Bonsai Trees

Case Histories

Lonicera Pileata - (dwarf honeysuckle)

Lonicera Bonsai Style: Informal Upright

A fellow bonsai enthusiast who specialises in smaller trees (shohin) often exhibited many different specimens of this variety of lonicera. It became obvious to me that she had many such trees and at an exhibition I inquired where she had obtained them. She explained that whilst visiting a garden centre three years previously she had spotted approximately fifteen stocky little loniceras, and as they were all quality material had purchased the lot! 'Would you like one?' she asked.

I was told that she had five spare plants that she had put to one side and that I would be welcome to choose one of them if I visited her to collect it. The only drawback was that she lived over 100 miles away, but I decided that it would be a pleasant day out and a chance for me to see her whole collection. This was an offer I could not refuse as I enjoy immensely seeing other bonsai collections.

Lonicera Bonsai History: Training

It was springtime and the next weekend that I had free, I set off early in the morning, feeling very optimistic. When I arrived I could immediately tell that I was at a real bonsai enthusiast's house as there were many stock trees growing in her front garden.

The back garden contained a wonderful, varied bonsai collection and I was surprised at the number of very large trees that she owned, as I had always thought that she only grew small trees.

She led me to the five loniceras which were lined up for my selection, and I began scrutinising each one in turn. It was a difficult decision, but after ten minutes I chose one. Having had a final good look around her collection and a spot of welcome late lunch, I thanked her profusely and set off for home.

The lonicera, although only small, had a very powerful and well tapered trunk. The branches were however thick, lacking character and it was not practical to use any of them, so they were all removed. Several weeks later the tree budded fairly well and I allowed the new shoots to grow freely for the rest of the season. In the winter, after the branches had grown enough for initial structuring, they were thinned out, wired and positioned.

I was not happy with the result as although many branches had grown, most were not in suitable positions for the design that I had in mind. Knowing that I would never be pleased with the branch placement, and after examining all possibilities, including several different fronts, I removed all the branches once more, hoping that the buds would grow in more useful places this time. As soon as the buds appeared I could see that things were looking more promising and I was glad that I had made the decision to start again! The lonicera was covered in many more buds than previously and I needed to thin out the new shoots as they began to extend that summer.

At a local bonsai nursery the following spring I found a formal, rectangular pot that I thought would be ideal for this tree. Small trees have many advantages, they are easy to carry and transport, and also the pots, being smaller, are usually much cheaper! The tree was root pruned hard and moved into this pot, where it has stayed ever since. Over the years I have removed several large branches to allow the foliage pads room to develop.

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