I was at a spring festival the other day and came upon this poor, tortured tree.
If this is your first visit to the blog, welcome.
I suggest you browse the other posts first to see what we bonsai people (and myself specifically) actually do to trees.
After that, you’ll understand the irony of me saying that a tree is “tortured”.

Some info on the tree: it is an ilex vomitoria.
I’m not sure if it’s a “schillings dwarf” or not but there’s a good possibility that it’s a “pendula”, which would be a weeping variety.
The reason I believe it could be a weeping ilex is I know the guy who took a bunch of them and just chopped them down.
This is the first bit of torture; not letting a tree be what it could be.
Here’s another bit of torture: bad technique-
Poorly executed pruning scar.
Not to mention an un-removable pruning seal.
Incorrect pruning location.
And shoving the roots into a a too small container…
I mean, come on man!
We need some remedial action to hopefully save this tree.
Fix the top.
Shave the pruning scar down.

Now, the roots.
This tree is a very small, squat tree. Which means that the image we are going for is a really big, squat tree.
These high roots work against that image.
I’ll need to pry it out of the pot to see what’s underneath.
I’m afraid.
It’s what I figured, fine, muck-like soil.
Not conducive to fine root growth.
Using a gentle but firm rain nozzle, I wash out that crap.
This is what I find….makes me sick.
See those reddish worm thingies?
They’re not worms (though I did find some in that crappy muck, believe it or not) but large, unproductive roots.
If you are putting a tree into a small pot you should realize that there is only a small amount of space for roots to go.
Therefore, prune out those big, chunky, unproductive roots to make room for the fine, white, feeder roots.
Feeder roots are the only roots doing an important job in a bonsai pot.
If a tree is in the ground, those big roots are important for holding the tree upright in the ground.
In a pot, they only take up space.
The feeder roots are the delivery method for the water and nutrients that are needed by the tree.
I can only shake my head at the lack of knowledge displayed here. The man who prepared this tree is a retailer of bonsai after all.
No wonder there’s no new growth on this little guy yet.
All my other ilex have all flushed out and filled in.
Let’s get rid of the bottom roots.
And, after another wash, let’s re-examine those roots that were shoved under the lip of the pot.
It’s as I thought.
The tips are dead.
Getting back to the earlier statement about high roots…off they come.
Now, a wider pot with room to grow.
Some proper bonsai soil.
I have it positioned somewhat where the front might end up but, as the tree grows, that front will probably change.

I also planted it deeper than it ultimately will be.
One last bit of pruning; I remove the inside leaves and only leave those ones at the end of the branch.

This will allow light to get to the trunk and maybe give me more branches to work with in the future.
Leaving one leaf or set of leaves will help the tree stay stronger; continuing photosynthesis and helping with the movement of water through transpiration.
Now, because I’m an optimist, I’ll wire two branches.
Because of the future, man!
And that’s all.
I fertilized with a mild organically derived granular fertilizer.
I’ll watch the watering, not too much or too little, and keep him out of the direct sun and wind until I see new growth. About a week or two probably.
You know, I kept calling the tree a him, if it is really an ilex vomitoria “pendula” then the tree is actually female.
We call short fat trees “pigs”.
That would make this one a “miss piggy” if you would.

8 thoughts

  1. Adam, what kind of bonsai soil do you use? Poor thing, I’m glad you rescued “him” lol…great job, thanks for sharing, I’m learning a ton 🙂


  2. I have a lot to learn and I do that with you but at 55 it is great to learn and laugh out loud (I hate LOL) at the same time! God bless the natural nature of your teaching and the humor you wire into it.


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