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
My 2 shohin Chojubai are putting on a good display at the moment.
This is how they looked in 2014, when I acquired them.
This little yew was imported into the UK in 2013 and I acquired it a year later in 2014. Growth in that year was very poor and I was concerned that there was a problem with the roots or the soil
In 2015 I took it out of the pot shown in the previous picture to discover that much of the original root system had died. I immediately re-potted it into a good soil mix and slowly introduced the fertiliser to bring it back to health. The next picture shows the tree at the time of the re-pot.
A year later in April 2016, when the next picture was taken, it still hadn’t put on much new growth but there were new buds forming. For the first 2 years that I owned this tree, I thought the side shown in the first 2 pictures would be the front of the tree, but after 2 years of studying it, I eventually opted for the other side as shown in the next picture.
3 months later in July of 2016 it had an explosion of new strong growth It was now ready for a first styling.
The tree was pruned and wired and a jin and shari were created
Over the 3 years that have elapsed since the first styling, I have continued to develop the ramification. I have also done additional work of the shari, jin and live veins. I wasn’t entirely happy with the planting angle in the pot. The top of the tree was leaning away from the viewing position at the front and the dramatic jin was not showing its’ best side. At re-potting time this year I was able to correct these faults. This is how the tree looks at the moment.
In April 2013, an old friend in my village who heard I had a passion for small trees gave me this tiny common juniper seedling, which he had collected while walking in the hills. It was bare rooted, when he gave it to me and I wasn’t sure that it would survive but I potted it into a 4 inch pot in a mixture of akadama and moler clay and watered it every day
To my surprise, not only did it survive but it thrived and by 2016 it was beginning to look like a solid little tree. The next picture shows how it looked at that time in a 6 inch clay pot.
In the spring of 2016, the root system had filled the pot in the previous picture, so it was potted up again into a larger one.
It continued to grow strongly and by 2018 it was ready for some work. With a plan begining to form in my head I cut back the lower branches and wired some movement into the main trunk. The next picture shows how it looked after this work.
A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to put the plan into action and start this little tree off on the road to becoming a future shohin bonsai. The foliage and bark was striped from the upper part of the trunk and the newly formed deadwood was wired to hold it in its final position until the wood dries out.
The remaining foliage was thined and wired and a few weeks later the roots were cut back to fit it into a suitable shohin sized pot. This is how the tree looks at the moment. It will need a lot of care and attention in the coming weeks to ensure the remaining roots don’t dry out.
With an increase in the daytime temperatures some of my small trees are beginning to wake up from their winter sleep Her are some pictures of the ones that have been re-potted this year.
Acer Palmatum Deshogo shohin
Chojubai Quince shohin
Old Yamadori Hawthorn in a new Ian Baillie pot
2 more homegrown shohin Hawthorns
2 shohin trident maples. Both these trees suffered a bit last year, each losing a good lower branch due to the long cold winter but they are looking much stronger this year.
My 2 Zelkovas are usually the last of my trees to leaf out. the buds are swelling at the moment but it will be a few weeks before the new leaves return.
And finally today, this isn’t new spring growth but I couldn’t resist showing it anyway. One of my cotoneasters still looking great with a good crop of last years berries still intact.
The autumn colour is over now, for this year, but here are some pictures, which show the best of it in recent weeks.
This Zelcova Serrata never disappoints me
Here are some hawthorns which have performed well this year.
2 maples in development.
My large Japanese beech is starting to look good.
The cotoneaster landscape.
and finally my favourite larch
One of my favourite species for bonsai, they bring joy to my heart in summer when they flower and again in autumn and winter when they are covered in red berries. Here are a few of my favourites at the moment
I’ve been developing this one for 6 years and I have never seen it look better that it looked this week
This is a reminder of how it looked at the start of its’ journey in 2012
The next 2 were made from 1 piece of raw material. This is how they look at the moment.
This is the original material in 2011
Here they are shortly after separation
This is the other one slightly earlier in 2012
Finally today, this is a new piece of raw material, that I acquired last year from a Spanish trader. I will air layer the top off and I should get 2 nice shohin cotoneasters out of this.
After one of the longest Winters in recent memory and a very poor start to the Spring some of my small trees have had difficulty in getting started this year. A few deciduous trees like maples and elms have suffered some dieback, while others have been very slow to leaf out.
Here are some recent pictures of some of my shohin trees that are looking good at the moment.
2 shohin white pines
5 shohin hawthorns
Potentilla in flower
Here are some that haven’t done so well. Incidentally, all the pictures in todays’ post were taken this morning 27/5/18.
This is a cork barked elm that was severely cut back and had its roots reduced in April. There is no dieback on this tree but its taking an awfully long time to leaf out.
This Chinese elm, also re-potted in April isn’t looking good, most of the new growth is coming off the main trunk.
This trident appears to have lost a lower branch.
This one belonging to my friend Gerry is in a very poor state at the moment.
Its not all bad. At least all of these trees are still alive and with care and attention they will look good again.