This Riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca, was collected in Winter 2012. It budded profusely, allowing me to select branches in almost ideal positions. From that point onward the goal has been to develop the branch structure and, perhaps more critically, build the tree’s crown. This latter goal involves creating a tapering transition at the point where the trunk chop is initially made. To do this properly requires several years of painstaking work.
The tree was collected as a bare trunk – which is most common for collected material. Buds form directly on the trunk, then extend forming shoots, and these shoots are then wired into position to create the branch structure of the bonsai-to-be. A shoot near the chop is wired into position as the new leader. This is the first stage of developing a bonsai from collected material.
Nearly a year later, the shoots have gained thickness in their first year. You can see that the apical shoot, the new leader, grew the strongest (along with other shoots in the upper part of the tree – this is caused by apical dominance, which most species exhibit).
What a difference a week has made. Next, I will pot this tree.
The tree is placed in its bonsai pot, a fine piece by the late Paul Katich, just over a year after it was collected. All of the development of this tree as a bonsai can be done with the tree in a bonsai pot.
A couple of months later, and the tree continues to develop.
A year later, and the tree has filled out very nicely. There’s more to do, but the tree is just about showable.
The Fall 2015 appearance. The apex, along with further ramification, is all that remains in completing this bonsai.
In the beginning of the fifth year since collection. A fine Riverflat hawthorn specimen.
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It’s time to repot this hawthorn. While some species do not root vigorously, the same can’t be said for Riverflat hawthorn. I’ve got a pot full of roots here. In addition, I have a large root in the front of this tree that’s visually just a bit too large. So I need to do something about that during this repotting. In this case, some judicious carving is going to help make this root less obtrusive while allowing me to keep it as part of the nebari.
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The tree out of its pot.
Ignoring the root zone for a moment, isn’t the structure of this tree just superb?
I’ve gotten very nice ramification all throughout the tree in the course of the five years I’ve been training it. As a bonsai, this specimen is reaching maturity.
Now take a look at the root mass. If you strain you can see that the tree did indeed fill the pot with roots in just a few years.
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It usually surprises people when I show them how much root you can cut off on a tree like this one.
It’s common to be timid when you’re new to bonsai and just learning howto repot your trees.
Eventually you get bolder.
I know from experience that this tree is not going to mind having over half of its root mass removed.
In fact, the result should be more vigor.
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Back in its home, and waiting for spring.
It may be a bit hard to see, but doing bit of carving on the large root in front has really helped changed its appearance.
As the raw wood fades in color and the root begins to heal, it’ll blend in much better.
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I haven’t touched the tree all spring. After a root-pruning and repotting, you should allow your tree to grow without any restraint until well into spring. This allows it to recover from the drastic root-pruning you’ve done (when you’re experienced enough to be so bold).
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I gave the tree a light trimming, removing branches that were crossing others and those running back into the tree.
I also trimmed to bring the silhouette back in.
The tree out of its pot.
Today I gave the tree another light trim to bring the silhouette back in, and removed some minor crossing branches and a few unhappy leaves. Other than that, I think it’s really stunning at present.
I may show the tree this fall if it finishes out the summer in good shape, otherwise I don’t have any work planned until next spring. At that time, I’ll do a harder pruning to encourage renewal growth and further increase ramification.
Today I gave the trunk of this tree a good cleaning.
A lot of the foliage has dropped, so it won’t be long till we’re back to winter bareness. The crown of this tree has really filled in well this year.
I’m at the point where all I need to do is work on increasing ramification. But there’s no denying this bonsai has turned into a stunning specimen.
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