Repotting and Bare-Rooting a Collected Privet Bonsai

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privet bonsai before pruning

The subject of this article is a massive Privet/Ligustrum ovalifolium that had been dug up from the ground in August 2009. Belonging to a friend of mine, the tree took two men two days to collect and was immediately planted into a makeshift wooden container measuring over a metre in length.

Estimated as having an age of at least 70-80 years, the Privet had a known history as having been planted many years as part of a boundary hedge in the owner's garden.

The image above shows the tree when I first saw it in person; as is typical of Privet growing in hedges, it comprised of several trunks that had grown together as they reached a height of over 2 metres in height.

As the tree had been recently collected, I knew that it was important that any superfluous top growth was removed as soon as possible. This ensured that any new buds appearing as a result of the dramatic trunk-chops would not appear on existing wood that would then need to be removed in the future.

privet bonsai after pruning

Having studied the privet for a while, I found what I felt was the best front for the tree as a bonsai in the future and proceeded to shape the trunk by removing excess growth with an electric reciprocating saw. At this point in time, the most important aspect of the trunk to consider was its silhouette, ensuring that it had good taper with a wide base that gradually narrowed to the top.

The tree was then left to respond to being collected and heavily chopped. New buds that appeared now would be selected as future branches or removed and the process of branch building would begin. At some time in the future, the trunk would also need a great detail of detail carving to give the appearance of natural deadwood to hide the trunk chops.

privet bonsai repotting

By the Spring of the following year, the tree had responded well and on a previous visit to the owners garden in March I had been able to select the new shoots I felt had a future as branches. These were left unpruned to allow the new shoots to thicken up while invigorating the tree and encouraging root-growth.

However, there was one major problem with the planting as a whole; when the owner had attempted to move the tree and its wooden box to another position in his garden, its sheer weight had meant that even four men had been unable to lift it!

I decided that even though the tree had only been collected and potted up 8 months before, it would be a good idea to remove the heavy soil the tree had been planted into, and also reduce the size of the container.

While disturbance of the roots of a newly-collected tree is not advisable, Privet as a plant species are incredibly tough and the opportunity to provide the tree with an inorganic bonsai soil mix would greatly benefit it long term

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