I originally collected this old Hawthorn stump in the Spring of 2000 from some old Beech woodland. When I dug it up, it was not possible to collect any fine roots; the tree just had heavy tap roots that grew far into the surrounding dry soil of the woodland floor. Rather than simply give up and throw away the tree as a lost cause, I decided to at least try and revive it.
There was no response from the tree until August of 2000 when it produced half a dozen new buds from the trunk. Knowing that the tree was lacking any useful roots (to sustain the new shoots), I created a plastic tent over the tree and misted regularly to keep up the humidity around the tree so that the new buds wouldn't dry out. By September of that year, the new buds had started to extend into new shoots indicating that new root growth was also occurring.
During its first Winter (of 2000-2001), the tree failed to go dormant. It just stopped growing but retained its leaves.
August 2001: Through 2001 and 2002, the tree slowly started to recover, producing more buds and foliage as the years passed. By the Winter of 2002 I decided it was time to prune back all of the existing growth in order to prompt new buds from the trunk during the following Spring. This would allow me to start developing a branch structure for this future bonsai.
May 2003: This image shows the Hawthorn budding out after the previous Winter's hard prune. As with many other deciduous trees and bonsai, hard pruning in late Autumn and Winter prompts strong budding from the trunk.
July 2003: Two months later and the new shoots had extended well; at long last the Hawthorn had recovered its strength.
December 2005 After another 2.5 years the branches had started to develop well. However, I was unhappy about the branch positions as the bottom two branches were a little too low. Their removal was not a straightforward option as conversely, the next lowest branch was higher than I would have preferred.
Finally, I decided to remove the lowest 2 branches (see the result below) and to make the new first branch deeper and lower to compensate.
August 2006 The Hawthorn was planted into a new Erin Pot and it finally started to look like a bonsai after nearly 6 years of development.
November 2006 The tree is given a thorough rewiring. It is possible to see in this image how I had lowered the bulk of the first branch and its secondary shoots with wire.
November 2007 The changes over the previous year have been subtle. My main priority has been to thicken the lower primary branches (the branch sections that actually grow from the trunk itself) while also increasing ramification (the number of fine shoots at the tips of all of the branches). To this end, I allowed selected shoots to grow freely from April to late June to encourage thickening of the primary branches and then pruned back hard to encourage a flush of fine late Summer growth and increase ramification. Unfortunately, one of the wettest and gloomiest Summers on record resulted in a poor second flush of growth!
The bonsai is shown here after its annual Autumn tidy up and a thorough pruning and wiring of the branches.
Bonsai dimensions: Height 21"/52cm, trunk diameter (above base) 3.5"/8.5cm