Bonsai Forest from nursery stock

I was fortunate enough to be given a bundle of nursery planting stock. These are healthy young trees that have been grown to sold and planted out in the thousands so don’t have that degree of attention that bonsai seedlings would have lavished on them.These are cell grown Alder.

The trees are grown and delivered from the nursery in little plugs of soil so the roots are undisturbed during the transport and planting out, they come in wraps of 25 with a variety of degrees of sizes and shapes. As these are intended for the forest these small differences do not matter, however this difference can be exploited for a forest group planting.

Let’s see what we have as our Raw Bonsai material:

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The first step is to sort out the sizes. I arrange them into Large (5 in number), Medium (7)  Small (10) and dead (3). Obviously the dead ones would not form part of the arrangement!!!

The large trees will form the central focal points and have already started branching. Medium trees will form a ring around these and the small trees, which seem to have already developed bends and twists in the trunks will be spread around the outer ring

The soil of the cells was loosened and any upward growing roots were removed, leaving any surface roots that will develop over time and be an attractive feature.

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Trying hard to hold the trees with one hand and take a photo with the other, it became impossible after this stage to take any more during photo’s so you will just have to fill in the gaps. The trees are sitting together in the pot but the roots are all separate and very easy to move about, also because the trees are cell grown then they can be turned individually to ensure that the natural shape of the stem is consistent with the overall image. Once the trees were in the correct placing the next step was to infill with bonsai soil, as this was pushed down it gripped the trees more and more firmly until they did not need to be held and the arrangement could take shape.

The trees are planted quite deeply at this stage. At the next repot, which could be as early as next year, the bottom layer 2cm of soil and roots will be cut off and the group can then go into a shallower wider pot more conventional for a forest planting, this pot is going to give the trees the best possible growth without allowing free running space for the roots

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And the finished group planting after a good amount of tweaking to give an outline of a forest grove. I will report back after the growing season to see the development.The photo tries to give a good silhouette of the final grouping. Some of the trees were pruned back to fit the outline, I have left the clippings which can be seen at the front of the photo.

I have tried to achieve a calm, balanced arrangement of stems, which will form a rounded dome very quickly. The growth habit of alder is to be tall thin trees, so the shape of the dome will ultimately reflect this. I have purposefully included some stems that cross low down, and some small stems at the back which run slightly against the natural flow in order to give it that little touch of imperfection, wabi-sabi, understanding of which is so important in appreciating bonsai.

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