Last year I was working on this Riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca, for a client who had purchased the tree and was anxiously awaiting delivery. I had collected it in 2015, and began its training that same year. The primary work last year was to pot it into a nice handmade container, and I’d selected this Byron Myrick oval for that purpose.

My plans changed over the winter. Though I’d protected the tree very well through the bitter cold, and despite the fact that Riverhaw is very winter-hardy, the tree clearly had suffered a setback as spring came and my other hawthorns were coming out. At first, I was convinced the tree was completely dead. But then I saw a bud on the trunk, then another and another. When all was said and done, I’d lost the apex of the tree as well as essentially all of the branch structure.

Here’s what winter left me with, as of this morning. Surprisingly enough, the trunk is chock full of shoots, and two of the side branches didn’t completely die.

There will come a time when you have to start over with a bonsai. You won’t always know why, as was the case with this one; but regardless, what you make once you can make again.

You will usually start from the bottom when you style your trees. There was no reason not to take that approach with this one. Here I’ve removed the superfluous low branches, and wired and positioned the first two bottom branches. Easy stuff.

See this stub that has two shoots at its base? Both the stub and the shoot on top, pointing straight up, have to go.

A view from the back of the tree. There are three shoots competing for the task of providing the next foliage mass. There’s a short one smack in the middle of the trunk, and one located near the number one right side branch. Both of these need to go.

Like this.

A little more editing, including pruning the two stubs from the prior design, and the last branch and the new leader are wired and positioned. That’s all that needs to be done for today. Obviously I’ll need to chop the trunk back to the new leader, but that can’t happen now. I need the tree to grow freely for the rest of the 2018 growing season. Hopefully it’ll come through next winter all right. Then in 2019 the next phase of the re-development begins.

Let me know what you think about the new beginning for this Riverflat hawthorn bonsai. Have you ever had to start over?