Starting a hornbeam

In bonsai there are a few different categories such as deciduous, evergreen, flowering, broadleaf, conifer, etc. So when someone says a deciduous broadleaf usually the first tree people think about is a maple and more specifically the Japanese maple. But this post will be about two particular Japanese hornbeams that I had to get ready for a customer before early spring.

The first Hornbeam


Here’s the first of the two and the reason I chose this plant was because it has a reasonably good amount of lower branches. Plus the apex of the tree can always be adjusted or pruned. It had just lost it’s leaves so I decided that it was the best time to prune it even though I would’ve liked to have done it in spring-mid autumn when the tree can heal the quickest.


Here’s a shot of the apex and where I’m pointing is the section of the trunk where it’ll be pruned. The reason it was at this point is because if I cut any higher there will be a lack of taper which is what the main aim of pruning is.


And now it seems more compact now that the leggy area of the tree has been cut off. Although the apex still seemed to have a lack of taper. So I decided to make another cut.


Here’s what was cut off and can you see how by replacing the branch with a smaller one starts a much needed taper? This is what pruning a bonsai (especially deciduous) is really all about, trying to get a lot of thin branches.


And the tree after pruning and a little bit of correctional wiring. Now looking at it I don’t really like how straight the trunk is so I’ll probably put a thick gauge of wire of it and try and give it a few twists and turns for show. ?

The second Hornbeam


Alright so now to the second. I’ve been thinking about what this tree could look like every time I walked past it. And now after a few months I finally get to cut, wire and style it. Unlike the first tree there are a lot more lower branches to work with. Time to start the cutting.


So as I was cutting it occurred to me that I had never really explained how and why. Bear in mind this is in no way a pruning or a wiring post though and in the future I’ll write one exclusively about methods to do all that sort of stuff. But for now here’s a quick demonstration on how I cut these trees.

Here’s an example of a branch that I cut and in the photo you can see six large buds ready to break next spring and a few dormant buds very close to the base of the branch. I haven’t had much experience with hornbeams but seeing as they resemble elms closely I decided to prune them the same way.


The branch after it’s cut is down to three buds including a smaller one that mightn’t break dormancy in spring. Now when an elm is cut like this the first two buds behind it from were the branch was cut will start to form a branch from each. This starts a fork like shape. So during the growing season it’s necessary to constantly let it grow out to 4-5 buds then cut back to 2 to get taper and in the tertiary branches a good ramification.


And after a bit of wiring and cutting back the way I explained just before here’s the tree finished for now. The reason there was a lot of smaller gauge of wire on the one main branch instead of a thicker one is because for some reason the hornbeams I bought mark easily when wired.

Before and after



And to finish off the post a quick before and after of the two trees.

p.s if you’re actively reading this blog, interested in any of the trees or have anything that you’d like me to go over please do leave a comment it would help a lot.

Thanks for reading


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