This is an update and expansion of a post first published in 2019
Forsythia is one of my favourite garden shrubs, the yellow glow of their flowers on bare stems in Spring is magnificent. Although they are still quite rare as bonsai, when you do see one in flower you can’t fail to be impressed by them. I had been looking for some suitable material to start one for some time and in 2018 I was able to remove the specimen you see in the following pictures from a friend’s garden.
The next 2 pictures show the tree at the end of its’ first season in a pot. In a single season it had filled this 9 inch pot with strong healthy roots.
In late Winter of 2018/2019, I pruned it back and carried out some basic carving on the trunk. This is how it looked at that time.
In early Spring of 2019, I took it out of the plastic pot, cut back the roots and re-potted it in a clay oval training pot. I removed as much of the roots as I felt I could without killing the tree but it will probably need further root reduction in the future to fit it into its’ final pot. This is how it looked after the re-pot.
A few weeks later when the temperature began to rise, it burst into life and not surprisingly, considering the work that had been done on it, it went straight to leaf without producing any flowers.
Almost exactly a year later in March 2020 it produced 3 flowers before going into leaf
Another year on in March 2021 it produced a few more flowers
This is how it looked this year (March 2022)during the flowering period
Forsythias are quire vigourous and fast growing and need a lot of pruning and root work to maintain there health and shape when grown in a pot. I repotted the tree after flowering this year and the next picture shows how it looks at the moment.
And after a light trim this morning. I will do the main pruning for shape in the Autumn after the leaves have dropped.
Everyone likes a good before and after sequence and this is one of my best. This post plots the journey of one of my shohin hawthorns from the proverbial stick in a pot to a prize winning bonsai in 6 years.
The original material was collected from my garden in 2008. I didnt do much to it, apart from water and feeding until 2012. It was then I decided to chop some of these trees back to develop them as shohin trees. Shohin trees are those between about 5 and 9 inches.
The first picture shows the first chop in 2012. This had the effect of throwing out new buds further down the trunk
2 years later in 2014, I was able to select the new buds I wanted to keep and chop the tree back again to a point just above the new leader and the bottom feature branch.I also did a little power tool carving around the chop mark to make it look more natural. You can see how it looked at this time in the next picture.
One year on in 2015 and the branches are developing nicely. The next 3 pictures show how it looked in February and May of that year.
In 2016 the tree was transplanted into its first ceramic pot. The next three picture were taken in 2016 and 2017 and show how the branches are begining to mature
In the Spring of 2018, it was transplanted again into a stunning Ian Baillie pot and in May it was entered into the Scottish National Show as a key part of my shohin display. My display was awarded best shohin exhibit and best in show that year. 6 years from a stick in a pot to part of an award winning display. The next 2 pictures show how it looked at this time
In the 4 years that have passed since the show, the branches have continued to mature and it is shaping up to be one of my favourite and best trees.The roots were trimmed back in the Spring of this year (2022) and the final picture shows how it looks at the moment
I collected this Scots Pine on land belonging to a friend in 2015. The original tree stood about 2 metres high and I cut it back while still in the ground about 2 years before I collected it. This had the effect of generating a lot of useful back buds lower in the trunk.When I lifted the tree from the ground most of roots were very long and thick and unuseable, there were very few around the base of the trunk. When I got the tree home I planted it in the large pot you can see in the first picture. For the first year after collection it was touch and go whether it would survive or not. I kept it in partial shade and misted it regularly during hot weather. Slowly over many months it began to respond and I could see signs that it was begining to recover from its ordeal. The first 2 pictures show the tree from both sides in 2017 when the tree is growing well.
The things that initially attracted me to this tree were the thick trunk, the good nebari, the amazing bark texture and the movement and taper low down on the trunk
By 2019, its time to repot the tree into a good training pot and a plan is begining to emerge for its future styling. The height of the trunk has been reduced to a point where the taper in the trunk stops and where there is a strong branch to act as a new leader
A bit of serious root work required to allow the tree to sit centrally in the new training pot
This is how it looked when repotted and the new leader was wired into position
A year later in the Spring of 2020 and this tree is ready for its first structural wiring. I took these before pictures but forgot to photograph the tree after it was wired. This was also the time when Covid was on the rise and we were all trying to get used to the concept of lockdown and wondering if we would still be alive at the end of the year..Basically, what I did was to secure some steel bars to the rim of the pot to hold guy wires which pulled the thick branches into position.
The next 2 pictures were taken this week ( Summer 2022) with all the wire removed.Most of the branches have remained in the desired position. The tree will be rewired again later in the season. I am really pleased with the development of this tree in the time I have been working on it and I am convinced it will be a trully great tree in a few years as the ramification matures.
This is a good example of what can be achieved in this hobby with time, patience and very little expenditure. It is an ungrafted acer palmatum with small leaves that I bought in 2012 for £1.00 in an end of season sale at my local Tesco supermarket. The first picture shows the tree in the Spring of 2013. All the old organic growing medium had been removed and it was repotted in a plastic training pot with a mixture of akadama and kiryu.
In 2014, I put the tree into a large pot and fed it with High Nitrogen fertiliser for a couple of seasons. My purpose in doing this was to allow a sacrifice branch to develop low down on thw main trunk inorder to thicken the base of the tree
In 2016, i put it into a small oval pot and started work of developing the branches
In the following years I transfered the tree into a wooden box while the branches continue to develop
In the Spring of this year 2022, I found a new pot by Erin Pottery which suits the tree very well.A project like this is all about the journey we share with the tree, where progress is measured in years and decades.
A few years ago, at one of the Bonsai Europa events I purchased this material from a Spanish trader. It was a field grown cotoneaster with a very thick trunk. A trunk would take decades to become this thick in the Scottish climate; I can only assume that they grow much quicker in the warm Spanish climate.The first 2 pictures show how it looked when I acquired it. They were clearly developed with air layering in mind.
the first thing I had to do was to remove the moisture retaining organic soil and replace it with a more free draining mix of akadama and kiryudama.The next 3 pictures illustrate that process.
I let it grow throughout 2018 to allow it time to get established in the new pot and in 2019 I prepareed to air layer the top off the tree.
I separated the air layer in 2020 but I wasnt entirely happy with the root development on the upper part. It was a bit one sided so I planted it quite deep in the new pot and left and gave it 2 growing seasons before I looked at the roots again. In 2 seasons it had filled this pot with a strong healthy root system.
Both trees were repotted this year and while the branch development still has some way to go their future potential as nice bonsai is now apparent.