Burning Bush revisit –

Several have asked to see a photo recap of this chunky Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus. We (my students and I) started the process of turning this vigorous stump of a shrub into a bonsai in 2012.

The fella who collected this Burning Bush said that it was growing by the side of a pond where nutria (a large rodent that eats euonymous) would graze on them. This one still has the shari from those gnawing nutria.

Although this tree is still many years away from ‘show shape’, maybe 10 years, here’s its 3rd-year progress report…

(And while I have your attention…submissions to the Artisans Cup will begin April 1. Also that day, incidentally, is the final day (extended deadline) for the National Pot Competition, so you potters out there have another few hours to get your best efforts together. Good luck everyone! It’s an exciting year in bonsai.)


Our Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus, in 2012.


After the initial branch selection, a flex shaft tool was used to grind down the large cuts.


Euonymous have very fibrous roots.


And here we are after the initial work and potting finished.


After the first year’s growth, in 2013.


A showy plant in fall, for sure! The week before there were still lots of leaves, and then a wind storm came. And then I took this photo. Alas.


Pruning in the fall, 2014, I think-


And this is how it looked this winter, 2015. Still a long way to go. We’re growing out the right branch for some caliper—as it’s such a low branch it should be fatter. Probably will let it grow out another year or two. At some point in there we changed the pot, because we needed it for another tree, I think. The tree looks a bit bigger in this pot, but eventually we’ll need a blue or a green pot. We’ll do another update after a few more rotations around the sun…and maybe by then I’ll have a more finished tree to show, and a photo of it the week BEFORE a wind storm takes off half the leaves.


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  1. yenling29 says:

    Very nice work as usual!

  2. Ronald Scarborough says:

    Very nice, thanks for sharing!

  3. Peter says:

    Awesome find and nice work. So this one will be called “the rat”?

  4. backcountrydan says:

    Looking good! I just recently collected a beaver pruned Aspen, and may go back for more depending on how this one responds. (I’d never even heard of nutria before… but it looks exactly like a beaver, without the beaver tail.) 🙂

  5. bonsai eejit says:

    Reblogged this on Bonsai Eejit.

  6. Should make a stunning tree in the future. It’ll be great to see how it progresses . Thanks for the update

  7. John T says:

    Does the Euonymous tolerate significant root pruning? When’s is the best time of the year for root pruning? When buds swell but not open?

    Related…Do you branch prune just once during the growing season? Does the Euonymous respond with new growth shoots in the same season? Or, does it hold off any new branch and bud opening until the next season?

    • crataegus says:

      Euonymous are very tough plants that, when strong, can tolerate quite a bit of root pruning. You are correct, when buds swell.

      A strong plant might throw out a second flush after pruning. Some established bonsai will not, and simply grow out again the next year.

      • John says:

        Thanks. Spring, in about a month, is my root prune time. I have an additional related questions. Last year I let the tree grow well. It’s healthy. Sometimes I see landscapers cutting the bushed in late winter before there is any bud activity….is before bud swelling a better time to hard prune branches? Can I prune branches and then plan to root prune as buds swell perhaps a few weeks later. I trying to get my head around the timing. I do appreciate your commentary.

      • crataegus says:

        Yes, your timing is fine. And for most deciduous this is ok. Many people also prune in fall, and that works well too.

  8. Hyn Patty says:

    It’s been three years. We want to see another update on this tree! 😉

  9. Olivier PHILIPPI says:

    Dear Michael, yes, an update would be great ! And pics of the cuttings, would be interesting to see the developpement of callus. I made some big cuts on mine, and wondering if any chance to close one day.. Thanks Michael !

    • crataegus says:

      Oliver, they really don’t close well at all. You may try something like Kirikuchi, the olive green latex sealant, that may well speed up closure with them as it does with other things.

      • Olivier PHILIPPI says:

        Thanks Michael for your advice, i think i will get my hand on this sealant, and give it a try. I will repot mine this spring and think it is gonna be challanging. As i bought it from nursery stock i just made big cut with saw for first repoting, now i have to do more detailed job. As mentioned in your topic, this speciy is really making very very fibourus root system, and it seams quite challanging to find the “real” nebari in this mess. I think i will try air pruning pot for this one.

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