You may remember this yaupon clump, Ilex vomitoria, collected in Winter 2014. I collected the specimen because of its neat root structure. I like clump-style bonsai, provided they’re designed and developed well. In the case of this one, I knew there was a good deal of work ahead of me because the individual trunks had no taper, which is a characteristic of yaupon in the wild.
This photo was taken in March 2015, one full year from bare trunk with nascent buds. I have a lot of nice shoots I’ve allowed to run in order to thicken. This phase of development is all about building taper into the trunk(s) of your bonsai. You do this by chopping the original trunk about 2-3 diameters in length from the ground, if building from the ground up. Once the new leader has run enough and thickened enough at the base, you repeat the process. It’s time-consuming but necessary in order to make your bonsai believable.
Here’s this specimen three and a half months later. Isn’t that an amazing amount of growth! If you look closely you can see how much thicker each of the new leaders has gotten – thick enough for their next chop.
I’ve taken each of the trunks back significantly in this shot. I haven’t cut back quite as drastically as I might have, considering the fact that each new leader is now showing taper (and has movement I wired into it, which I want to preserve). Because of this, I think there’s an opportunity to reduce the amount of time needed to develop this clump by using another technique I’ve written about before. By allowing buds near the base of each trunk to grow wild, thereby thickening the new trunk base, I can continue to build the tapering transition while moving forward with the finer development of each individual tree in this clump. It could save me two or three years easily.
In this final shot, I’ve wired up a new leader for each trunk except the one that had none – it’ll bud where I want it to – and done some carving on each of the original chops to help smooth their transition points. The only additional work I’ll do this year is to wire branching on each trunk as buds develop.
My plan for spring of 2016 is to reduce the size of the root mass on the clump, and possibly even go to a bonsai pot with it. But that decision can wait till next year.
This pre-bonsai is available at our Miscellaneous Bonsai & Pre-Bonsai sale page. I think it’ll be relatively easy to continue building it from here into a fine specimen in just a few years.