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Acer Campestre and Robinia – End of season 2017

Acer Campestre and Robinia – End of season 2017

I continue my journey of fall pruning with other two species besides Carpinus and Fagus trees, presented in the previous post. The time came to prune my Acer Campestre, or field maple and Robinia yamadori, all collected in spring 2017. These trees grew all year round quite well hopefully accumulating enough energy to push hard in 2018. This year I let them do their think and go as wild as they desired, being the first year after collection. As they went dormant, it is about time to prune them back hard, to start their structural design.

The first Field Maple pruned is in the images below, before and after pruning with an additional bird’s eye view to see the final canopy structure. It created many buds with very short internodes, and I hope that it will behave the same next year as well. As seen in the first image, all the branches grew strait, with no movement and a too high density of buds emerging from the same node. If not pruned, these buds will swell in spring and they will create in the branches thick nodes at their base. So, I considered important to start all over the entire structure, up to an extent of thick branches.

I cleared mostly the density of chaotic buds existing all over some branches by pruning back to old wood. Doing so, in 2018, as soon as they will start leafing out, I will wait till the new branches reach maturity and apply guide wires to give movement and place the new branches in the positions that I feel like it advantages canopy design.

In a bird’s eye view, one can see that the overall architecture of the new canopy is structurally in equilibrium around the tree, giving in the same time layers of the future growth.

Another maple that I pruned has a nice trunk that I liked from its beginnings but all the side branches were too strait with very long internodes. I gave it a lot of time to figure out what is the best way to obtain a nice canopy in the shortest period of time, but the only solution I found suitable was to prune back nearly all the branches to the main trunk and practically start from scratch the entire tree. Such operations, push back 3 to 4 years of development, but at least gives you the opportunity to renounce creating a bonsai on compromises.

So I did, I cut back drastically to the trunk. I left only some thin branches that I will take advantage of when creating the new canopy. I hope however that pruning so hard back will push out new buds and I will be careful in the spring, to leave only those to develop that are in the right positions. The rest of them, will be all removed as soon as they will be visible on the tree.

In the top view of the tree it can be seen that not much of the original structure remained. Also, when collecting this yamadori, it had a strange one-sided growing root system and this is the reason why it is placed in the contained so off center. I will repot the tree in 2019 Spring and then I will start removing from the length of the long one-sided root, trying to center the tree in the pot.

The second species that I pruned is the Robinia yamadori from my collection. This species in particular is quite tolerant to human intervention, responds well to pruning and to repotting. I let it grow wild all season to ensure a good root system in the pot as I have a special plan with this tree.

I pruned the right sided stubs and worked the cut to shape it close to a natural wound. I did not apply any healing paste to it because I want to let it dry out and die back at the surface. When pruning, I left on the tree only those branches that are in right position for the new canopy and in Spring 2018 I will change the angle of the trunk as exemplified in the picture below. For this I can do 2 things: either I do a parallel to the ground cut of the plastic container in this angle, either I repot the tree. If I will repot it, I will not remove all the soil, but I will remove only from the bottom and the top to be able to give it the proper angle, then I will move it back probably in a more flat container.

Another Robonia yamadori collected in Spring 2017 has a multi-trunk structure and had a quite vigorous growth this season. Only in one season, I think that its ceramic container is already full of roots as I had to cut many of them from the tray below the tree, spread out via the drainage holes.

During 2017, one of the trunks died and I was somehow glad it happened because this was facing directly the viewer from the considered front of the tree. I cut it back to an extent to leave a stub that I worked to look like a natural branch that broke. I also burned the wood and I am sure that in a few months especially after rain next year will age the stub it will look very natural. I tried to prune the tree in order to reach different layers and cut off all the branches that were growing directly to the inside of the canopy

In a top view of the tree, the three remaining trunks are very nicely distributed, somehow in an angle of 120 degrees, rounding upt the entire structure and advantaging it’s front view.

What I love most about Robinia species is that even small trees have this aged bark and even wounds or dead wood becomes fantastic when weather conditions influence their aspect in time. One important thing I would mention about Robinia is that they love direct sun and require a lot of water. During growing season, they can consume the water from the container on less than one day comparative to the other species that stay mois for 3 to 4 days.

Fagus sylvatica – End of season 2017

Fagus sylvatica – End of season 2017

In the previous post I presented the process of pruning my Carpinus shohin collection. To continue I chose to prune my Fagus Sylvastica trees. All of these were collected from the wild in Spring 2017. As seen in the Yamadori progression – spring to fall 2017 post, all these had a quite vigorous growth this year and all reached Autumn stabilized in their containers. When I collected these trees, I pruned them just enough to decrease their size, but I left on their branches as many buds as possible. Doing so, I wanted to make sure that when these buds will swell and open, the new leaves will promote new root growth in the pots to replace those lost during collection. Now, after a good growth season, it is time to start pruning hard to create the desired shape by going back closer to the trunk and the thick branches.

When pruning Fagus, or popularly called Beech, it is important to leave on the branch at least one bud to make sure that the branch will not die back. I was lucky with these trees, because even if small, there are many back buds on the thicker branches, so I was able to prune hard the trees.

The first tree had a very dense canopy with many buds on the new branches but too far from the thick wood. Also another problem was that at the point where the main trunk divides into two, in fact it divided into three. So, I pruned it back drastically and I created in fact two levels, one upper one that will be the new apex of the tree, and a lower one that will ensure an equilibrium over the entire structure. In a bird’s eye view it can be seen that the tree has an even distribution of the remaining branches. On their bark there are small buds that will give me next year a startup for a completely new ramification system.

A second Beech yamadori with more or less the same characteristics as the previous one needed a hard pruning to go back closer to the trunk and the thick branches. I simplified a lot its canopy and at the moment it is not so impressive as it was just before pruning. However, I will now be able to guide with wire the new growth from next year on, and by this I will take over the control of the canopy’s shape. Many times, it is needed to give up on a apparently nice design to reach a certain desired one.

The last Beech yamadori that I collected in the Spring had an up informal character or close to broom shape. The trunk-line has a semicircle shape and in my vision, I was thinking to mix the up informal character with the trunk shape, continuing it on one branch that needed to be moved in a proper position. The issue was that the branch was quite thick. Fagus wood is very hard to bent when it is thick and especially when it is dormant like it is already. Using thick wire around it is not a solution. However, I wound around this branch thick wire, but not no bent it with this wire, but to distribute the bending force evenly over the branch’s length. The bending itself was done by a pull-down wire hooked to the tip of the branch. Comparing the before and after pictures, one can see the huge displacement of the branch. If I would not apply that thick wire to distribute the bending force from the tip of the branch, I am absolutely positive that the branch would break. Doing so, I was able to displace it in a wide angle and it was a safe operation.

I kept however the general broom aspect of the branches in the canopy because I want to create the illusion of an umbrella shape apex of the tree.


Carpinus pruning – End of season 2017

Carpinus pruning – End of season 2017

As autumn is now already here for some time now, the leaves of my carpinus shohin trees got brown marking the end of this season and telling me that they went dormant till spring. Because I like to take my time when I prune my trees, I start pruning them from autumn gaining also space inside my cold shelter where I house the trees till temperatures are above freezing in spring.

Methodically I started this year with my smallest trees. These were all collected in March 2017. One season growth already established the trees in the pots and also gave me quite impressive elongation of the thin branches.

The tools that I use are classical bonsai pruners such as concave, knob, scissors and classical garden pruning scissors for very thick branches.

The first tree that I pruned is a multiple trunk with a very nice taper. This tree was extremely vigorous this year and it was mandatory to prune it in the summer too, even if this a habit that should be avoided in the first year after collecting from the wild. In the first picture is the tree before pruning and the next ones are after pruning, a front and bird’s eye view.

The real shohin carpinus trees that I have are quite small, they have a height of about 12-15cm and a diameter after pruning of about 20cm.

The next tree is my favorite one. I found it close to a field that often was visited by sheep and I thing its size is given by these continuously eating its new fresh growth year after year.I had to use thick wire to move thick branches into their final position. It was very challenging because carpinus wood is very hard to bent and I ha to put a lot of effort into it. But finally the branches reached their right position.

The last carpinus shogin is the smallest of all. I pruned it back quite hard to try and create dense ramification close to the main trunk. Hope that next year it will bud back on the remaining branches as expected.


I apply to all the cut wounds healing and callusing paste by this ensuring that water with diseases will not enter in the cut places and also this will increase the callusing process.

Ficus Benjamina Variegata – one season stilling

Ficus Benjamina Variegata – one season stilling

In January 2016 I bough from a supermarket a Ficus Benjamina Variegata that looked more like a bush at that moment. The choice was based on its multiple trunks and the final idea was to fuse them into one think trunk. I took good care of it, keeping it over the winter on a sunny window sill, fertilize it every second week, never prune it and let it elongate as wild as it felt to do so. By late Spring 2016 it grew quite a lot and probably doubled its height. I considered it is time to start working on it, motivated also by the ambient temperatures that were already increasing. Longer days with an abundance of sunlight were at my disposal now, so I had all the necessary ingredients to start the process of fusing the trunks.

Preliminary I pruned back the Ficus, and removed closely all the leaves from the branches.At that time I did not have at my disposal natural raffia so I used instead of it used hemp cord. As you can see in the picture below, after finalizing  pruning and warping the tree. Using hemp cord proved to be a bad idea. At the lower side of the trunks, due to higher humidity as the cord is close to the soil, this rotted fast. Even this was no problem, but it promoted rotting of the trunks.

By early spring 2017, only one trunk remained. The rest of the rotted away and I removed them as deep as possible from the soil. One interesting thing is that one trunk fused to this remaining one. Its base rotted and now it is still there sicked to the main trunk. Details about this are depicted later in this post, just roll it down.

I was not too satisfied with the progression of the tree over an entire year. In early summer 2017 the tree looked more like a stick with some branches and leaves here and there. Far away from any of the initial ideas that I had with this tree. I knew at the moment what I had to do in order to thicken the main trunk and the side branches. I had to place the tree outside and expose it to continuously changing weather conditions such as rain, wind, sunshine, warm and colder rays. Especially wind, because it moves the trunk and the branches helps a lot in a fast thickening of the wood as it tries to repose to bending.

I wired with copper wire the branches into the desired positions and covered the soil with natural fertilizer and then with moss to make sure that humidity is kept constant when keeping the tree in full sun. This process started in May 2017. The tree was watered every other day, excepting rainy days when it was not necessary.

Wiring the branches into their correct position gave a nice distribution of the leaves both to ensure forming levels of branches with leaves and also making sure that sunlight penetrates and reaches the trunk and the leaves from all sides. A top view of the tree proves this. Too long branches were pruned to keep a nice harmonic overall shape of the tree.

Thicker branches required doubling the wire to make sure that those will stay in the desired position. In the picture below one can observe that the top branches were bent to form lateral pads. To create the force and the tension in the wire required to bend them and to make sure that aggressive windy days will not move the branches in other position, doubling the wire has to start from the trunk creating few spirals around it and only after that to be wired around a specific branch.

As expected, by early fall (September 2017) the tree had a serious evolution. The trunk and the branches thickened a lot. The base of the trunk actually doubled its diameter. As it can be seen in the picture below, the process was so aggressive that the wires cut inside the wood, in some regions of the tree they were so deep that the actual bark of the tree was maybe 1mm higher than the wire. I know, the wires should have been removed much earlier to avoid scars in the bark. My experience with Ficus species proved that such scars are many times advantageous.

On Ficus species, such scars will heal in less than 6 months completely. The nice thing when healing is that on the surface of the bark a texture remains uneven due to those former scars and this by all means adds to the value of the tree and proves to compensate the simple bark present of Ficus species. So, to be honest, I left intentionally the wire there to bite in and create those scars. I always do so!

I was writing earlier about the fusion of a former complete trunk with the main trunk of the tree. In the picture below one can see where the old trunk was cut of as it was dead and rotting. It is fused to the main trunk, it has branches and leaves and lives very well. Even more, when I wrapped it for the first time with hemp cord, I passed between the two trunks a branch and now it is growing from that fusion point, as it can be seen in the picture below.

As the temperatures outside are quite low now, the tree was moved inside. I have removed all the wires of the tree in order to start the healing of the scars. However, branches that still were not in the desired position were rewired making sure the new wire is not inside the scars created by the former wires that held the branch through Summer. In the picture below, the pads formed are already visible on the Ficus tree. Of course there is much more work to do, but comparing the overall design of the tree now, with the moment at the beginning of Summer, one can say that a big step forward was made.

From the roots there are two new trunks that I intend to use to create a new lower level of the tree. I wired these too into the right position and trimmed some of the branches that were growing strait up. All that it remains now is to winter the tree inside, keep it warm, in sunny  window sill and fertilize it with liquid fertilizer every two weeks. In 2018 I will move again the tree outside and repeat the experience from this year. Doing this, I think that in 2 or 3 years I will have a quite nice tree ready to be called bonsai by all means.

Yamadori progression – spring to fall 2017

Yamadori progression – spring to fall 2017

In spring 2017 I collected an abundance of species from the surrounding of Cluj Napoca. Nearly all the collected material survived and some of them grew quite vigorously through the 2017 season.  I have lost an Oak, one Carpinus and one Field Maple. The remaining ones suffered some sunburn in mid August due to extremely high temperatures.

In the pictures below there is a huge Carpinus that I have found on a top of a rocky hill. After pruning it back heavily I was amazed by the structure of the tree. That was the moment when I decided that even if it is a big stub, I have to take it home, against my habit of orienting my developments in the region of shohin style. The pictures were taken just few minutes before starting to dig around it. Collecting the tree was a very time and effort consuming job to save as much root-ball as possible.

After potting the tree, it bud out quite slow. However, after it did, I applied a light dosage of fertilizer and it started to grow extremely fast and vigorously. The picture below was taken few days ago (October 2017). The tree was left to grow wild for the entire year to stabilize a new root-ball. It did and I know that because the drainage tray under it, in mid summer, was already full of feeder roots. I cut them back to motivate the tree to replace those with new ones inside the plastic pot that was placed into.

Another Carpinus collected in Spring 2017 is in the pictures below. This tree proved to be the most vigorous tree of all. Immediately after collecting and potting it, it started growing very vigorously. By end of spring, it had shoots with 5-10 leaves. Only because I realized that the tree is strong, I pushed the limits and pruned back the new shoots to two leaves. Normally, in the first year it is not recommended to do so because the tree needs the leaves to create sugars and carbohydrates to grow new roots and to prepare for winter dormancy. However, I new that this tree will be able to take a new pruning. It did, and now, in fall, it has new growth that is more than enough to prepare the tree for dormancy.

Still in the Carpinus Yamadori universe, I collected in Spring a shohin tree that was already “styled” by the sheep that feed with its leaves year after year. It has a nice short and quite thick trunk, movement in the branches and a dense ramification from thick to thin to thinnest. It grew very nicely over the spring and summer. In August however, it suffered sun burn, still visible in the last pictures. At that moment I thought that only the Sun was responsible for the burn. I know now as a fact that I had 50% of the quilt because I did not reduce the fertilizer quantity in the hot days. This made impossible the uptake of sufficient water by the roots to serve the transpiration at the leaves surface.

Still in Spring 2017, I collected two Fagus (Beech) Yamadori. Both are in the range of shohin stye with nice movement in the trunks and quite dense ramification. One of them (visible in the last picture) has a tendency of reverse taper. This did not stopped me to collect it. The plan is to work on the ramification of the tree for the next one or two years. In this time the tree will stabilize well in the pot and I will perform an airlayering in the area where the reverse taper stars. Using a thick copper wire around the cutting performed for the airlayer, I will promote a nice nebari that will complete the structure of the tree.

I am a fan of Acacia bonsai. I just love the trunks of Acacia trees how they look extremely aged due to the rugged bark. I collected a tree and potted it in a taller container as it had quite long thick roots. From the original structure (first picture) I had a die back of of one branch, and somehow I lost half of the canopy. At the moment I was disappointed. The problem was solved one evening when I tilted the tree and saw a new very nice angle that I was getting in this new position. So, when I will repot the tree, I will fix the new angle by the tree’s new position in shallow pot. I will probably repot this tree in the spring of 2019. The deadwood on the lower side of the trunk comes in addition to the tree’s overall value.

Walking the woods, I found a very nice Fern (Asplenium trichomanes) with small leaves. It already grows now for two years in this pot. I collected it with soil from around it, taking even some rocks and rotting leaves with this soil. It seems to be liking it in this pot. I keep the fern out of direct sunlight and I give it once in a while liquid fertilizer.

Starting spring I will continue such series with progression of these trees and also others that were not included in this post. Pruning, wiring, carving and repotting stories will continue the one I have started today.

Keep close!