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Bonsai journeys - a project tree - Large Weeping Willow

Bonsai trees are always 'a work in progress' with some part-way along their journey, some well established along the path, while others with years of refinement are almost at their final vision - and take just a little care and attention each season. 

This series takes a look at the journeys made by some of the trees in my own private collection. Do look for the others from the menu.

The story with this tree starts on eBay and a search back in 2017 for good large bonsai material that was local to me in order to view and collect.


Large material just does not fair well with couriers, is difficult to pack correctly by the owners and of course, is often extremely heavy! This is one reason why our nursery will only ever list smaller Shohin and Mame sized trees for sale online. 

How this tree appeared in the original eBay listing ... 

Willow Support.JPG
Willow on eBay.JPG

The tree was a very knarled bark offcut from an existing garden tree that had simply been placed in a large plastic pot and left to root. (The ease of how you can propagate Willow for bonsai is rather exciting!) As you can see, it had an interesting 'S' curve already, with good early season growth indicating that the roots and transplant were at least viable in supporting the tree into the future.


With a 'Buy Now' price offered and duly accepted, it was off to travel 3 miles to collect.

Timber & foam support with coated wire stabilising the tree from any wind. 

The first observation on this material was that there had been no consideration to its great potential as bonsai, and as such, it was resting on the side of the pot, the existing root system being incapable of supporting the upper section in any other style than the obvious cascade. My vision for this material needed a more upright slanting style, giving eventual height to the canopy that would allow cascading branches to be styled as if sitting overhead a river - the natural habitat for this type of tree. 

Back home, the first priority was to make a re-pot back into the existing container, inspecting the roots, placing in better compost, while figuring out the best way to support the top-heavy loading.


This was completed with a V-cut made in an offcut of marine ply with some pipe insulation adding cushioning against the softish bark of this species. Throughout 2017 and the 2018 growing seasons, the tree was well fertilised to encourage additional foliage and subsequent root growth. A heavy layer of pure grit (some 30mm deep) would help 'compress' the root ball over this period, while occasional spiking with a small terminal screwdriver of some 100mm, down into the compost, would allow ventilation to encourage the roots more. This compression and ventilation process I have used many times before with great effect in stabilising material so it becomes self-supporting in as short a time period as possible. 

By the Spring of 2019, the supports could be removed with confidence, as the tree was very firm in its container. Just as a precaution, a large stone was placed upon the soil surface to the inside curve, being moved a few millimetres every few weeks to avoid flat spot marks on the growing bark.  

Winter 2019 and time to sort out the far

too busy top, while making an improvement to the

top chop. This can be refined later with carving.

The pot is angled to give more of an idea of how I wish this tree to stand.


The trunk is now totally self-supporting.

Top right: the white line indicates a conflicting branch that needs to be removed. 

Willow Group.JPG

January 2020 and a major restyle. The plan here was to prepare for the season ahead and in repotting at the new angle. Although it has been left as per the image lower left, the image on the right shows how I might refine the image in future: - removing the white marked branch that hides the curve of the trunk and in lowering the canopy in what will be a full semi-cascade style. The new chop is done so that subject to bud burst on the top edge, a new leader directly off the curve might make a better visual, longer term.


Above: closer detail on the upper section with right; that troublesome branch hiding the trunkline is removed. 

Below: fully rewired and repotted in early February 2020 before bud burst. With Storm Ciara due, it was prudent to support the tree with a wooden support for a few months, while the soil settles and new roots take hold. 


September 2020 just before it starts to take on autumn colours.


More work on this one next season!  

Latest large Willow.JPG
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