Willow oak, Quercus phellos, is one of the best oak species to grow as bonsai. It features willow-shaped leaves that reduce well in bonsai culture, to 1″ or less in length, it ramifies well and is very easy to maintain horticulturally.
This specimen was collected in the winter of 2012. This is the earliest photo I have, which was taken 3/17/12. The trunk is 4″ in diameter at the base, and it’s about 12″ to the chop. What you can’t see in this photo is that the trunk base has been buried to protect the surface roots of the tree while they recover. But all in all, this is a tremendous specimen.
3/31/12 – Two weeks later, it’s clear this tree is going to make it. Look at the strong growth of the new shoots.
6/2/13 – Here’s what a Willow oak can do in just over a year from lifting. An amazing amount of growth, right?
6/8/14 – I’m not sure of the date of this photograph, but 2014 was the year of bitter cold and a lot of my trees came out late. This specimen always comes out late each spring, but always makes up for it as the growing season progresses.
4/3/15-1 – This is the beginning of year three for this specimen, and it’s time for the initial potting. Compare this photo with the first one above. We’ve come a long way!
4/3/15-2 – Now you can see what I meant above by burying the surface roots. Here the tree has been removed from its nursery container, the roots combed out and trimmed for the bonsai pot. This is just what you can expect from a Willow oak, in terms of root growth. What began as simply large roots chopped back is now a dense fibrous root system, exactly what is needed to ensure the health of a fine bonsai.
4/3/15-3 – And here’s the tree in its bonsai pot, a fine custom oval by Bryon Myrick. The new leader needs to be reduced, and the branches need much further development. But this can all be accomplished in a bonsai pot.
9/5/15 – Later in the season, the apex was reduced and regrown and there’s been more development in the lower branches.
6/25/16 – In spring of 2016 I decided to regrow the lowest right branch because I didn’t like the way it was designed. Sometimes you just have to start over. So I have two new branches emerging from the stump of the branch, which I think will make for a better design as it develops. Otherwise, this tree is coming along beautifully.
11/25/16 – Showing some fall color. I gave this tree a trimming while leaving the leaders long on the lowest right branch. They will be allowed to grow untrimmed throughout spring of next year, after which time I’ll cut them back hard to continue redevelopment of the branch. But isn’t this tree looking fantastic? Next year the ramification should move to the next level over most of the tree.