There are four sources of material for bonsai – collected trees, trees from seed, trees from cuttings, and trees from air or ground layers. Today I want to show you how to use two of these methods to make more bonsai material.

hawthorn11-13-16-2I made this Riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca, from a cutting struck in 2015. Riverflat hawthorn is one of my favorite species for bonsai. I’ve collected quite a few specimens from the wild, and they are fast to develop for bonsai from just a bare trunk. They generally feature good surface rootage as well, so this is another positive quality.

Propagating the species from cuttings has proven to be harder than I would have expected. But last year I did manage to get one – exactly one – to take. It puttered along through the growing season, during which time I left it strictly alone. I was just happy to have succeeded.

Well, 2016 was another story for this rather small and nondescript new tree-in-the-making. I would estimate the cutting was 8-10″ long when I struck it, and it grew only a bit in 2015. But now, at the end of the 2016 growing season, the thing is six feet in length! And the trunk base, which was about 1/8″ when struck, has swelled to 1″ in a single growing season.

This is pretty exciting, and I’m encouraged to grow a lot more of this species from the ground up. I’ll strike more cuttings next year and see what I can do that way, but as I watched this specimen grow in 2016 it occurred to me that it was presenting itself as a prime candidate for air-layering. What’s even better, I can make not one but four layers on this single plant. So with a little luck I’ll make five trees from one.

hawthorn11-13-16-1Here’s a closeup view of the tree, with the layer points identified. You can also see where I plan to cut low on the trunk, in order to continue developing the parent plant.

I’ll keep you posted in 2017 as I prepare the layers, and then we’ll follow along to see how well that method works with this species.

Have you had any experience with layering? I’ve done some personally, but not as much as I think I’ll be doing in the future. Leave a comment below regarding your experiences, good or bad.