Sticks in a Pot

Like many bonsai enthusiasts, I am obsessed with old, collected trees. For several years I have been heavily biased towards collected material and still am today – nothing (well, almost nothing) excites me like a stunning piece of yamadori. Nevertheless, I find that wild material almost always lends itself to a dynamic, survivalist image. If I were to fill my yard with this material only, I would have a pretty monotonous bonsai collection. Already my collection is lacking in delicate deciduous trees (nine years of bonsai and I have never had a japanese maple!).

I was recently inspired by an article in Bonsai Focus #120 entitled Easy Does It, Forest Planting by Nobuyuki Hirose (see the preview of this issue here). In this article Mr. Hirose and his apprentice use young beech and hornbeam seedlings to create simple yet elegant and attractive forest plantings. The careful selection of the material and design of the planting made these “sticks in a pot” into something special.

Armed with these images in my mind, I visited my friend Andrew who works at a gigantic (read: millions of plants, literally) wholesale nursery and picked up a trunkload of American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and European Beech (Fagus sylvatica).

Today I made a nine tree forest planting of American Hornbeam. This species grows locally, although I have never found one worth collecting (most people who collect them trunk-chop them drastically, thus creating a long-term project). Like most hornbeams, these have fine twigs, smooth bark, and small buds – things which are useful for a small group planting that is best appreciated in winter.

    Hornbeams. These are all in one gallon pots, and roughly three years from seed. I tried to select a range of trunk sizes with gentle movement and lots of twiggy branching.

Hornbeams. These are all in one gallon pots, and roughly three years from seed. I tried to select a range of trunk sizes with gentle movement and lots of twiggy branching.

    In addition to the normal screening, some 1/2" galvanized steel mesh was tied down to the bottom of the pot. This creates as many tie down points as one could ask for, thus making it relatively easy to fine-tune the placement of the trunks.

In addition to the normal screening, some 1/2″ galvanized steel mesh was tied down to the bottom of the pot. This creates as many tie down points as one could ask for, thus making it relatively easy to fine-tune the placement of the trunks.

 

The cream coloured pot is by Yamafusa. I think a light blue pot would have been better, but this was what I had on hand.

The cream coloured pot is by Yamafusa. I think a light blue pot would have been better, but this was what I had on hand.

    Every tree was more or less barerooted and at least 80% of the roots removed. These trees were not prepared for bonsai, so each one had a massive taproot, roughly the same thickness of the trunk.

Every tree was more or less barerooted and at least 80% of the roots removed. These trees were not prepared for bonsai, so each one had a massive taproot, roughly the same thickness of the trunk.

    Before pruning/refinement.

Before pruning/refinement.

    Final image. I need to keep on top of the cutting this season to ensure that I don't lose the delicate twigs. I would like to shorten the main tree by a few cm, but currently the necessary branches don't exist.

Final image. I need to keep on top of the cutting this season to ensure that I don’t lose the delicate twigs. I would like to shorten the main tree by a few cm, but currently the necessary branches don’t exist.

 

    Final image. I need to keep on top of the cutting this season to ensure that I don't lose the delicate twigs. I would like to shorten the main tree by a few cm, but currently the necessary branches don't exist.

Side view.

scale

scale

 

9 Responses

  1. Nice sticks in pot. This should actually look good in a few years. You did a nice job with the potting and arranging of thr trees.

    March 12, 2013 at 8:34 pm

  2. Great start for these. Somehow didn’t see the forest coming when I saw the initial set of trees.

    March 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm

  3. Nice project. Just like the original article, your post has inspired me to plant some sticks in pots.

    March 12, 2013 at 9:07 pm

  4. monte

    Nice Aaron, I like it a lot. Are you snow free already? Still 3 feet here and coming down hard right now.

    March 12, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    • Thanks Monte. Great to hear from you, as always. Snow just melted after a couple days of rain, but still too early for collecting.

      Wow three feet still… no wonder you guys are so good at skiiing/snowboarding out there!

      Keep in touch.

      March 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

  5. Very nice work Aaron. Keep it up! Take care

    March 12, 2013 at 11:14 pm

  6. What a simple idea pulled off really well, I may have a bash at this myself.

    March 13, 2013 at 6:36 pm

  7. Sam

    So simple yet so elegant. As always a great post and very informative. I have yet see trees so young and non grafted in the nurseries around Toronto.Gotta say I love what you have achieved here.

    May 3, 2013 at 8:42 am

  8. Pingback: American Hornbeam Forest Update | Lakeshore Bonsai: Bonsai in Toronto, Canada

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