February 2012: This Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) was originally dug from a hedge in London, England during 2010, and had been planted into a large plant pot by the owner. One of around 30 trees collected from the same hedge, this particular privet was seen as the runt of the litter. As a result it had been left to grow unpruned in the corner of the owners garden for 18 months until it was foisted on me!
The Privet itself was in excellent health, and once I had removed it from its pot, it became apparent how well it had recovered from being dug up from the ground. The rootball was a mass of vigorous new roots.
The tree itself was fairly typical of hedging-privet; it consisted of 5-6 straight, taperless trunks that joined together at a common base. As I have illustrated before with a Privet collected from the same hedge, one approach with material such as this is to remove the relatively thin, straight trunks and develop a bonsai from the much larger base.
A second approach, as I will show in this article, is to retain the multiple-trunks and form a multi-trunk or clump-form bonsai.
My next course of action, as is typical when working on Privet bonsai, was to reveal the base of the trunk. This would allow the entire tree to be studied, and the process of designing the bonsai within it, could begin. As I was also eager to replace the organic peat-based compost with good quality inorganic soil, I decided to bare-root the Privet.
The soil was extremely densely-packed with fine roots. Knowing that there was more than enough volume of roots to support the tree, I simply sawed away the bottom 1/3 of the rootball rather than try to delicately remove the soil only to then prune away the bottom third of the roots.
The simplest way to remove a large amount of the remaining soil, was to soak the rootball in water for an hour and then spray the rootball with water from a hose. (Note that it is important that bare-rooting in this manner should never be applied to coniferous species such as Pine and Juniper, as well as some deciduous species such as Oak).
The Privet trunkbase after bare-rooting (removal of the soil). As can be seen in the image above, the rootball was now largely free of soil and this allowed the roots to be studied more closely and worked on.