Blackthorn Progression

Paulpash

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I asked for an ID of this tree a while back and people (inc Corin from Greenwoods) were a little unsure as to what it was. It had all the characteristics of a prunus of some sort and I am now pretty convinced (by the spines developing) and leaf shape that this is a Blackthorn (prunus spinosa). It was a foundling on the side of a path my wife and I were walking on. The hedges next to the path had been smashed back by some sort of mechanical chopper - it had been cut up pretty bad and some partially uprooted. This stump had been completely dug up and thrown by the side of a stile. I took a gamble and decided to bring it home to train as a bonsai. I'm not sure if Blackthorn grows in the States but I still welcome comments from all members as well as the more experienced: @Brian Van Fleet, @Bananaman and of course @Walter Pall to hopefully confirm this is a blackthorn :)

This is how it looked initially - I used the reciprocating saw to chop off some heavy roots and find the best line
2018-07-26_09-19-07 by Paul Pashley, on Flickr

Next season I did some rough carving on the chop points that will be refined over time
IMG_20180726_161109 by Paul Pashley, on Flickr

IMG_20180726_161116 by Paul Pashley, on Flickr

It has a really nice base to say how violently it must have been ripped from the ground
IMG_20180726_161102 by Paul Pashley, on Flickr

It's about the same size base as a chopstick (yes i was too lazy to go get a tape measure from the garage)
IMG_20180726_161020 by Paul Pashley, on Flickr

The first year or 2 was just letting the primaries thicken up so this year has been the first season where I've wired and begun branch building. It grows very quickly - the lowest primary was only started this year (budded from the trunk) so this is it today after a second hedge prune. It has very nice movement and taper so it's just up to me to get it's branch structure sorted. The bark is attractive too and flaking off in places.
IMG_20180726_161008 by Paul Pashley, on Flickr
 
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Paulpash

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It is black thorn or sloe, Prunus spinosa. A weed here.
Thanks for confirming this. I am quite happy - I really like the white flowers it displays in Spring. I'm presuming they are like Hawthorn and flower on small spurs?
 

Paulpash

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I have chopped back the lowest branch to build it an inch or two at a time - v similar to @markyscott 's branch building thread. The little upward pointing stub will be wired for shape and when it's stronger ill be cut flush with the branch.
 

JudyB

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I would look at an Erin pot for this, or something of that feel. Go take a look at Harry Harringtons website bonsai4me...
 

BobbyLane

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going to be very nice as it fills out, Paul. i think a little more carving would improve it too.
 

Paulpash

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going to be very nice as it fills out, Paul. i think a little more carving would improve it too.

I'm just going to tidy up the rough carving I did to disguise the chops - the appeal of this tree is the bark so I'll keep as much in tact as I can.
 

Paulpash

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I would look at an Erin pot for this, or something of that feel. Go take a look at Harry Harringtons website bonsai4me...

Erin usually does quite small pots but I will have a look. I have a few from them and the glazes are lovely.
 

BobbyLane

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I'm just going to tidy up the rough carving I did to disguise the chops - the appeal of this tree is the bark so I'll keep as much in tact as I can.

that should do it, the area on the left where the chop is looks quite bulky. could be the angle the pic is taken from too.
 

JudyB

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Erin usually does quite small pots but I will have a look. I have a few from them and the glazes are lovely.
I would think an Andy Pearson would do the trick if Erin won't be big enough.
 

coh

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Looks good! I have no experience with this species but have read they are very responsive to bonsai techniques. Keep us posted.
 

Paulpash

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Well here's an update a year on or so from the last pic.

Repotted into a smaller plastic training pot. Continuing to build branches, wiring movement in as I go. As with all big deciduous trees - this'll take many more years but it's very vigorous indeed. I'm going to graft a few branches in here and there hence the long shoots being prepped for next year. The lowest branch is still playing catchup so I've let it extend 3ft twice.

IMG_20190731_193739.jpg

It's got moss on top and roots are creeping across the substrate which bodes well for the future nebari :) In the pic below a root is popping above the main root but there are several others snaking under the moss. I do this to all my trees in development, covering the moss with shade netting too to keep the moss damp, and many times roots will pop near the surface, especially if you use a snug pond basket as the roots are looking for somewhere cool and permanently moist. Revealing the base of the tree when it's in development makes no sense to me - once the roots toughen up in the air and are exposed to UV they don't produce roots readily any more. So keep em covered if you want a better nebari in the future when you have finished building branches. It's simpler than having to graft!

IMG_20190731_193752.jpg
 

Paulpash

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Update: Unfortunately this isn't a Blackthorn as Walter had said but another prunus of some sort - no thorns have formed :( However, I still think it's an attractive tree with great bark, I like the foliage and purple twigs. If it flowers it'll be a bonus. Here's a few photos since I last posted, slowly building the branch structure and apex.

12th Nov 2019
IMG_20191203_111833.jpg

After cutback in January 2020. The eagle eyed will spot I have done 3 thread grafts to add secondary branches closer to the trunk.
IMG_20200114_113437.jpg

Night shot with the apex cut back - it had too long a "neck" and I wired some branches out. I'm trying to get some curvy movement to match the trunk.
IMG_20200130_165736.jpg

Early Spring 2020 and a week or two after budding out
IMG_20200412_121228.jpg

In June after cutback
IMG_20200607_160709.jpg

I'll grab some current photos tomorrow (if it stops raining) and post them up.
 
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