Developing a Hornbeam Bonsai Trunk

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The subject of this article, a European Hornbeam/Carpinus betulus, was given to me by its owner 3 years ago. The tree was originally purchased from e-bay, having been advertised as "bonsai material".

hornbeam bonsai

August 2011: As can be seen in the above image, the Hornbeam was not suitable for bonsai without some considerable work, and development time. Although the tree had a reasonably-sized trunkbase, it was much too tall and the branches that had been grown-out, were too high up.

hornbeam bonsai

September 2011: Upon removing the tree from its training-pot, it immediately became obvious that it had been planted in very poor quality soil and the surface roots, the nebari, lacked any development. They were typical of raw Hornbeam root-growth, long, untapered and without division.

hornbeam bonsai development

November 2012: The Hornbeam a year later after leaf-drop. No images exist of the tree during the growing season of 2012. Needless to say, the trunk had been chopped hard to a lower branch in order to reduce its excessive height. It was then repotted into a good quality soil and fed well to encourage vigorous growth.

By November 2012, the new trunkleader had grown vigorously and begun to thicken, developing the start of a new trunkline.

hornbeam bonsai

November 2012: With a view to planting the Hornbeam into a growing-bed for a couple of years to encourage even more vigorous growth and faster thickening of the new trunk section, the tree was given a thorough autumn-pruning.

The new trunk leader was left virtually unpruned to ensure that it remained as vigorous as possible; the lower branches however were pruned hard and I began the process of branch development by chosing shoots that would become the primary branches of the Hornbeam as a bonsai and pruning them back to develop some movement. While the tree still needed development time on the trunk, there was no reason why I could not begin developing the lower branches of the final design.


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