Collecting Privet/Ligustrum for Bonsai

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At a massive 22"/ 54cm in diameter, finding a suitable container for the Privet raft was not easy. However, this large crate was just about wide enough to accommodate the tree. Having removed all of the ground-soil with a combination of a chopstick and rinsing with water, the heavy roots were removed and the tree was offered up to the crate.

privet bonsai raft

After potting up the Privet raft

The crate was then back-filled with a good quality inorganic soil mix and thoroughly watered in to ensure there were no empty spaces left around the rootball.

After causing major trauma to a tree by cutting its roots, digging it up and repotting, a long period of recovery is required where the stump must be simply allowed to settle into its new home (the pot) and establish a new root ball New buds will begin to appear all over the stump and these in turn will strengthen and reinvigorate the tree.

Causing further trauma to the tree in the form of reducing the trunk height or making other major chops cannot be carried out for at least a year. And so, if at all possible, after collecting any deciduous or broadleaf tree, I try to make sure I establish the future trunk line of the tree and carry out any necessary heavy pruning or trunk chops immediately. This means that all new buds will appear on what will be the future trunk line of the tree as a bonsai and will eventually become new branches. Failing to find the future trunk line at this point can result in the growth that appears during the two years needing to be removed in the future; a waste of development time.

Although the Privet raft pictured above was a strong candidate for a straightforward clump or multi-trunk style bonsai, my plan was to shorten the trunks even further so that the connected base would become a 'living landscape' onto which I can grow a number of entirely new trunks in the coming years.

privet raft bonsai

The Privet raft chopped and now ready for a period of recovery

Having chopped the trunks on the raft, I had finished working on the tree and it was placed in semi-shade, fed with a weak organic fertilizer and left to recover. Within just 2 weeks it had already started to produce new buds all over, such is the strength of the Common Privet!

privet bonsai

Update October 2012: Less than 5 months later and the privet has grown wildly. So strongly that roots had fully populated the container and I was able to defoliate the leaves to enable me to start the process of selecting which shoots to keep and which to discard.

privet bonsai

After defoliating and roughly pruning the new shoots in October 2012. Carving of the stumps will take place during the Winter of 2012 and progress of the tree will be covered elsewhere on Bonsai4me.com

privet bonsai roots

Privet stump before working on the roots

The Privet stump pictured above is typical of the many smaller trees I worked on over the next few days. The root ball consists of a heavy base from which a number of thick 'taproots' grow downward. However, around the base of the trunk are also a huge number of fine feeder roots that are able to support the stump, making the taproots redundant.

As with the top-growth, rather than try to accommodate the taproots into a pot and then have new root growth appear on the taproots rather than around the trunk base. where it will be required in the future as a bonsai, the trunk base. was also chopped.

chopping the base of a privet stump

After cutting and removing the thick base of the Privet

I used an electric reciprocating saw with large teeth to cut through the base of the Privet; the reciprocating saw is a very useful tool that makes quick work of cutting through as much as 15cm of wet wood!

privet bonsai root

The base of the trunk after chopping

The large trunk base is not sealed or 'protected'. This is not necessary for the survival of the tree and it is literally impossible to try and stop the exposed heartwood from rotting.

This large piece of wood will be in continual contact with the soil for many years and will therefore remain wet. Even a thorough soaking with wood-hardener would not halt the inevitable rotting of the wood. Therefore it is better to embrace the rot and simply allow it to shape the deadwood over the years, removing the softer sections of it at each repotting as it breaks down.

On a further note; no rooting hormone is used on the roots. This is not necessary for the tree to issue (many) new roots from all over the base of the stump and there is evidence that the use of rooting-hormone powder on existing roots can actually impede new roots appearing.

Privet bonsai stump

The stump after potting up

After 3 days hard work, the entire hedge was finally potted up and at the time of writing, just two weeks later, the warmth of the late Spring has already caused every single one of the Privet stumps to bud out prolifically.

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