Major Re-Styling of a Japanese Larch

I bought this large larch bonsai a number of years ago. At the time and for several years after, it was the most expensive tree I had purchased. I was attracted by the its’ height, the movement in the trunk and the mature canopy of branches. After acquiring it, I embarked on an intensive period of study into the elements of good bonsai design. It wasn’t long before I began to see many faults in this tree that I hadn’t noticed before.

There is a slight nebari at the base of the trunk with some thick surface roots radiating outward on the top of the soil. This is one of the best features of the tree but when  viewed beneath such a tall trunk it looks insignificant. While the trunk has movement, it has a very poor taper; the central section is quite straight and bears the healed over scar of a previous owners attempt at carving. The branches, particularly on the apex, have become very thick and inflexible. This is a common problem with larches; you have to keep renewing the branches throughout the trees’ life to maintain their delicate proportion, Failure to do this will eventually result in a tree that has a winter image resembling a tightly pruned garden shrub. When I became aware of these faults, they were all that I saw when I looked at the tree. Something had to be done.


Last year I took the drastic action of chopping the top off this tree to start it again


During the summer I carried out some basic carving to take the stump back to the lowest branch



The single remaining branch was allowed to grow freely throughout the year and by the end of the season there was a lot of new growth to work with,


Today I finally found the time to complete the first styling in its new form. This is how it looks at the moment.


Now I think I have something I can live with and enjoy for some years to come.


9 thoughts on “Major Re-Styling of a Japanese Larch

  1. Thanks for sharing. It takes a brave man to do that! Was airlayering the trunk not an option? Look forward to its progress as all your trees. Bryan

    • Air layering is always an option Steve but it takes time, several years sometime, in the case of larch. I have plenty of larch trees in my collection and don’t really need any more, that’s why I decided to chop it

  2. Quite a transformation!
    In my experience larches resist making a good nebari. do you know of any with good ones? I’d appreciate a link or two. Thanks!

    • Sorry about the delay in getting back to you my friend, I failed to notice your comment. The best way to develop the nebari on a larch is to grow it over a stone or piece of slate, preferably in the ground for a few years. They resond well to this technique. If you look on the “some of my trees” page in the gallery section of my blog, there are a few nice ones there

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