Burning Bush—Seasonal Styling and Potting

This tree was originally collected by Kevin Yates from a park in Eugene. Apparently it had been kept stunted by the nutria that lived in a pond nearby. When Kevin saw this post he recognized his tree and corrected me on several points on its origin- Thanks!

Euonymus is a popular genus for bonsai. The burning bush, Euonymus alata, is not a commonly used species, however, and I was excited to give it a whirl. This photo essay was taken in the creation of this bonsai during the Winter Seasonal of 2012, in February.

The Euonymus after growing in an Anderson Flat for a few years. This photo was taken the day of styling, in February 2012.

The stalwart Howard Griesler of Chicago working with the flex-shaft grinder to bring down the large pruning cuts. (Howard is a foodie and loves our eclectic Portland restaurants...)

The redoubtable John Denny from Iowa working on the rootball. (John is a master brewer, and typically makes sage comments about the local micros).

Both gentlemen washing the rootball of some mucky old soil. I stood far away.

The prepared rootball drying a bit before potting.

The final result. It needs a stupendous amount of development, but it's an unusual species for bonsai and I'm curious to see where it goes. Certainly it will give the Japanese maples a run for their money in the fall with its vermillion foliage.

19 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    Mike,
    You mentioned your soil mix was 50/50 akadama, and pumice. In the final photo the soil mix looks really dark. Is it still the same 50/50 mix, or do you use somethings different to topdress?

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, it is different on top. I usually top dress with sphagnum moss. NOT Peat moss, which is rotted sphagnum and becomes water repellant when it dries, but straw-colored sphagnum moss. It’s sold variously as Orchid Moss (Lowe’s) or New Zealand Moss. I add a diluted india ink to it to darken it. Be sure it’s permanent ink, otherwise it will just fade away.

  2. Steve Moore says:

    Looks good. Encourages us all to look at often-neglected species for yamadori. Thanks for posting this.

  3. art rodriguez says:

    what an excellent tree Michael !
    Art Rodriguez

  4. Peter Chapman says:

    Nice work Michael, Howard and John! I am looking forward to seeing the development of the branches.

  5. bonsaiquinn says:

    Michael, I was wondering if you had any pictures of this trees evolution since this post.

    It would be interesting to see where you have brought it.

    Matt

  6. Kevin Yates says:

    Any updates on how the burning bush is progressing? It would be great to see it in it’s fall color!

  7. Jeremy says:

    We would all love to see how this beauty is looking. Did you remember to snap any pics of the fall color?

    Thanks!

  8. Patrik DeCicco says:

    Hi Michael,
    Patrik from Boulder, Colorado here. We met when you were at RMBS in Denver. Anyway, I have a large BB that I want to work on in a couple months. I will need to make some big cuts/chops as I noticed you guys did. What was/is your long-term plan for those? Will they be encourage to heal over, carved out or just left as they were in the above photos? Thanks for your time and blog, good stuff here.

    • crataegus says:

      I think they could be carved out a bit. Without a lot of encouragement, such as a wound sealant with Gibberellic acid in it, they won’t heal too well. So you might consider a hole of some sort.

  9. I reported a small Euonymous this past winter given to me by a friend. It had great roots so I didn’t do much work on them as I want the little plant to grow. However it has done nothing since. Does this genus have any unusual needs or sensitivities? I have it in a somewhat shallow pot, but it was much larger than the existing diameter and depth of the roots. I did bare root it because the Akadama it was in was nearly powder. I started fertilizing with organic a few weeks after repotting and then added weekly fertilizing with 14-14-14 Maxsea at half strength in March. I’ve had no new growth and none of the buds have opened. The stems are still bright green.

    • crataegus says:

      Hi Catherine, your message went to spam for some reason. There are no unusual needs that I know of for Euonymous. Barerooting is always a tricky maneuver, the aftercare is very important. How is the tree now?

  10. jim says:

    is it true that burning bushes do not sprout back buds after any pruning? it seems they grow through may, then no matter what you do, it is done for the year. so thread grafting can’t work this time of yer and 1 has to wait til next early spring? thanks.

    • crataegus says:

      I’ve tried thread grafting Burning Bush, and they’re a bit tricky, the cambium is not very active on them. They will shoot out again after a hard pruning, but only a really hard pruning and only if the tree is very strong. I’d not do to a tree with only moderate strength. So, you might try a graft at this time of year, but it’s not a maple, for sure-

    • crataegus says:

      I’ve tried thread grafting Burning Bush, and they’re a bit tricky, the cambium is not very active on them. They will shoot out again after a hard pruning, but only a really hard pruning and only if the tree is very strong. I’d not do to a tree with only moderate strength. So, you might try a graft at this time of year, but it’s not a maple, for sure-

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