Korean Hornbeam Progression - Spanning Two Posts

grouper52

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This is one of my oldest trees in several respects.

It is a 24" field grown Korean hornbeam imported by Brussels. When I bought it from them about ten years ago it was a huge elephant foot base with four stove pipe trunks coming up, covered with an impenetrable green mushroom of foliage. I liked it, but I had no idea what to do with it.

Nature took care of that. We moved to Taos, New Mexico in 2000, and lived there for three and a half years in one of the worst climates for bonsai imaginable. I lost most of my collection, and of those that survived, like this one, much damage was done. This tree lost two of the stove pipe trunks. This is clearly seen in the first two photos. When the jins had rotted a bit, I cleaned them up and preserved them with epoxy resin.

But, although my styling options were now somewhat simplified, I still didn't see much of a way forward. About the best that came to me was the third photo in fall colors, but I didn't like it, and couldn't see much way forward.

The next post continues the story.
 

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grouper52

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Part Two of the Story

What had seemed like gnarly bark on the front began to reveal itself, shortly after that last photo, as a mere facade covering more extensive rot. I gradually cleaned it down to solid wood, and what you see is what was left. In retrospect, I think this tree was a field grown clump of three or four trees that were grown together, fusing somewhat into one, but I’m not sure.

I decided to follow Dan Robinson’s theory of “Focal Point Bonsai Design”, making this extensive deadwood the focal point, and bringing the foliage, which wants to weep a bit anyway, down to frame and accentual that focal point. I did it in late summer last year when the tree was full of long whips, using thin wire as guys and as wrapped wire to give some character to the cascading foliage. I liked the effect. I left the wire on all last winter, as seen in photo two.

Here at the end of this summer, after some trimming and removal of some of the wire, I like the way it is starting to shape up. Front and back both look nice to me. When life gives you lemons . . . .

It will go into a more fitting and less distracting pot next spring. I’ll post it again if the fall colors are pretty this year, but it’s often not the case.
 

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grog

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I really like third pic, second post. With a little thinning of some foliage and a little time I think this will be a real grab-you-by-the-throat tree.
 

Attila Soos

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Grouper,
You did a great job on this stump, great improvement from the original.
The only thing that could make this tree perfect, is to create a smooth and undistinguishable transition between the live branches and the massive trunk. But to do that, you woul have to temporarily ruin the current design, and let the branches grow wild, for a few years. I am not sure that you are prepared to do that, since it will delay your gratification by about five years. But right now there is a disconnect between the "stump" and the live portion. The disconnect may be subtle, but the discerning eye can see that.

Incidentally, I just bought a very similar-looking Korean Hornbeam from Kim's nursery, the tree is an ancient looking stump imported from Korea decades ago (it has ancient, white bark). It has a massive 10 inch diameter lower trunk, and has two sub-trunks, the larger one is dead. So, I just planted in the ground yesterday (it was so heavy, that I almost broke my back when lifting it). I know that I will have the exact same issues to deal with as you, my tree looks very similar to yours. I want the branches and the live apex to catch up with the massive trunk, so I have no choice but to let it grow for a couple of years.

I am planning to create a large tree (around 3 feet tall), but it will be a long-term project exactly because the trunk is so old, and the live portion is comparatively so immature and young.

Here is an excerpt from Robert Steven's new book, Mission of Transformation (I just ordered it today) that deals with the exact same issue that your tree is about. It is almost as if he is critiquing your tree:

The trunk of this tree tells its ancient age, but the ramification structure obviously shows the rejuvenated branches which set back this tree to a pre-mature stage. This is what we should avoid when designing a bonsai, because such attributes do not depict a post-mature tree

So, our goal is to create such a "post mature" tree, where the branches look just as ancient as the trunk. Only then, the tree has a chance to enter the Kokufu-ten show. :) (your tree has all the ingredients for that to happen, the rest is in your power).

I am looking forward to receive the book next week, I can't get enough of Robert's wisdom.
 
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Attila Soos

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...regarding the 24inches height that you've mentioned:

You can easily add another 6-7 inches to the final height after the apex is thickened, this extra height will add more power to the tree, to the extent that this tree alone will be able to fill a whole room with its presence.
 
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Tachigi

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Will, this has potential to be a great piece. Seems that Taos might have been a blessing for this one particular tree.

You'll probably not want to hear this...but if it were mine.... I would plant it in the ground for a year or possibly two. This will speed up the healing on the calloused edges and swell them far faster than in a pot. Something that will help the image and give you a jump start on the rot that hornbeams are known for. So this could be a prudent move knowing that callouses don't build over rotted softwood. Other benefits would be what Attila alluded to, more mature looking branches that ground growing will provide.

My recommendation isn't based on the "stick it in the ground" stick syndrome, because this sure isn't any stick. It is based on proven methods that short term ground growing can provide for a tree that can't be done in a pot effectively.
 

grouper52

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Thanks everyone - great responses.

Tom, Toas did something for me that only work with yamadori could have given me otherwise: a real appreciation for the potential of trees that are "damaged" by nature. My Chinese elm and this guy taught me a lot in that regard. If the tree is still alive, even just one area of it, it presents perhaps even greater potential than if it were unblemished. Taos also taught me to get over losing trees, though it took several years before I got back into the hobby after all that pain, and I even sold off about half the trees I had left once I moved here and realized I wanted to do it again. It also taught me one hell of a lot about the horticultural aspects of keeping trees alive, though I wasn't always too successful. :( 7000' high desert with diurnal temperature swings of up to 80 degrees in all seasons, winters dropping to -15F, zero humidity, and gale force dust storms put quite a strain often lethal, on a collection of trees garnered mostly from Brussels near the Mississippi delta!

You guys are right - I will put this guy in the ground. I had not wanted to do this, didn't even entertain the thought for very long, but it is the obvious choice. One reason to avoid it was the fact that neither I nor civilization may be around in five years - but it's silly to let that stop me from trying. :) I have the most recent pictures to keep my memories alive while it's growing rampant! Thanks, Attila and Tom.
:)

Also thanks for someone finally responding to the post! Had me worried for a while . . .
 

Tachigi

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Taos also taught me to get over losing trees, though it took several years before I got back into the hobby after all that pain, and I even sold off about half the trees I had left once I moved here and realized I wanted to do it again.
Will ...at least you didn't cut off your ear....:D

Pain and hardship can be a great teacher....the trees your showing are proof of that.
 

grouper52

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Well, almost three years have passed with this tree in the ground. He will stay there for the indefinite future, but I can at least share a picture of him from time to time. :)
 

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grouper52

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Well, here's this guy. In the ground for six years, during which it lost the two dead trunks, but much of the rest of the deadwood is rock solid, and the transition from the trunk to the branches looks very natural now.

Since I'm getting rid of my collection in anticipation of a move to the Philippines in the next 2-3 years, I dug this one up today. I'm not working on it at all though - Dan Robinson has already asked me to have this tree join a bunch of others he's taken into his collection at Elandan Gardens, so I'll just let him do any future styling on it. He'll have a lot of fun with it!

KHornbeam.jpg KHornbeam-2.jpg
 

aml1014

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Gotta love new mexico climate, we've got heat, cold, wind, and it's dry, everything bondai don't like. My teacher John says if you can keep bonsai alive here, you can just about anywhere.
 

grouper52

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Gotta love new mexico climate, we've got heat, cold, wind, and it's dry, everything bondai don't like. My teacher John says if you can keep bonsai alive here, you can just about anywhere.
LOL!

Taos, as you know, sits at 7000' elevation, and we were out on the plateau about half way between the gorge and the mountain, at about 7500' elevation. "High desert" climate, as they called it. Almost all our trees from Brussels were tropical or semi-tropical - ficus, buttonwood, Chinese elms and such, and the frequent temperature extremes (highs in the 80s, then lows in the 20's that night were frequent) and the bone dry, dust-laden, often Beaufort Scale 7 winds were not conducive for longevity. Our "great room" was the best place for many of them, with its large east/mountain-facing windows, a swamp cooler in summer and radiant floor heating in winter, but even so the dry air and such took quite a toll. We had a little non-heated green house outside, one of those corrugated plastic jobby-doos, which ultimately proved a sure-fire killing ground for some of the "hardier" species. Record low while I was there was -17F - a gorgeous night that I spent stargazing with my telescope until dawn, but not a great night for the trees . . . .

I'd have given up bonsai and stayed there, I loved it so, but my wife developed an allergy to sage brush, and wanted a garden and trees in the yard and such . . . we left . . . but as we left I broke down crying unconsolably for the first time since childhood.
 

aml1014

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LOL!

Taos, as you know, sits at 7000' elevation, and we were out on the plateau about half way between the gorge and the mountain, at about 7500' elevation. "High desert" climate, as they called it. Almost all our trees from Brussels were tropical or semi-tropical - ficus, buttonwood, Chinese elms and such, and the frequent temperature extremes (highs in the 80s, then lows in the 20's that night were frequent) and the bone dry, dust-laden, often Beaufort Scale 7 winds were not conducive for longevity. Our "great room" was the best place for many of them, with its large east/mountain-facing windows, a swamp cooler in summer and radiant floor heating in winter, but even so the dry air and such took quite a toll. We had a little non-heated green house outside, one of those corrugated plastic jobby-doos, which ultimately proved a sure-fire killing ground for some of the "hardier" species. Record low while I was there was -17F - a gorgeous night that I spent stargazing with my telescope until dawn, but not a great night for the trees . . . .

I'd have given up bonsai and stayed there, I loved it so, but my wife developed an allergy to sage brush, and wanted a garden and trees in the yard and such . . . we left . . . but as we left I broke down crying unconsolably for the first time since childhood.
I live in abq but my grandmother is in Taos and I used to visit very frequently all year long. Unfortunately now that I'm an adult I have work and such but I miss Taos all the time and visit when I can. New mexico to some is an ugly desert, but to many it can be more beautiful than anywhere else in the country I think.
 

grouper52

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I live in abq but my grandmother is in Taos and I used to visit very frequently all year long. Unfortunately now that I'm an adult I have work and such but I miss Taos all the time and visit when I can. New mexico to some is an ugly desert, but to many it can be more beautiful than anywhere else in the country I think.
I'm one of those many people I've met who came up out of that gorge for the first time, looked out over the gorge running north like a crack to the center of the earth off to the left, and Taos Mountain to the right, and simply said to myself with great certainty that came from who knows where - "I have to live here some day." After that, I would drive many hours up from Albuquerque, and later down from Casper, Wyoming, just to spend a few hours there in the Hanuman Temple at the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram (I called it "The Hanuman Temple") before driving home again. I eventually bought the lot out on the mesa, and designed and built the home my wife and I lived in.

I know lots of people like that. I met a middle-aged woman there who, as a child in Germany, kept having this recurring, vivid dream about a "sacred" mountain. She had spent her entire adult life traveling the globe to all the famous mountains, trying to find the mountain in her dreams. She finally gave up. A short while afterwards, while visiting a friend in Santa Fe, and - never having told her friend about the mountain in her dreams - her friend thought it would be a fun trip to drive up to Taos. They came out of the gorge, just like I did, and she burst into uncontrollable tears at the sight of the mountain she dreamed about all those years as a child, and she never again left Taos after that.

It's like that.

Lucky you to get to visit up there - but just don't try to grow bonsai there!

Will
 

sorce

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Been to 4 corners once.

Seen a gorge like that but I don't know if it was the same.

Nice pic!

Sorce
 
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