If you grow bonsai for any length of time, it’s almost a given that you will be compelled to re-design some of them along the way. Stuff just happens to our bonsai. Maybe a storm comes through and something large falls and breaks off a branch. Maybe insects do some damage. Maybe dieback happens. You just never know.

This Mayhaw, Crataegus aestivalus, was collected sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe and I’ve been working on it since. One of the techniques I had to use in creating the design was thread-grafting that first left-hand branch. The thread-graft took about four years to get established, at which time I removed the entry connection. So my design was established. But there was more to this tree than met the eye.

When I collected the tree, I was able to chop off the main, straight trunkline of the tree to a smaller sub-trunk that provided me with the taper I needed. This is a common way to start off a collected tree. Unfortunately, the surface root feeding this section of trunk did not recover sufficiently from collection and ultimately died. When that happened, the entire part of the trunk fed by that root dies as well. In this 2016 photo you can already see the effects of this event. The entire front section of the trunk, up to the original chop, is dead.

That’s where re-design comes in. I’ve been watching this tree for the past couple of years as the dead wood of the trunk dried out. And now was the time to take action. I first used knob cutters to take out all of the really punky wood – and there was a lot of it! Then I fired up the Dremel, and in relatively short order had found my way down to the more solid interior wood. The work went surprisingly fast. Then I treated the carved area with lime sulfur, which should prevent further attack by nasties.

To finish up the day’s work, I top-dressed with soil and added fertilizer. Though the tree looks good, it does have some health challenges that need to be addressed. I frankly don’t know how well the tree will do; only time will tell. But it certainly makes a fine illustration of the concept of re-design in our bonsai. Sooner or later, you’ll likely be faced with the same need.

Let me know what you think of this specimen. And just so you know the stats, the trunk base is 4″ (that’s about as big as collected hawthorns come), and it’s 28″ from the soil.