Privet/Ligustrum ovalifolium Bonsai Raft Progression Series

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privet bonsai

This tree and a number of other stumps came from a hedge on the England/Wales border (in Shropshire) that had to be grubbed-up to make way for building work in August 2004. August isn't a good time of the year to dig up many tree species, however these Privet had their roots wrapped in wet newspaper and were bagged up to keep them as moist as possible before being taken home. Privet are a very strong species; even after bare rooting to remove the wet clay soil at their roots, they survived easily.

The picture above shows one of the stumps, and the subject of this progression series, on the day it had been dug up and planted in a wooden box. Note that the box was made just big enough to contain the roots that remained after collection. Too small a container and the roots would need unnecessary (and potentially fatal) pruning; too large a container and the soil could remain too wet for too long causing poor growing conditions in which the tree would be expected to recover.

privet bonsai

The image above shows the newly collected tree from another angle and what would eventually become the 'front' of the bonsai. As can be seen, the trunks make an interesting formation and I immediately decided to create a multiple-trunk bonsai (as opposed to removing the majority of smaller trunks to create a single trunk tree). As the trunks were all connected at the base and shared the same root system, this stump was eminently suitable for developing as a 'raft bonsai'.

It can also be seen that the movement of the trunks and the branches was very much directed towards the right. While in the ground, this stump would have been growing in a shady part of the hedge and all growth would have all been directed towards the light. So therefore, my natural inclination was to try and develop this tree as a windswept bonsai with the 'wind' blowing left to right.

privet bonsai

January 2005: As with the other privets that had been collected just months beforehand, this tree grow strongly through August, September and October of 2004 until the colder Autumn temperatures set in and I was able to carry out some initial styling on the tree the following January. The trunklines were cleaned up and the tree turned slightly anti-clockwise to find the optimum front view. As can also be seen, I repotted this tree into a round mica pot; this is NOT normally advisable so soon after collection but I knew the tree was strong and the roots/rootball themselves were not disturbed as the tree was simply slipped into a different pot.

My first styling task was to ensure that the trunklines and major branches followed a windswept path from base to apex. This required the use of relatively thick 3mm and 4mm coiled wiring and guy wires. Further pruning of superfluous branches and shoots was also carried out now that the tree was in dormancy.

privet bonsai

February 2006: A year later and it is clear that the tree had grown strongly throughout 2005. Some carving of the thick trunk (second from left to right) was carried out using a die-grinder. This removed large parts of a thick bulge and some reverse taper that had previously existed.

privet bonsai

March 2006: A month later and we had a heavy snow shower in my garden that created this wonderful image of the Privet bonsai.

privet bonsai

March 2007: I wasn't entirely happy with the windswept effect that I had created; it felt too forced and unnatural. After much deliberation I decided to restyle the bonsai. The tree was repotted into a shallow, wide bonsai pot that had much more of a 'landscape' feel to it. The branches were rewired so that they were more evenly spread and this created a more calm and neutral appearance.

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