European Hornbeam/Carpinus betulus Shohin Bonsai Progression Series

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May 2006. 15 months later and the Hornbeam has progressed well. The new trunk leader was allowed to thicken through 2005 to create taper from the point where it had been chopped. Some building of the new branch structure had also begun. Comparing this image with the one from February 2005, it is easy to see why chopping a trunk back to a thinner branch or shoot to increase taper is a useful bonsai technique.

pruned,wired and styled

December 2006. Six months later and the tree has gone dormant and is pruned, wired and styled (this work is often carried out in early Spring in colder climates than the UK). The branches are pruned back hard to thinner secondary branches to encourage branch taper (in the same way that the trunk was pruned back to a thinner branch to encourage trunk taper) and to prompt plenty of new adventitious buds during the following Spring.

enjoyed as a bonsai

July 2007. Earlier in the Spring, the tree was finally planted into a new bonsai pot from Erin Pottery. The trunkbase and root spread are developing well but much of it is still covered by soil while it continues to develop. In future years the tree will be planted higher in the pot to show the full extent of its surface roots and nebari.

In the image above the tree is showing the new fresh leaves that are produced after partial defoliation in late June. The tree is allowed to grow strongly in the first half of the year to help thicken up the branches and to ensure its vigour; at midsummer it is partially defoliated and hard pruned to encourage plenty of new, delicate growth so that the tree can be enjoyed as a bonsai for the remainder of the growing season.

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Carpinus betulus/European Hornbeam Bonsai

November 2007. As soon as the leaves had lost their autumnal yellow colour and had started to fall, I pruned and rewired the branches. With relatively mild Winter temperatures here in the UK (temperatures very rarely drop below -7° or -8°) I find this the perfect time for doing this work on most fully hardy deciduous species but care should be taken in colder climates.

Note that I have purposely kept what some enthusiasts would regard as branches with 'faults'. Building the branch structure of a deciduous bonsai where a single branch emerges from first the left, then the right and then the back of the trunk (all of the way to the apex) is a very simplistic approach to learning to build the branches.

While such a simplistic branch structure is easy to understand and recreate, it also creates a cartoon-like appearance that is not reflective of a real deciduous tree. For this bonsai I have only removed branches that seem out of place and made full use of the rest to fill out the tree's silhouette. Note that the branches have also been purposely wired so that they do not create flat plains of foliage ('foliage clouds') that one might see on a coniferous bonsai.

Final height of the tree 11"/27cm. Trunk diameter above the trunkbase 2"/5cm. Current visible rootspread 5"/12cm.

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