I think I’ve finally figured it out.
I found this sweet little ilex at, believe it or not, Walmart.
No, it wasn’t as a bonsai, it was in the regular landscape area in a three gallon nursery pot.
Here is a trick, you can find the best “bonsai” suitable plants at these three box stores, listed from best to least in the frequency of suitable bonsai material.
They are: Walmart, Lowe’s and then The Home Depot.
The wholesale growers send the “AAA quality” plants first to The HD and so on.
What we are looking for as bonsai are often not “AAA”.
We want the tree that’s been in the pot for too long, or has a single trunk (as opposed to a multi trunk shrub).
We like contorted and twisted trees whereas the landscape trade wants straight and uniform plants.
Most ilex are short, stubby and have very little natural movement.
This tree was special.
And at $9.97 it was mine, no question about it.
You can probably see that I’ve worked on it already.
I might have included it in a blogpost too, I can’t remember.
Basically, I cut back everything except the top branches.
I knew that it was going to be a bunjin; how could it not?
Then I let it grow and let the tree tell me what was the next step.
I think, by the big red line cutting through the pic, that the next step is to cut there.
Well, it’s not that easy. I was either going up or down and where the new growth emerged (more or less) is what helped me to choose.
Now I see the tree!
What do you think?
Other side.
Now some clean up and partial defoliation.
Here’s the canopy before.
The arrows point to examples of certain types of leaves I’m removing.
The offensive leaves are those that are: too large, old, damaged, growing in odd places (like in branch crotches or straight up or underneath) and those where there are two or more emerging from the same spot (leaving one).
Here’s the mess I made.
Maybe the training is working, there aren’t that many bad leaves…..sorry, bad joke…get it? Training….bonsai?
Ok, righty then, back to the the tree….
I can wire these branches.
Look at the new growth! Isn’t that a beautiful red?
That’s one reason I love the ilex, one of many (not to mention the psychotropic properties of astringent brews extracted from stem cuttings).
Ready for some wire?
Let’s choose some branches and then a quick wiring job.


Here we go, wire.
From the top:
Other side:
My favorite side:
The tree reminds me of Snoopy pretending he’s a vulture. Which I will not show a picture of, I don’t need to get sued. You’ll have to look it up on your own.
You know what though?
I like it.
For those so inclined, here is a link to an Instagram video with the tree spinning around like a dancer at a rave.
It’s all CRAZY Spooky!
Hope no one gets nightmares from it.

8 thoughts

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this, and the video, too. What a transformation! It’s fascinating how you are able to envision what the plant can look like after trimming and wiring. And you did listen to the little tree, very well! You really brought out its personality. I love it.



  2. Oh, just curious…..

    I know nothing about bonsai. So, I was wondering – when you say “after 2 years of growing” – did you transfer the plant from it’s original pot to the bonsai pot and let it grow on for two years before doing the pruning in this photo essay? Or is this little tutorial photographed over two years? Did you do a lot of root pruning when you moved the tree from its original pot to the one it’s in now?


    1. Basically, two years ago I pruned the top back and put it into a bonsai pot (a bigger one than this) cutting the roots.
      This year, in the early spring, I put it into the smaller pot, pruned it back some more, and let it grow.
      Then I pruned it as you see in the post.
      Hope that helps. Thanks for reading


      1. Thanks, Adam.

        That makes sense.

        BTW…I took a look online for the Snoopy Vulture cartoons. That’s soooo funny. Your little guy really does have that same gesture.

        Thanks, again.


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