Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Reinventing a Tree with Bad Nebari

Shortly after I joined my bonsai club I bought an olive tree from a local nursery. It was tall and straight with no low branches but I always planned to cut it really low down.

April 2008 - as purchased

I let it sit untouched through the first winter and in August 2008 I finally decided to move it to a pot and make the first chop. And that's when I encountered my first problem. The nursery had tied it to a large stick and try as I might I couldn't get that stick to budge.

August 2008 - the stick that caused all the trouble

Under the circumstances I was forced to take it to a workshop where a strong man was able to remove it. He also cut the roots back a lot harder than I'd dared to.

August 2008 - after root pruning

After cutting the trunk further he put it back in its nursery pot. I had no inkling then that the stick would come back to haunt me years later.

August 2008

The tree quickly recovered from its ordeal and put out plenty of new growth. Everything was looking good.

October 2008

It was only two years later when I put it into a bonsai pot for the first time that I saw the first signs that all was not as it should be. The root structure wasn't looking too good. Once more the potting was done at a workshop and my teacher used wire in an attempt to lower one problem root. He also tried to plant moss around the roots, hence the bandages in this photo:

October 2010

Sadly this didn't prove to be very effective as, once the wired was removed, the root refused to stay in place. As time passed it just got worse and worse.

November 2013 - Problem nebari

By late 2013 I was getting really frustrated. Attempts to plant the tree lower in the pot were unsuccessful and in a last ditch attempt to hide the problem, a member of my club planted moss around the roots.

November 2013 - with moss

Although I wasn't too happy with the structure of the tree I might have left it at that, but unfortunately the moss didn't stay there for very long. One morning I discovered that some visiting birds had ripped it to shreds and I was back to square one.

In late 2014 I took it to another workshop where I was persuaded to shorten the tree. The highest root was also removed.

December 2014

This might have improved the tree somewhat had I kept an eye on it over the next few months, but unfortunately I neglected it and while I got a lot of new growth, the tree suffered some serious die-back lower down. A year later it bore no resemblance to the (bad) bonsai it once was.

December 2015

It was time for drastic measures. My second trunk chop was even lower than the first. All that remained was the branch that's visible in this photo and another hidden at the back.

December 2015 - second chop

I was advised to wire the visible branch upwards but always felt that was the wrong move given the fact that the rather quirky nebari were on that side. I felt the tree needed to slant in the opposite direction and waited in hope for a new leader which, thankfully, soon arrived.

June 2016 - growing strongly

By June 2016 that leader was nice and strong and it was time to remove the left branch.

This is what it looked like in July 2016 after I'd removed that branch. I didn't touch the leader but I zoomed in for this shot to show the root that's caused all the trouble.

July 2016

What was once a really bad formal upright is now on track to becoming another quirky tree.