lavender bonsai

tyler_23November 14, 2007

I have been searching, but to no avail, for instruction to do an initial prune on a Kew Lavender. The specimen is 30cm tall and has a trunk 2 cm in diameter. 4 cm above the soil line the trunk splits into 5 almost evenly sized branches. Overall it is vase shaped and has a flat crown with evenly distributed second flush flowers. It was purchased from a garden centre this year and grown in the garden. It was transplanted into a perlite,vermiculite, peat moss medium in a shallow 20cm glazed ceramic pot two months ago and suffered no ill consequences. Approximately half the length of each branch is woody. It would freeze if left outdoors so it resides indoors under supplementary lighting with sufficient air flow. Advice appreciated. Thanks.

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Hi, well, this is not a traditional bonsai subject at all, and I'm unaware of anyone having used it for bonsai. I thought it was simply a perennial garden flower, but if it gets a woody 'trunk' and has a relatively long lifespan, then I suppose you can try to bonsai it. A couple of other things - pots that are glazed inside (vs just out) are not recommended for bonsai, and I hope it does have 1-2 good sized drain holes. As to the soil mix - 99% of bonsai I know of would die of root rot in the mix you're using (unless the perlite makes up 90% of your mix) as peat holds water too long and vermiculite turns to mush quickly. Bonsai are normally planted in mostly grit of various kinds (often depending on where you live availability-wise) with smaller percentages of coarse soil mixed in depending on the tree, where it lives, and how it's taken care of. Fast drainage is the key to keeping trees in small pots to a great extent and that includes never sitting directly in drain water. As far as pruning goes, even if it's now inside, it's been outdoors til now and I'd leave any work on it til early spring. What did you have in mind for styling?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 1:21PM
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Thank you for responding lucy. I will definitely change the media when I repot her. As there are no great age lavenders of which I am aware there is no image to evoke. I see a couple options for styling. One would be to treat the leaves as if they were pine needles and go after a formal upright style. I can see a Christmas tree effect during flowering, with rows of the flowers ringing the tree. Or I could take advantage of the present five branches that are growing and work toward a style similar to Walter Pall's Japanese Maple. I prefer the latter for this specimen and the former for a future specimen. The present thickness of the trunk would dictate a bonsai of about 15 cm which I think is too short so come spring she is going back in the ground for another year to thicken up. I suppose that I am an aggressive(read impatient) pruner and would like to know if there is any advantage to shortening the branches this fall.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 10:15PM
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Whatever styling advantage there might be, early spring is the time to do it, not now. I'd be very curious to see a picture once afterward!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 5:21AM
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There don't seem to be any lavender bonsai pictures out there right now so I will be sure to take good care of this lavender. I spread out the five main branches and used raffia to bend them down. I bent and twisted the branches to create a more full crown. I cleaned off the dead leaves and pruned a few very small branchlets. Once wired and fluffed the profile was 20 inches wide and 15 inches tall. I then removed flowers and a few nodes from each branch until she measured 17 inches wide and 10 inches tall. The view of the trunk and branch structure is about six inches wide and 4 inches tall. It's a little harsh but I've just spent a year creating an English lavender hedge outdoors. I pruned it last fall and the following spring, transplanted a few 1 year old plants both in fall and spring and have added a few first season plants. The hedge is very healthy. There are now two more Kew Lavenders that will need to be rescued from a garden that will likely get 15cm of snow this weekend. They are growing in a very sandy subsoil in a very sandy loamy mix with a little(10%) black earth and some black cedar mulch on the surface. I've bought some coarse sand and some vermiculite and if there is anything else I should add I would sure like to hear what that is. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 2:41AM
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A couple images of the lavender potensai and its new home.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 6:02PM
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Are you going to leave it as is, or eventually go to one or a couple of trunks?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 7:38PM
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I'm going to reduce it to a few trunks (have't decided yet which ones but I look at it every day in enlarged photos to generate inspiration). I also considered training the leader along the ground to grow the horizontal trunk into a circle. Something different. The leader branch is rather stiff and it may be better for me to grow one newly acquired lavender next year, along the ground to test out this circle option. Anyway, I'd love to hear suggestions.
Thanks for responding,

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 8:41PM
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