I think one of the best teaching tools we have in bonsai is the progression. Almost like time-lapse photography, it helps us to see the “life story,” as it were, of a bonsai. More often than not, we only see bonsai once they’ve reached a “finished” state – meaning their design is complete, they’re at a high state of ramification and their owner feels that the tree can be shown. Getting there is the rub, of course.
This native yaupon, Ilex vomitoria, was collected in February of this year and placed directly into this nice oval pot created by Byron Myrick. I knew exactly what needed to happen with this specimen as a triple-trunk future bonsai. The tree, of course, would have its say – you don’t ever know for sure where trunk buds will appear. But that’s okay. Part of the fun and challenge of bonsai is bringing your raw material to a good design state.
Yaupons are summer-loving species, so it took until May for this specimen to reach a point where I could apply some branch selection and wire. Here you can see the design beginning to take shape. The smallest trunk should have the lowest branches. Check. Working your way up the trunks, there should be branches filling the spaces appropriately, wired and shaped and positioned properly. Check. New leaders on chopped trunks should be wired and positioned. I’ve got two of the three trunks done. Check.
A week later, I’ve got my third and final leader wired and positioned. There’s more growth on the tree overall, but I need to leave it alone for a while to let it thicken and develop sub-branching on its own.
A month later, you can see what summer heat and sunshine does for yaupon. I have a lot of growth to work with, as expected. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the right time to trim, remove any wire that needs it and rewire to continue the development.
This is the result a few weeks later. I’ve taken the tree way back, in order to make sure I don’t lose the tree’s proportions. I want the growth somewhat near the trunks (though not right up against it). I also need to encourage sub-branching.
And a month later, once again I have strong growth and the need to selectively cut the tree back. This time I have more sub-branching, and this process will continue until the tree is fully ramified.
This is the final trim this tree will get for 2016. I’ve removed some wire, re-positioned a couple of branches and removed those shoots growing straight up or straight down. I’ll end up with nice flat foliage pads this way.
Yaupon is a broadleaf evergreen, but in many ways it behaves like a deciduous species. You can collect it during winter, cut all of the foliage off and it’ll back-bud just like a deciduous tree will. One thing to keep in mind with the species is that the young shoots must be wired when they’re still flexible enough to be shaped. They get very stiff very quickly.
What do you think of this bonsai-in-the-making? Have you ever worked with yaupon before? Leave a comment and let me know.