Finding the Bonsai in this buxus

Colorado Slim

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I have an unknown cultivar buxus I picked up this spring, I cut it back and removed some of the larger branches and repot back in March. It grew like a weed so I finally took the time today to start cutting back some and figure out where the bonsai is in this tree... I have some ideas, but before I get into it, I'm curious what others think. I don't plan on doing any more extensive work this year, and I also purposefully left far more branches than I ultimately want as I need the tree to backbud some, but here's some before and after and what I'm ultimately going for... any other suggestions?
 

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Bonsai Nut

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I'm not sure you have much to work with, currently. None of those main branches will work for a future design in my opinion - they are too long, straight, and have no taper.

Personally I would wait until next Spring, right before new growth. Then I would cut back HARD until all those branches were about 2" long. When it pops buds, make sure to wire ALL of the new branches so you can arrange and bend them appropriately. Then next summer you can start thinking about design and can selectively eliminate the larger branches you don't need.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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A common mistake early on in the bonsai journey is that we tend to prune a tree from the inside-out. It really makes sense because when you look at a tree, you usually see lots of branches with leaves more at the ends. In some cases, here included, it does make a nursery plant look like a bonsai.

However, the opposite techniques are required for successful bonsai. In almost every case, all of our efforts are aimed at pushing all the growth back toward the trunk by removing the outer-most growth; including roots and shoots. In fact, you even demonstrated this understanding in the virtual sketch you made, so you're closing in on it!

B'Nut is right on...enjoy it for the season, and chop it back in the spring.
 

rockm

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B'nut is right. Hard pruning, half or more, of each branch will force backbudding closer to the trunk and make for a more treelike look.

Boxwood will only backbud on old wood if it is pruned very hard. Pinching new growth will not force backbudding at all. You have to cut into the old woody sections to get any results. End pruning make boxwood look like poodles, not trees.
 

Colorado Slim

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thanks for all the help thus far... at this point now I've heard two different opinions regarding boxwoods... first that they only backbud when they have fresh growth on top of it, and now I'm hearing they only backbud when they are cut back hard... which is it?

As far as removing foliage from the inside out, I did less of that than it appears...

either way the tree will be cut back substantially, just not till next year. I really just wanted to get in and see what I was working with, something not easily done when it's in bush form.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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thanks for all the help thus far... at this point now I've heard two different opinions regarding boxwoods... first that they only backbud when they have fresh growth on top of it, and now I'm hearing they only backbud when they are cut back hard... which is it?
.

In my experience, they really only backbud when you whack them back to nothing (I've several boxwoods back to nothing...big trees, no leaves, multiple times, they grow back). Otherwise, it has no motivation to backbud. Yours is healthy now, and if it is allowed to grow until next spring it will be plenty strong. Prune it back hard like B'nut suggested and it will back-bud everywhere...but you need to go back to no foliage, or at most, leave whatever is in an area you want to keep, then pinch that back too.

Another tip, if you do cut the top back as suggested, it's also best to cut the roots back too. For some reason, boxwoods respond better if you do both ends at the same time. Alternating years makes these already slow trees REALLY slow.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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As far as removing foliage from the inside out, I did less of that than it appears...

Not to belabor the point, nor to offend, but here's what I meant by pruning inside-out instead of heading back. This is the difference between these two images. When you chop it back hard in the spring, you'll have this look by the summer's end, with lots of new shoots to work with.
 

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Colorado Slim

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took no offense at all... I had an idea when I started cleaning it out and I've decided to go a different direction once I got to about this point, so I stopped cutting on it and started asking a few questions...

The reason I didn't just cut it back hard as suggested in above pic is I didn't want a broom style tree, that's too obvious and common in a boxwood, just a bush on a pole, so I started looking at it once I got a fair bit of the foliage off and decided to change directions and work off most of the branches back and start over with the foliage... I stopped midway because someone had told me boxwoods backbud best when they still have some green on top, but it seems the consensus at this forum is the opposite.

I'm just going to go ahead and cut it back now as suggested, thanks again.
 
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I would have to agree with you when it comes to broom style on a boxwood, I think it is way to common... Just my opinion??? Don't care as much for boxwoods as bonsai either, but to each his own...
good luck with it though, worst case senario, you plant it in the yard...
 

Bonsai Nut

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first that they only backbud when they have fresh growth on top of it, and now I'm hearing they only backbud when they are cut back hard... which is it?

If have only been able to get them to backbud on old wood if I cut them back HARD and uniformly. In other words, if I only cut back half the branches, and let the other branches go, the branches I cut back may not bud at all, but may die off. Regardless, boxwood is not well-known for its ability to throw new buds off old wood. One reason why I said to keep all the old branches is that you may find you lose a couple in the process, or they may bud weakly or the buds may pop in the wrong locations.
 

Bonsai Nut

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When you chop it back hard in the spring, you'll have this look by the summer's end, with lots of new shoots to work with.

That is exactly the image I had in my mind. It doesn't HAVE to end up as a broom style. At this point you will simply have a lot of options.
 

Colorado Slim

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Sounds good, thanks Nut... can I call you Nut?? :)

I think there can be a nice 8 to 10inch tree in here once I get back to it, just probably set myself back some time having done the work wrong thus far... will update again next spring once it's time to work again... Perhaps I post pics next time BEFORE I start cleaning a tree out that I'm less familiar with.
 

Colorado Slim

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ok, so for better or worse, after talking with a number of people on this forum and others, here she stands, final hard cut for the year... now just to get some growth so I can start wiring a canopy.
 

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Jason

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Wow....now wait.......( a really long time). Can it live in the ground for awhile?
 

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