Favorite Material That Keeps You Busy (and Happy) During the Growing Season

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Dublin, Ohio
Here’s a general conversation starter for this evening: What’s your favorite tree when it comes to an abundance of growth/branching/ramification/taper/root flare options during a single growing season?

I’m not talking about shortcuts or looking for something that grows fast (and dies fast), so please no admonishments about how bonsai takes time. :rolleyes:

I’m curious about what material gives you the most enjoyment and keep you busy as you check it daily, make small snips, do a quick bit of wiring, scrape away errant buds, etc., as you work toward longterm goals… all during a single growing season. This relates more to training and styling and not so much maintenance and showing stages. I have a few favorites but want to hear yours.
My deciduous conifers - American larch & Dawn redwood - get incredibly vigorous over a year. The Dawn roots in particular are out of control on my largest tree, and the foliage too.

I’d add thuja occidentalis this season as well. Ooh and Trident maple of course.
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Chinese elms. They never stop growing. They are perfect for the hobby. I'm almost a little worried how much effort it will take to maintain a "finished" tree though.

While I don't own any, it seems like those "sea green" junipers put growth out non stop as well. They thicken quickly and can handle a lot of work, that I can say from experience. I am skeptical that they would make a pleasing image but I think I may experiment.
Oh yeah! You're talking about Japanese maple seedlings! Bada boom! A constant source of entertainment. I just finished chasing back the second flush on my forest plantings. I love getting deep inside the trees and sorting out the new growth, cutting back to the branches. Elms are next on the list.
This doesn't fit the question exactly, but I have a bunch of seedlings that I greatly enjoy checking on daily.

The fastest growing one I have right now seems to be a Chinese Elm.
My pine babies had a growth spurt, but seem to be fairly static right now.
My crape myrtle and my sweet gums are growing slowly.
Crape Myrtle, Zelkova, Stewartia (when fertilized especially), Japanese Maple (eventually), Juniperus procumbens 'Nana'.
My bougies just explode with growth and flowers once outside. And my crape myrtles grow a mile a minute.
I love working with my small Japanese beautyberry and I have a bigger one coming in next week to make more cuttings !
Okay, just realized I hadn't added my current favorite, which is ilex verticillata (aka winterberry). I picked up this guy in 2020 from a dried-out bargain bench and took him home to see what might happen. I say "guy" because he's literally the male partner in the holly scenario. That means the females get the berries (which are quite beautiful in winter) and the males are just the pollinators. No fruit. Anyway, I call this guy Winterboy (cuz it's a winterberry, but it's a boy... yeah, you probably figured that out). I'll share a time progression of what's happened in less than a year. Yes, they unfortunately grow very fast, and I'm certain that's a liability for the longterm commitment needed for true bonsai. But I'm still a big fan of this guy. I've learned a lot from him.


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Since my wife does not want me to buy anymore trees I take great pleasure in taking cuttings and caring for those I have successfully rooted.
Japanese and European Larch are among my favourites, but its tough to choose because there are so many other species that qualify!
Satsuki are a lot of work. I really enjoy these trees as there is a lot of in season work to do.
Chinese elm, ficus, and bald cypress plus living in an area that has two growing seasons a year.
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