We welcome back to the blog a tree I had called “The Hairy Hornbeam”.

The tree was first seen in the blog post, appropriately called, Hairy Hornbeam

It’s second appearance was Here

This was a pic from many years ago, shared to me from that fabulous daily “memories” thing that Facebook puts in your feed. You know the one, where it shows all the posts from all the assholes you’ve blocked years ago. You’d think the Facebook algorithm would be able to deduce that if you’ve blocked a person, you don’t want to see that you used to go out and have sushi with a dude who’s your mortal enemy now.

Anyway, here’s that pic:

Beautiful color, right? I love the hornbeam in Florida just for that reason.

The poor tree has been through some shit.

Hurricanes, children, tornadoes, floods, climate change…cats and dogs sleeping together…..

Let’s me start the work today and I’ll show you my dilemma now.

It is terribly pot bound. But not as bad as in the first blog post back in 2013

But close. I’ve been neglecting it and it hasn’t been repotted since, well you can do the math.

You notice it’s a bit shorter than the original styling. I believe a hurricane broke it.

The first styling is here:

I really enjoyed the tree like that. It had natural taper and a more realistic trunk to height ratio (trees in the wild tend to have a ratio of 1:12. In bonsai we exaggerate this ratio to 1:6. Or shorter. A sumo style tree has a ration close to 1:1. That’s more of a caricature than an exaggeration)

And I defended its height vigorously to those detractors who thought that their “recitation of basic bonsai rules” could hold up to my practiced and rigorous rhetorical style. I mean, seriously, if you wish an artistic argument, there are few who can withstand a tongue lashing from me, the most cunning linguist in bonsai.

But, alas, I must now succumb to the general consensus and shorten my beautiful tree.

Here’s why:

That, my friends, is what is called a witches broom. It’s a type of gall that can be caused by several different things. Bacteria, fungus, mechanical damage, pruning, insects.

It this case it’s bacterial, they call it “crown witches broom”

The only treatment here is to excise it. Like a gangrenous, frost bit toe.

Sometimes witches brooms can be used for batter ramification, they’ve grafted some witches brooms onto pines for this reason.

But in this case, the witches broom isn’t in a good place. Looks like Kevin McHale or Larry Bird’s armpit hair from the championship 1981’s Boston Celtics basketball team.

Anyway, sorry about that visual. You could braid those pits on those players back then. Phew!

Cleaning off the weeds and moss, we can begin to see the root spread.

This was the original front.

And it was this pruning point that let the bacteria in I’m sure.

An American hornbeam doesn’t heal well, so I tend to incorporate the pruning scars. Here’s where I chopped it last time I worked it.

And another pruning wound.


Let’s see if I can make a better cut

This should do the trick.

Right below …..

Ok. That tool is useless. The cutting head is the same size as a large cutter anyway, and the leverage didn’t help at all. Ragged as a politicians journal entry in the Book of Life.


I’ll clean it up and make it pretty with my regular flat cutter.

And that’s the tree. Needs some wire and a repot.

Bring up the new “trunk”.

Wire out the first branch.

And yes, you can use heavier wire as the anchor for smaller wire. Why didn’t I just run the smaller wire parallel to the bigger wire?

It’s common practice to coil the wire onto the branch in the direction you need to move that branch. In this case I am moving the branch counter clockwise and, in the below pic, back. On the trees front I’m moving the branch towards the front right corner. If I followed original wire, when I bent the branch, the wire would unwind and not hold the branch in place well at all.

And that’s it. Just two branches wired and leave it to grow for about 3 months.

I’ll grant you, it’s a cool looking tree now, being shorter. But I miss the height already.

Oh well, a bonsai is never finished.

And a tree has as much say in where it’s going as we bonsai artists do in the guiding. Even more so in most cases.

What say you, constant readers?

8 thoughts

  1. The reason you took off the main trunk was because the gall was an infection and would kill the whole tree? No other infection treatment available?
    Phil Krieg


    1. It wouldn’t kill the tree, just make it ugly and bulky in that spot.
      And there’s no practical treatment for galls. If it’s bacterial in nature, antibiotics can’t pass through the cell walls in most plants.


    1. The original tree was the norm up until about the mid 60’s. At that point someone decided that shorter trees were the new “in” thing. A lot of grace and elagence was lost then. The shorter more severely tapered trees look good too, partly because that is what is now displayed and we are used to it. But for me, I am drawn to the occasional “too tall” tree with good branching and interesting trunks.


  2. I usually prefer a tall slender tree to what is normally shown. I totally agree that “sumo” styling is more of a caricature of a tree than anything I have every seen in nature. A lot of them look like stumpy bushes.


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