I collected this Roughleaf dogwood, Cornus drummondii, earlier this year. This photograph, taken in late January, gives you an idea of the quality of the specimen. It looks even better in person! The tree was a little slow in coming out – this shot from March shows the buds just starting to emerge. Growth was fairly slow well into May, but then it just exploded.
See what I mean? I’ve been planning to dive into this tree for three or four weeks now. Today I had a client in for a workshop, so I took the opportunity to walk through the initial styling of a significant piece of collected material.
This represents the better part of an hours’ work. A lot of extra branches were removed, simplifying the design. Our bonsai are expressions of a tree distilled to its basic elements. Too much does not make for a better bonsai. So in producing this basic branch set I’ve begun the process of making a believable bonsai.
As part of this process I removed the larger of the two leaders on the main trunk, going on the principle of enhancing taper whenever possible. I’ll have additional carving to do in the area where I removed the larger leader this coming spring; for now, I wanted to keep the invasive work in check because this tree will have less vigor going into the depths of summer and I didn’t want to overtax it. When you do this type of work on your trees, always bear in mind the time of year and the characteristics of the species you’re working with. Although Roughleaf dogwood is far more vigorous that its cousin the Flowering dogwood, it does slow down in summer.
You can also see a few principles of designing multi-trunk bonsai illustrated in this specimen. The smaller/shorter tree has foliage that’s lower in the composition than the larger/taller tree. The larger tree does not have any foliage that is crowding the growing space of the smaller tree; if this happens in the wild, the smaller tree does not get enough sunlight to survive. The movement of the trunk of the smaller tree reflects, while not exactly mimicking, the movement of the trunk of the larger tree. This type of composition is usually referred to as father/son or mother/daughter, depending on whether the tree is masculine or feminine. I think this one qualifies as father/son. What do you think?
This tree may be ready for its first bonsai pot next spring. The deciding factor will be how much development vigor is needed in the apex of the larger tree. If this can be done in a bonsai pot, then I’ll certainly take the plunge.