Bonsai Trees

Case Histories

Common Hawthorn - (crataegus monogyna)

Hawthorn Bonsai Style: Multi Trunk

This strange hawthorn first came to my attention many years ago, when I noticed it on growing on the top of a drystone wall whilst on a country walk in a nearby village. It was fascinating how the trunks had formed such twists and curves, actually joining together in several places.

One branch even appeared to grow straight through a trunk and out the other side! I dismissed this tree as I felt it was just too bizarre and I also had no idea who owned the stretch of wall.

Three years later and I was enjoying the same walk one winter's morning when I noticed a man repairing the stretch of wall, which was beginning to fall down in places. The hawthorn was still there, looking even stranger without its canopy of leaves.

I asked what would become of the hawthorn when he reached that part of the wall, which was in disrepair. He said that it would be discarded and I immediately offered my services in helping him get rid of the tree! I removed all of the stones around it only to find that it was surviving in virtually no soil at all. The roots were equally odd and mirrored the growth above, being similarly twisted and contorted.

Hawthorn Bonsai History: Training

The hawthorn was planted in a large plastic half-barrel, deep enough for the long root system, which had few fibrous roots. I pruned some of the top growth so that when it leafed out there would be less foliage to support and anxiously waited for spring to arrive. The tree responded well to being transplanted and was soon completely covered in rich green leaves.

That year all growth was left unpruned so that the tree would gain strength and the root system would consequently improve. A weak solution of balanced fertiliser was regularly applied.

In late spring the next year, I felt that the tree had sufficiently recovered for some initial styling to commence. I carried out some major pruning and two months later the tree was covered in healthy new shoots. These were thinned out and wired horizontally as new branches, slightly curved to reflect and emphasise the trunk shapes. Any new shoots were removed as and when they appeared. The branches began to thicken and were not pruned for almost two years, whilst the hawthorn remained happily growing in the barrel.

Spring arrived and I decided that it was time to inspect the roots. As expected, the barrel was full of fibrous roots and I was able to safely remove all of the long tap roots, meaning that the tree could now be planted into a bonsai pot. I had several pots that were available, but one seemed a particularly good match, blending with the grey/brown trunk coloration. In its new shallow bonsai pot the tree showed real potential and I began to wonder if it would ever flower.

It has remained in this pot ever since, being repotted only once during that time. The growth is pruned each summer and the branches are thickening and gaining some much needed weight. Last year I was thrilled to find three flower buds, one on each trunk, and several berries followed that autumn. This year there are more flowers, well distributed amongst the branches. I hope that this will become a trend, with more flowers every year to come!

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