You probably remember this water oak, Quercus nigra, which I first posted last month. I had collected it in Winter 2014 and just let it grow out. As you can see in this first photo, it doesn’t look like much.
Developing raw stock in the form of “stumps” for bonsai requires a couple of things: one, patience – you’ve got a lot of work and usually a lot of time ahead of you in order to make something out of the subject; and two, the ability to see an entire tree in the stump (this gets easier with time and practice). So here’s a stump that grew out pretty nicely, but really doesn’t look like anything bonsai-related.
I posted this photo last month to show how an ugly grown-out stump can start to look like something. Granted, there’s just a new leader cut to a smaller leader, which has been wired up to develop the next part of the ultimate trunk of the tree. But this is exactly how the process works.
Here’s the tree a month later, with nice new shoots growing out in an attempt to replace all that mass that I removed earlier. This is an important principle to keep in mind when you’re developing stock: your trees strive for balance between root and above-ground growth. In the first photo above, the tree is in balance as it’s grown out from a bare stump with minimal large roots. This growth goes in stages, first shoots then roots then shoots then roots. In the second photo above, I cut off over 90% of the foliage mass. So what’s the tree going to do? You guessed it: try to replace everything I cut off.
Here’s the tree almost another month later. It’s definitely intent on regrowing everything I cut off! So I took the opportunity and wired some branches before they got too stiff. I plan to trim them back before too long, but I’m going to let the leader run in order to continue thickening the transition between it and the original chop point. By the end of this growing season it’s going to be less noticeable. By the end of next growing season, I’ll likely have the transition looking very smooth and believable.
The trunk base on this specimen is 2″, and it measures 24″ to the tip of the new leader. I think it’ll make a great oak bonsai roughly 16-18″ tall.
If you’d like to take over training this specimen, it’s now available at our Miscellaneous Bonsai page.