I collected this Hawthorn in March 2005. I stumbled across it growing in marshy, boggy ground near my house and instantly fell in love with the powerful trunk and wild branches. Collecting the tree was hard work, mainly due to the 2 to 3 metre long branches that grew wildly out of the top of the tree; each branch carrying hundreds of razor sharp thorns! Anyone who has tackled a tree like this will know that the hardened thorns of a Hawthorn in Winter will penetrate even the toughest work gloves!
To my relief, the wet ground that the tree had been growing in meant that the tree had a small compact rootball and was straightforward to collect. And the newly liberated Hawthorn fitted snugly into a garden planter when I got it home.
The tree is pictured above with my son on the day of collection; as can be seen it has a good size at over a metre in height.
November 2005. I had removed or shortened several thick branches and cleared out many dead flowering spurs during the summer. Otherwise the tree had been allowed to grow freely through the growing season and there were several new shoots of over 50cm in length. The tree was telling me it was strong enough for some preliminary styling.
My principle concern at this point was the central trunkline. The top of the trunk did not finish above the trunkbase and this gave the tree a feeling a instability towards the left. The rest of the thicker primary branches had a natural movement towards the right and I wanted the top of the trunk to imitate this movement; at present its upright appearance was jarring to the eye.
My solution to this problem was to try and bend the top third of the trunk to the right by at least 45°. However, at this height, the trunk was still over 2"/5cm thick and Hawthorn wood of this diameter and age is not pliable!
On the left it is possible to see the point where I decided to bend the trunk. As can be seen, there was already a large wound (resulting from a trunk chop at the time of collection in 2005) that needed to be dressed and this was my opportunity to carve out and weaken the wood enough for me to bend the trunk.
I dressed the wound with a die-grinder and then continued carving deeply into the trunk until it was just a 1cm thick in places. The trunk could then be carefully bent down by around 45°.
The resulting bending of the trunk can be seen in these two images; the apex of the trunk now sits above the trunkbase and the tree looks more stable visually. The carved area has been bound with black insulating tape to protect and insulate any cracks produced by the bend.
Pictured left in July 2006 and right, in November 2006.
Other than a hard pruning in July, the tree was allowed to grow freely during the growing season of 2006. Then in November I gave it its first full styling, shortening back some of the older primary branches and wiring movement into the new growth.
Notice that due to the thickness of the primary branches, many had to be forced into position using guy wires as they would have been impossible to bend with ordinary coiled wire.
I was quite happy with the design so far, however there were a few problems that still need to be addressed. The lowest branch looked too juvenile due to the angle it grew from the trunk. The 3rd branch was 'lost' behind the 2nd as they grew parallel to each other. And finally, the mid-trunk area lacked taper (and from some angles had a little inverse taper). In the image above it can be seen that I have started to extend the existing carving work down the trunk by creating a shari and this has already reduced the diameter of the mid-trunk section, creating taper.
April 2007: the bonsai is planted into a handmade round pot specifically designed for this tree by Vic Harris at ErinBonsai.
August 2008; just 16 months later. The bonsai continued to be developed throughout the 2007 and 2008 growing seasons. New shoots were allowed to extend before being pruned back and wired twice a year (in June and October).
Over the course of 2007 and 2008. I also addressed the design problems I had with this bonsai. Firstly I extended the shari down from the original carving and in turn managed to create better taper in the mid-trunk.
Secondly, I 'notched' the underside of both the first and third branches to bring them down onto a more horizontal plane.
This close-up image of the lowest branch shows where I cut most of the way through the branch (notching) in two diffrent places to help me change the angle that the branch grew from the trunk and also to change the direction one of the secondary branches grew at. As can be seen in the image above, taken 2 years after I carried out the notching, the branches are healing well.
July 2009: As the Hawthorn bonsai currently stands. I have slightly altered my favoured front for the time being, though the tree seems to look equally good from many different angles.
To see more of this bonsai from several views, please see this video>>
July 2009: Height 42"/102cm
May 2010: 5 years after collection, the bonsai bloomed for the first time. For more images please see Hawthorn flowers
Dec 2010: 6 months later and the flowers have turned to fruit (berries)
As the leaves fell during late October I carried out my annual pruning and wiring session on the bonsai. As can be seen, this makes an impressive display of the tree during the Winter when its bare branches can be enjoyed.
Spring 2011: The bonsai has flowered profusely this Spring