take the cambium with the bark, otherwise the tree will only produce callus tissue over the wounded area and you won’t get the roots you want.
The view from the other side. I made the band pretty wide, and you don’t want to learn the hard way why this is done. Callus tissue will form at the top of the band. If the band is too narrow, the callus will bridge it and simply heal the wound you made, in preference to producing roots from the area.
After dusting the top of the stripped area with rooting powder, I used this high-tech method of making a “pot” for my new roots to occupy. It’s literally a nursery pot that’s had the bottom cut out, been cut to wrap around the trunk, and bound with good old duct tape. There’s nothing like simplicity!
The makeshift “pot” is filled with soil and watered. All I need to do now is wait.

You’re probably wondering if this is a good time of year to do this work. For most species the answer would be no. Privet is semi-deciduous down South, so there will be active root growth through much of the winter. If I’m lucky, by the time spring gets kicked off next year it won’t take long to produce enough roots to allow me to separate the layer. I’ll update when that happens.