Downy Birch - (betula pubescens)
Downy Birch Bonsai Style: Informal Upright
I did not have a pot large enough to accommodate this tree's poor root system, which contained several very long roots that were needed for its survival.
It was therefore planted in a very protected area of the garden, where it budded weakly from the ends of the existing branches and struggled to grow that season. As the tree was still establishing a root system I did not feed it, but watered when the ground became dry in the summer.
The next year the downy birch remained in the ground and it grew like a completely different tree, producing strong, new shoots and generally looking much happier. I was relieved that this weak tree had survived the winter and was now growing vigorously.
It was left to grow freely for the rest of the year and dug up in late winter so that I could examine the root system. I was able to remove the heavy roots as it now had much finer roots nearer the trunk and I planted the tree in a large rectangular bonsai pot.
Downy Birch Bonsai History: Training
At this stage all of the branches were removed to encourage buds to form on the trunk, allowing me to develop a new branch structure. Buds did appear and were generally well placed, except for a large gap at the top left of the tree which refused to bud.
I kept the new shoots pruned hard, hoping to encourage further budding, but at the end of that year the birch had a large area with no growth and this presented me with a problem.
Reassessing the tree's future I decided that by rotating it 180 degrees, the available branches were better placed, and so the back became the front! The gap was still present, although less obvious and now at the top right. I started to grow a shoot in front of the gap, and also one behind to hide this space and make it appear to be well branched all over.
In the spring it was repotted into a much smaller rectangular pot and grew exceptionally well that year. I partially leaf pruned the tree in early summer, leaving the foliage on the weak branches to give them extra strength.
At this stage the tree was heavily wired and shaped. It remained in this pot for a further year and was then planted in a smaller, round pot. This really suited the tree and the bark was picked up by the colourings of the pot, which being smaller made the tree look much more imposing and established.