I’ve been growing this little Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, for three or four years now. The trunk was pretty straight, so I figured it would work better as a broom-form tree and chopped most of the trunk off. There were a couple of shoots growing close to one another on the trunk down low, so that made the decision a lot easier. Here’s what the tree looked like today.


If you study deciduous trees in the wild, they often split into two leaders at some point up the trunk. Those two new leaders split into two more each, and so on. This is often how a tree often its best effort to gather the maximum sunshine where it’s growing. By the right placement of branches, the right placement of foliage is assured. The tree survives and prospers.

In this case I’ve removed all but two of the leaders, and wired and positioned them. Each has been trimmed back but deliberately left longer than they’ll ultimately end up. This will help them thicken up. In time they’ll be cut back to the right length, with two leaders each. And I’ll repeat the process.


This tree can be developed in a bonsai pot, so I went ahead and put this nice Chuck Iker round to use. The pot color complements the light green foliage color of the Sweetgum very well.

There’s not much to this bonsai-to-be; not yet, anyway. But they all have to start somewhere. I’ll post updates as this one develops.


A few weeks ago I introduced you to this very nice Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum. I knew when I spotted it in the wild that it was going to make a tremendous flat-top specimen. It finally had grown enough that I was able to wire up the initial branches and apical leaders. Not much to this one either, is there?


A few weeks later, here we are! Compare the growth that’s now on the tree. Now, this is wonderful but if I don’t start controlling it now I’m going to have branches and especially those apical leaders getting out of hand. This is because these branches are the only growth I’m allowing on the tree. I have to remove trunk buds every few days. Doing that forces the energy into the only foliage left.


The changes are subtle but just what’s needed at this time. Compare the two photos and you’ll see what I’ve done. The downward pointing growth is gone, of course, but I’ve also taken out the strong growing tips of every branch. I’ll still get thickening of these branches, but at the right pace. In the meantime, as this growth hardens off I’ll be able to wire out the sub-branching as it develops.

What do you think of my work so far? Leave me a comment below.