Privet Bonsai Progression Series

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tree after it had been dug up



This tree started life as part of a hedge on the England/Wales border (in Shropshire) that had to be grubbed-up to make way for building work.

This first image shows the tree after it had been dug up and bought to my house in August 2004.

August isn't a good time of the year to dig up trees. However these Privet had their roots wrapped in wet newspaper and were bagged up to keep the roots as moist as possible before being delivered to me.

As can be seen in this first image, the tree had several thick trunks growing from one central trunkbase.

The trunks were all very boring; straight, taperless and without any particular interest. A clump-form bonsai could have been created but my main interest was in the trunkbase. This had previously been below soil level and was a large mass of live and deadwood that had created many interesting hollows and shapes.

Using the previously buried trunkbase as the main part of the bonsai would produce a much more interesting result. To this end I chopped back all of the tall trunks. Having been bare-rooted to remove the old clay ground soil, the tree was planted in a large wood box with 100% inorganic soil to encourage healthy new root growth.



tree the following Spring

April 2005. Here is the same tree the following Spring. To give you an idea of its size, at this stage the stump was 9"/22cm wide and 14" tall.

As the tree was showing plenty of new Spring growth already and had successfully made it through its first winter in a container, I decided to invest some time removing the rotten insides of the largely hollow trunk by carving out all of the soft, pulpy rotten wood and applying some wood hardener to everything that remained.

.hollow trunk

'roughed out' the chopping points with a heavy duty carving bit

And so having cleaned out the rotten wood from the centre of the tree, I also 'roughed out' the chopping points with a heavy duty carving bit. Notice how each of the trunks has had taper carved into it, this taper would be added to over the years by growing out the new shoots that had already appeared.

The centre of the tree was by this time completely hollow and large enough to fit my hand inside.

good soil and heavy feeding

September 2005. The tree had been allowed to grow freely all Summer. As can be seen, a combination of good soil and heavy feeding produced some very strong growth.

My main priority during that period had been to develop the thickness of the new trunk extensions (or trunk lines). Branches would be developed later.

virtual design shows the bonsai

From the onset I had had a design for this tree in my mind; this virtual design drawn in 2005 shows the bonsai I wanted to create. Rather than treat the stump as a single bonsai and grow one large mass of foliage, I wanted to create an abstract group of trees (meaning that the group would not be 'natural-looking') on top of a twisted and tortured 'landscape'; with the landscape being the stump itself. This way the focus would be on the natural hollows, the deadwood and the carving.

Vic Harris at Erin Pottery

HR Giger pot

Bearing in mind the virtual design I was working towards, I discussed with Vic Harris at Erin Pottery about building an abstract, un-natural pot to go with this unnatural-looking tree. I asked Vic to build something reminiscent of the artist HR Giger. Giger is well-known for his wild bio-mechanics imagery (the mixture of mechanics and organic material) and most famously for designing the Aliens and Aliens film scenery.

the tree was planted into its new pot

March 2006; the tree was planted into its new pot and pruned back hard. Referring to my virtual design you can see that by this point I had removed everything except the 5 'trunks' that were required for my proposed final image.

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