Another Cotoneaster Air Layer

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.

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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.

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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.



Acer Shiraswanum air layer goes into its first bonsai pot

I started this air layer in 2015 to try and improve the nebari on this acer shiraswanum that had been growing in my garden for a number of years. The first picture shows the old root base and the position of the layer further up the trunk.


I severed the layer in April 2016 and placed the tree in a large plastic pot for 2 years to let the new roots develop. I removed the tree from the pot this morning to find that it had filled the container with fine roots in just 2 seasons.



It took quite a lot of effort to comb out and shorten the new roots and to cut back the remains of the stump beneath the roots. This is how it looked after this work was completed.


Here it is now in its now in its new pot.It’s now ready to begin the long journey that will transform it into a bonsai.




Separating a Cotoneaster Air Layer

Today I separated an air layer on cotoneaster, which I started last year.


I decided to air layer this tree because the lower trunk was quite straight and lacked taper and movement


Some of the new roots had grown down into the soil.


This how it looked after separation


In the next picture, the moss has been removed from the air layer and its ready for replanting. Hopefully the stump will sprout new shoots and I will have two trees to work on in the future.


Replanted in a bonsai pot and ready for the growing season. I will start feeding it in a few weeks time to promote new growth and I’ll probably remove the remaining thicker branches at the end of the season.


Unfortunately the larch which was started at the same time did not come through the winter, so I will have to try again with this species when I get some more suitable raw material.


Working on Air Layers

I have spent some time this week working on trees that were either air layered in the recent years or required to be air layered to improve he trunk line or the nebari.


I have had mixed success with this procedure in the past. Most of my failures were due to poor technique, a lack of experience or my own impatience. I have decided that this year I will attempt  a lot of air layers to improve my technique and increase my knowledge and experience on a wider range of species.

This little hawthorn, which didn’t have many roots when it was separated last year is looking very strong at the moment. Planting it deep in a clay training pot appears to have paid off with lots of new top growth. I will leave it in this pot for another year and take a look at the roots again next year. The post covering the separation can be viewed here .


The first to get my attention this year is this Japanese larch. When I was styling this tree over the winter, it struck me that the top could make a nice semi-cascade if the straight lower trunk could be removed. Larch are reputed to be difficult to air layer but not impossible. This is good material to experiment with. If I do nothing to this tree, it will probably never make a good bonsai but success with the air layer could improve its’ potential immensely.


In the next picture a ring of bark has been removed at the point where I would like the new roots to grow.


In the next picture, the wound is covered by a thick layer of sphagnum moss, which is held in place with bubble wrap and aluminium wire.


The next one to receive my attention was this little cotoneaster. It has similar problems to the larch. The lower trunk is very straight and has no taper. Air layering this tree could provide me with 2 better pieces of material to work on in the future.


And finally, for today, I thought I would give you an update on an air layer started last year and separated from the old rootstock today. It’s an Acer Shirasawanum Aurem. This is how it looked in the late summer of last year. It went into autumn colour very early and it was suggested that this might be related to the fact that it had air layering work done on it earlier in the year.45

It had produced roots by last autumn but I decided to wait until this spring before separating it.

This is how the new roots are looking at the moment.


It was sawn off just below the new rootball and tied into a deep pot without further disturbance of the roots. The rootball was covered in a loose mix of clay particles, ezo grit and akadama.


I gave it a good watering and it will be kept in a shaded corner of the greenhouse until it’s in full leaf.




Air Layered Shohin Hawthorn

The new seasons buds are beginning to swell on this shohin hawthorn, which I pruned and partially wired today.


It started life as a shohin bonsai in 2011, when it was chopped back from a taller tree. The next picture was taken in the summer of 2011 shortly after this work had begun.


In 2012 it was transplanted into a plastic training pot. It was then I realised that it had quite an unattractive root base.


In the summer 2013, I decided to air layer it to try and improve the nebari.


Although the top of the layer had calloused well, new roots were slow to form. In the spring of 2015, I removed the split pot to see what was there. The roots that had formed were quite disappointing and mainly on one side of the trunk. I decided to cut it off anyway and planted it deep in a clay training pot.


It has been in this pot for almost a year now and although growth at the start of 2015 was slow and weak, by the end of the season it was looking much stronger. I will leave it for another season in the clay pot to stimulate more root growth and transfer it next season into a flat pot to develop the nebari.