Old elæagnus pungens bonsai

Lookie here-
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Who’s been taking care of this poor tree?
It’s way over grown and probably ruined. You just can’t let a tree get so leggy and long, the internodes will be all stretched and wide. What kind of idiot does this?
Ok, I admit it.
It was me.
I’ve had the tree since the first Wigert’s Bonsai Open House I attended, when he was still on the island.
I have kept it up, just not in a while.
It is an elaeagnus pungens. Or, more precisely elæagnus pungens.
I love this character: æ
It is a grapheme (a combination of two letters) and it is, alternately a diphthong (a syllable with a vowel sound that requires the tongue to move in the voicing of it) in Latin that represents the “i” sound as in “fine” or the “a” sound as in “cat”(which is old English). The word “archaeology” was originally spelled “archæology”.
So how do you pronounce elæagnus?
Is it el-eye-agnus or el-aaa-agnus?
Neither, because it’s also the same grapheme used in the words “dæmon” or “æon”. Which we spell as “demon” and “eon” (and digging for lost treasure is pronounced “arc-ee-ology”). And just to confuse you more, the first sound should be a long “e”.
So, just so you know, and so you don’t end up sounding like a politician, it is “eel-ee-agnus”.
Or, wait, is this tree an oleaster?
Hah!
Let me tell you….
An Old World name for this plant is “oleaster” which actually means “almost or, not anymore, an olive tree”.
(I like the term “Fallen Olive” best)
The wild olive is called “olea oleaster” and olive trees (olea europa) that have gone wild and aren’t useful any more as fruit bearing trees are colloquially called “oleaster”.
What does this word “oleaster” have to do with our good friend elæagnus?
Well…the Russian olive is actually elæagnus angustifolia and is called an oleaster.
Lovely language we have, eh?
Ok, aside from my aside (it’s like beat poetry man), let’s get back to the tree.
A close up of the trunk:
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The backside:
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The tree was demo material worked on by Pedro Morales from Puerto Rico. I believe it was an example of urban Yamadori (or yardadori) that Erik had dug up somewhere and Pedro, when he did the demo at Erik’s, got to pick out of the nursery. Which I thought was a sweet gig until he made me do it too. It’s true you get to pick but you also have the responsibility to pick a tree that is educational, will look good at the end of the demo, and will get tickets at the raffle.
Heavy.

I won it in the raffle. And he chose well because there were many tickets.
How many did I use?
One ticket.
Yeah.
I’m that guy.
It had a less rotted trunk at the time but elæagnus wood unfortunately goes away here in Florida.
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The pic above is the back. I can’t explain the uneven growth
I can explain the excessive growth though.
The first reason is this-
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These precious little flowers, small though they are, are incredibly fragrant. I would say even intoxicatingly so.
I just couldn’t force myself to cut it back. The flowers have been present and abundant for a half a year at least.
And it’s called “pungens” for a reason.
It’s one of my favorite flower scents (another is the sansevieria (snake plant) flower, which, to me, smells like those old fashioned Christmas ribbon candies).
The other reason was, I had a customer looking at it and I wanted to use it as a teaching tool for him.
He hasn’t been back and it needs tending to so…
A look at the leaves.
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The pic above shows an old leaf, new leaf, and the top and bottom.
The colors and textures of the leaf throw people off. Some people even ask if there’s something wrong with it.
The new leaf buds even look weird-
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Which, if I could focus the camera, you would see.
The leaf is biggish-
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but it can be reduced-
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Unlike what I’ve done here, it simply takes more trimming and a defoliation schedule.
Speaking of trimming, there’s no time like the present.
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And about half the biomass is removed-
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Looks better already-
Front:
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Right, then left side views:
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And the rear:
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Looking up close at the trunk most of the withering has run it’s course-
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Or, I should say, hopefully-
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I don’t think I’ll lose any more roots on the nebari (at one point there wasn’t a big gap between the roots)
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And I believe the trunk has stabilized too. Mostly.
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The pic above is of the middle trunk in the back.
It might hollow out eventually and provide a nice home for some spiders or toads or lizards.
Which would be cool for an exhibit, imagine a tree frog jumping around the display in a stuffy bonsai show or a spider weaving a web in the canopy of an award winning tree over night proclaiming “some pig”.
Let’s look at the roots-
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Whoa!
A little root bound.
Unfortunately I can’t play with them at this time.
That’ll have to wait until spring.
I could put it into a bigger pot but I don’t think it matters at this time of the year; there won’t be too much root growth now.
The pot is serviceable but not too pretty.
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My assignment over the winter is finding a new pot for the tree.
I could leave the tree as is with no wire but I think I can make it better.
Example:
Before wire-
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After wire-
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I’ll be able to bring some of the older branches down.
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And the tree could use some detail wiring on the younger branches.
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On the left, on the left, on the left, wire that limb, every branch, on the left.
Before-
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After-
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On to the right….snap!
Uh…what the hell?!
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That’s weird…
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It appears that this branch was dead, in a ring, totally around the branch on one spot about a half inch wide.
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I had noticed a swelling on it when I was pruning.
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Which, thinking about it now, was probably all the nutrients coming from the still living branch end.
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This phenomenon makes me believe an air layer would be very successful.
Now I just need to find a big bush to layer off. There are some old ones out near Disney……hmmm.
Any way, all wired up.
Which front do you prefer?
Original-
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Or slightly sideways
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I’m not sure myself.
I guess I have the whole fall and winter to look at it.

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in maintenance, refine, yamadori and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Old elæagnus pungens bonsai

  1. Lenus Xavier says:

    Hell Sir,
    what a help full tips you are given
    thanks

  2. kcount says:

    Slightly sideways. More interest in the trunk, the gap between the roots is diminished, and it make the trunk look wider at it’s base. Not to mention I like the look of the dead wood above the first branch. Gives it an old withered look almost like the tree has a dark past.

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