We’ve been watching the development of this riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca, since it was collecting this past January. With the exception of two existing branches I decided to keep since they were in scale, there’s nothing here but a trunk. It’s obviously an old tree, as it has the rough bark typical of the species; this, along with nice movement and taper, made it ideal bonsai material.
Fast-forward to today, and here’s the same tree after a full season of development, meaning wiring and shaping and trimming as needed to control the growth. I unwired the tree some time ago, and have left it alone to grow back out. Though the growing season is effectively over, I can wire, shape and trim this tree and then leave it until spring. This will give me a head-start on 2016, since I’ll have a lot of other chores that need doing when the buds begin to swell. Not to mention the fact that the tree will look nicer through the ugly winter months.
Let’s zoom in on this tree to take notice of one of the key development techniques we use on collected specimens. I identified, early on, the new shoot I wanted to keep as my new leader. In order to make the transition look right between the original trunk chop and what will become the tree’s crown, this leader needed to be shaped and left alone to grow unrestrained. Today, it’s 1/2-inch in diameter at the base. The original chop is 1.25 inches in diameter. Next year, I’ll angle cut and carve the original chop, cut back the new leader to the axial bud closest to the point roughly three basal diameters along the shoot, and let a new leader grow wild to continue the thickening process. Altogether, it’ll take another two to three years to make the transition look right.
This branch, on the back of the tree, was allowed to grow for a couple of reasons: one, I originally planned to use it in the design of the tree; and two, I wanted to ensure the roots lying below the low chop on this specimen were fed. I’ve decided to remove this branch altogether next year; it’ll probably come off by summer.
Here’s the result after wiring, shaping and trimming. I think this specimen is really shaping up. In 2016, I’ll get secondary shoots on my primary branches which I’ll select, wire and shape. These secondary branches will be well established by the end of the growing season; some may even be pushing tertiary shoots. Regardless, going into the 2017 season the lower part of this tree, meaning everything below the crown, will be developing ramification. That will leave the final chore, namely building the crown. That will take another couple of years.
This riverflat hawthorn is available at our Hawthorn Bonsai sale page, if you’d like to take over its development. The tree will be ready for a bonsai pot as early as next year, but no later than 2017.