New Look for Atlantic Cedar in Training

I have been training this cedar for a few years now and this week I decided to give it a new front. In the next couple of years I may change my mind again but for now this is the look and I hope the tree agrees.

In 2018 this was the look I was hoping would be successful.

However over time the foliage below the soil level, or pot level didn’t appeal to me. So in 2019 I stood the tree in a more upright fashion and I thought that looked OK.

After further study, some wire and a trim this is the latest look and I think it has potential. I will let it grow into the new front over the coming months and then start the refinement stage with the idea to keep the foliage contained within the trunk and the branch lines. As things progress I will update.

Are Tall Thin Bonsai Out of Fashion?

Tall, thin and elegant bonsai appear to be out of fashion. There is a real emphasis on trunk width to tree height ratios, and that ratio also appears to be moving in a shorter fatter direction. To be fair I often try to design my bonsai with thick trunks and as short in stature as I can, but I do think there is a place for the tall thin examples.

The largest trees in the world would never make it as bonsai simply because they are far too tall in relation to their trunk thickness and the oldest trees in the world also fit in this category.

This plum is tall, skinny and I think elegant. It stands 115 cm tall and I have never done the measurements to determine the thunk width to tree height ratio because it would be pointless. The tree still needs a lot of work and the next phase is planned for just after leaf fall where most probably all branches will be wired (to take out those that are straight) and some other work around the trunk transition.

This English elm was dug by me a few years ago and it was pre-styled by horses who ate half the bark off the trunk almost all the way along the length of the trunk. This tree also needs a lot of work especially a new pot. It needs work on the nabari, work on the dead wood and probably a reduction in the size of the crown to bring it more in line with the literati look I am aiming for. Again it is tall, thin (probably not elegant though) and stands about 120 cm high.

I think both these trees have something to offer as bonsai and I hope others will also be bold enough to add a few tall thin bonsai to their collections.

Acacia howittii

In my last post I showed a pot I made specifically for a Acacia howittii ‘Green Wave’ and so here it is, with a friend of the same species.

Both were potted up recently and are looking quite good so far. Only another ten years or so before they start to look good but you have to start somewhere.

I like these because they have some movement in the trunks, good healthy foliage and should flower in the spring. If they do flower next spring I will post a photo or two.

A Couple of New Pots

I’ve been making a few bonsai pots over the last few years and I’m still loving it. It is a thrill to see one of your bonsai in a pot that you designed and made. I am still very much an amateur but if I say so myself I am gradually improving.

Here is a few from the last batch I made.

I have an Acacia howittii destined for this pot

Stick in a Pot – Why Not?

The “stick in a pot” terminology is often used in bonsai and almost always in a derogatory way. People new to bonsai then get discouraged about the art and often don’t pursue it.

Many times a stick in a pot is a starting point and hopefully people will continue and enjoy the art/craft.

Some time ago I dug a few crab apple seedlings I decided to plant it into a bonsai pot to see how it goes and I think it is going along just fine. While it will never be an exhibition winner it will be OK and give me, or perhaps someone else many years of enjoyment. Isn’t the enjoyment factor a large part of owning bonsai? I think yes.

Crab apple pre trim
Crab apple post trim and a little wire

A Couple of Accents

Accents plantings are needed when exhibiting your bonsai and I generally have a few “on the go” so I can use them if required.

Here are two that are currently looking OK so I thought I would share.

Close up of the flower

The first planting is in a pot hand made by Janet Selby (love the little frog on the side) and the second planting is in a pot by James Tranter, again hand made by an Australian potter.


This small Zelcova serrata looked wild before its late spring/early summer trim and tidy up. I think it now looks respectable for the coming festive season.

More work is required on the leaf size and the ramification but those two things go hand in hand so a few leaf size reduction strategies over the coming months should improve its overall look.

Small tree in a small pot, yep I think its coming along.

The ‘Ugly Pig’ Hawthorn

Some time ago I sought some advice, suggestions or maybe that was a way forward for a hawthorn that I had fallen out of love with. A well respected and talented international bonsai artist that I was having a workshop with (another tree as the subject) was asked for his opinion and he described the tree as an ugly pig. Unfortunately he was correct, very correct in fact. While the tree looked OK while in leaf it looked terrible without leaves.

So this is how it looked in 2016 not long before the advice was given. The crown looked OK but the long bare trunks looked a little weird.

Consultation over a refreshing ale led to a radical shortening of the trunks, some additional carving work and a very severe cut. After it was left to grow on and out to regain strength.

This year it was time to continue the transformation by giving some direction to the growth that had occurred on the three trunks and to reduce the growth so that I could see the direction.

The foliage was wild and woolly and the thorns were sharp but a few cuts got some order in proceedings. I can now see a bright future for this tree and hopefully I will be able to display it in a few years, and if I’m lucky while it is in flower.

It is still a little bit tall but some additional work after it looses its leaves will put it on the right path. The next update is probably a couple of years away, stay tuned.

Atlantic Cedar – Spring Cleanup

I bought this cedar quite a few years ago and to be honest I haven’t been doing a good job with it. This season I decided I would clean out all the old needles and leave just the new shoots to see if that improves the tree overall. I also started a different fertilizing program with the same thought in mind – overall tree improvement. I am moving away from liquid fertilizer and started using organic fertilizer which I place into teabags and attach that to the surface of the bonsai. This should give a slow release of goodies to the plant over a period of about three months, however it will take a year or two before the results are known.

I didn’t take enough photos of the process but here is a photo after the old needles were stripped off.

You can see one fertilizer bag in that photo and after the process it now has about six bags.

This is the after shot following a trim and wiring.

It does have the look of a larch from a distance now I think but I hope it will fill out and all those new buds will develop. More news on this on in a year or two.

Pink Flowering Hawthorn

I dug this in 2011 and since then I have been trying to save the tree from borer attack and finally I think I am on top for the first time. The tree has rewarded my effort by flowering all over this year and it looks great (I am biased however).

First is a photo of the flowers which are red in the early stages but change to deep pink as they mature.

The bonsai stands about 800 mm high and although the spring flowering is the highlight it does look good all year as it changes through the phases of the seasons. I will let it grow for a six to eight weeks before giving it a good cut back and possibly a restyle of the apex.

The pot is by Australian potter Marie Hewartson I believe and was chosen to complement the bark but consideration is being given to putting it in a glazed pot. A decision will be made in the coming months.

A quick look at some of the borer damage.