Fall in the Deep South is an iffy affair. When we do get fall, it typically comes and goes in short order. This year we actually got perfect conditions for a nice season of color, a lengthy drought that ended around Thanksgiving. In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen our trees in the landscape produce nice yellows, reds and purples. Then the rains came, and those colorful leaves have been falling quickly. The gray, somber winter is just about upon us.

For the bonsai artist who loves deciduous trees, winter is actually a good time of year. The well-ramified trees get to show off their development. Those trees still in development get to show off where they are in the process, plus what they still lack. All in all, I love deciduous bonsai in winter. Here are a couple of nice examples.

This is my Riverflat hawthorn, Crataegus opaca, that I’ve been working on for five years now. You can see the state of ramification this tree has achieved. The final step in developing this bonsai is going to occur in the crown, which has come along very well over the past couple of years. I’m confident that by the end of the 2017 growing season, this tree will be “finished.”






This Sweetgum forest, Liquidambar styraciflua, was put together in 2015. In just two growing seasons, it’s reached a pretty nice stage of development. With the leaves just about off all of the trees, it’s much easier to see the state of development of the individual trees. This is important to any forest composition. While it might seem easiest to grow a forest as simply a mass of foliage, this will never fly with deciduous species. Winter will always rat you out. So today I was able to get “inside” the forest and do some strategic pruning. Each of the trees in this forest has its own structure, which I’m developing over time. It’s only going to take one more growing season to get this forest to the point where constant pinching will finish the development.

I’d love to hear of any experiences you might want to share with regard to your deciduous bonsai in winter. Just leave a comment below.