I like this tree a lot. Actually found it at a nursery locally. I saw the trunk and the roots and was surprised at what it already had to offer. The tree has the look of age I want.
This is a Yaupon Holly (Ilex Vomitoria). We’ll get to the name in a second. It is native to the southeastern United States and is typically used as a hedge/shrub. But…..it makes wicked Bonsai!
They do have small white flowers in spring. The female plants also produce red berries. Do not eat the berries or you will be sick and vomit! Not fun. Hence the name Vomitoria.
However, from the leaves you can make tea. It has the highest caffeine content of any plant in North America. More than both coffee and green tea! Haven’t tried it yet, though.
Yaupon Holly naturally grows near water…..swamps, salt marshes etc. So it likes to stay wet and the roots should not be allowed to dry out completely.
Before re potting I did give it a light trim. There is a big section of foliage and branches missing on the right side. There are broken branches. I like that though because it adds character.
This affected side will have to grow out but I balanced it slightly so it looks a little better in the meantime. But More importantly, by cutting back some of that growth, the tree will redirect energy to new growth. This will speed up the process a little.
This tree is far from Bonsai but a great start.
After trimming it I had to wait a week before re potting. Why? Life is too busy.
Here is it is before & after the first trim:
So enough about that and to the re-pot:
It came in a nursery pot and was…..well very fairly pot bound as I discovered. For some areas it is a little late to re pot but not in Florida! This is an interesting place for nature to say the least.
I’ve had it for almost 2 weeks waiting to get this done, its about time. With my hands obviously filthy I couldn’t get as many pictures as I wanted of the whole process but you get the idea.
Here is what I cut the roots down to:
Big time root prune! On Yaupon’s it isn’t advised to take more than 25% of the root mass off at one time. I took off about 75%.
I know this tree can handle it and you must always push the limit in Bonsai…..
Oh…and did I mention….it has to get in the new smaller pot. Ultimately this tree should be in an even smaller pot.
However, I don’t think I could have cut more of the roots this time without losing the tree. Next year, maybe 2 years from now, I will cut the roots back again.
Here’s the pot already wired (we’ll get to how to wire a pot in another post)and I put a mound of soil in the middle & a few rocks on bottom:
The soil I’m using is a “Japanese Mix” consisting of Akadama, Pumice, and Lava Rock. There is a little Pine Bark in there as well. This will make the tree happy.
I made a cone shaped mound in the middle of the pot with soil to help make sure there are no air pockets or empty space between the roots. If you leave air space you will kill those roots and kill your tree. Not suggested.
I also turned the tree upside down and filled as much of the space in the root ball as possible even before setting it down on the mound in the pot. This has worked well for me in ensuring the soil fills all the voids.
At this point I placed the tree on the mound! After that I filled in and built the soil up around the exposed roots. I left a little more of the roots exposed than it had in the previous nursery pot.
Here is what we have after 45 minutes of work:
So what do you think?
I think it looks great. Please keep in mind this tree is no where near true Bonsai level..it’s in training…and will be for a while. There is a lot to do here.
For one, as mentioned earlier I need to get the root ball smaller. This pot is too big for this tree. But with trees things take time and I have to let new roots grow first for a year or so before pruning them even smaller.
The exposed roots need to develop more as well. They will be trimmed and the right roots will be chosen, one day.
There is also a lot of shaping and branch work that has to be done as well.
The tree will show us what to do in time. For now this Holly will sit and grow…and grow some more.