Two collected hackberries. 

If’n you follow me on Instagram or the Facebooks, you’ll remember that I was lamenting the loss of a stand of native celtis nearby. Now, granted, it’s been heavily collected from by fellow bonsai practitioners but, as some have suggested, that’s not the reason for the decline. It’s two fold, one, see that dirt road? It goes to a lake with a boat ramp. The road is heavily traveled, for being a dirt road, with those hunting the elusive bass we call largemouth (It’s funny, I had a girlfriend I could describe as a large mouthed. Or big mouthed. I originally hunted her but ended up running as fast as I could away from her. Ahhh, to youth and my sweet roison dubh). The road is bulldozed and leveled quite often, fishing being a little more popular than native trees. This constant “improvement” keeps making the road wider and messes with the drainage. The first tree I’ll be working on is a root from a big tree that was felled to widen said road. I’ll get back to that in a bit. 

The second reason the stand is declining is it’s being choked out by the dreaded Brazilian Pepper tree. Truly a scourge for native trees, it (SCHINUS TEREBINTHIFOLIUS) loves Florida and, considering that it’s seeds keep getting eaten by wildlife and sown everywhere,  Florida loves it. I don’t know a solution and I’m not sure one could be found. It is true that it was man that brought the pepper tree into Florida but it is speculated that it was the ocean that brought in the buttonwood from Africa, one of the most beloved “native” trees now. There’s a treatise in there somewhere. But I’m not going to write it. Yet. Back to the other…hack…job. Ha!

This tree is actually a root from one of those larger, bulldozed trees. 

It’s, ah, unique. Let’s see what I can do. The structure is definitely not traditional. But it is growing strong. Let’s do some chopping to induce backbudding. 

Ans some branch selection. 

And what about the top? Those two, very strong growing apices? 

I think here:

And here:That’ll work. 

Now a little wire before I turn to the roots. This is so close to the trunk….I need a wedge….that works. Some heavy wire….

….and some movement. Now to the roots. I don’t really know how the rest will go until I see them. 


uh oh

Mind the gap. Looks almost like a pair of legs. 

Now what? Well, let’s make the best of it. I’d like some surface roots so I’m scoring some places on the trunk that’ll be under the soil line. That should help with more roots. 

Especially at this odd angle. Some good soil, the new blend. 

And there was some mycorrhizae in the old soil, I add it to the new soil. 

Some more wire and….welllllll…I know. Let’s see what happens. I love a challenge and this is surely a challenge. 

Let’s look at the other tree. It’s a little more normal. 

First, gotta find the bottom. When I collect a tree and pot it up I usually bury the nebari so the surface roots don’t dry out after the collection. 

Obviously I need to chop this back. I might remove it totally in the future but maybe not. You can’t glue it back on so I’ll leave it here for the time being. 
Lots to work with still. 
Next, into the training pot. 

This root is a little highIt goes. 

There we go. 

It’s looking good. Now for a touch, just a touch, of wire. Ok, a lot. You know me, I wire. I’m of the opinion that if you’re not using wire, it’s not modern bonsai. Here’s an analogy for you: traditionally, man painted with his fingers. Then Ug, the Picasso of the cavemen, picked up a feather, the first paintbrush, and revolutionized the art of painting. It’s the same principle with wire on bonsai. The practice is less than a hundred years old, so most definitely not traditional, but that’s how modern bonsai practitioners make trees. That doesn’t mean not to use clip and grow, I use both techniques, even on the same tree, but if you’re not wiring, it’s like only using your fingers whilst painting a picture, you can only get to a certain level of refinement because of the limitations of your tools. 

The more I look at the chopped branch…the more I’m thinking of removing it. Not yet though. Patience. 

Let’s review: 

Two collected celtis lævigata.

 One, kinda weird, a leftover roots from a bulldozers swath of destruction. 

The other, a more traditional looking specimen.  

A solution for the one….maybe…

And an initial styling for the other. This one will be sweet, like sugar (see what I did there?) I’ll revisit them both in a years time. Both will be sweet, you’ll see. Stay tuned, mi amigos, they develop fast. 

Anyone wanna go fishing? I know this one spot…….

4 thoughts

  1. Hi, I’m a newbie. Now that I’ve stopped pissing myself with laughter…… are one funny ….man. I love it. I’ve tried to understand techniques and terms from more ‘traditional’ channels and I just don’t understand what they are saying. I appreciate that you use accurate pics and lots of them and you point to the section that you are writing about, so people know exactly where. Anyways, I got given a ready made bonsai and was bored in 2 minutes, so I’ve been through dozens of cuttings, seeds, seedlings, almost dead trees and twisting and chopping my way through to some form of bonsaiing. Now that I’ve read your stuff I feel happier to continue in my approach but I’m probably, most definitely doing some things incorrectly. Thanks


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