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Updates are in date order beginning with the first date Zach began documenting the progression.


This Sweetgum had been field-grown for roughly five years when I lifted it. The field-growing process included multiple occasions when the tree was chopped to build movement and taper.


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By the fall, the tree had produced lots of shoots that I could select for branches. Fall is a good time to do initial styling on deciduous trees.


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Here’s the tree after its initial styling. I’ve got a long way to go, obviously, but this is how every bonsai gets its start.


I think I like this view best for the front. Both trunks are the same thickness, so there’s no rule to follow in regard to having the smaller trunk subordinate to the larger trunk, meaning behind it. In situations like these, you find the best configuration of equal trunks.


The tree has grown well this year, and it’s ready for a bonsai pot. But where’s the front?


The tree was potted in this lovely Lary Howard oval in late May. Notice how I adjusted the planting angle; this adds drama and makes a huge difference in the appearance of the tree.

Following a short pause, the growth has resumed and is very healthy. I’ll make additional headway this year in the tree’s development. It’s still a few years away from taking on the maturity of a show-ready bonsai.


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The leaves are just about off the tree. The branches have done what they wanted to do since I removed the wire some weeks ago.

Maybe this is actually the front? I like this front, so we’ll see.


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This is a good time to wire deciduous trees. It’s very easy to see all of the branch structure, and you don’t have to work your way through a tangle of foliage.

I’ve left the branches long on purpose. Each has a terminal bud at its end, and I’ve found that removing them in winter often leads to dieback of the branch. Probably due to auxin withdrawal.

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