Part I: Beech Design Puzzle

This Japanese Beech, Fagus crenata, has been growing in a box for several years. It had some large cuts low on the trunk that needed to be less apparent, and the only way to do that really well is to grow a larger trunk. So…we grew the top of this tree vigorously, which allowed for some significant trunk caliper to build. Now we’ve a decision to make, though…

The puzzle this time is where to cut back the extension. Take a look at these photos—I tried to give you some views of that area where the cut will likely be made. And next week we’ll do a post of where we made the cut.


Japanese Beech in a grow box, to build structure in the tree and minimize some of its faults, like the lower trunk scars.


These four photos show the top of the beech. The question is, where do we remove the extension?

dsc_0922 dsc_0923 dsc_0924 dsc_0925

The tree was set too low in the box to make out the root structure, so here’s what the nebari looks like. And we get a better view of the old scars, which are beginning to recede into the trunk. A really great beech won’t have any of these, no matter how old, so this will always be a second-rate tree. But we will do our best for it. Up next week: where we made our cut…


  1. Sage Smith says:

    Sorry to see the lower pruning scars but superb nebari. I do love beech in bonsai. Beautiful 😊. I know you’ll give this tree your best

  2. Graham says:

    I’ll give it a shot…….hard to describe…..but propose you should cut the sacrificial two dominant leaders about an inch or so (photo #4) where it meets the first branch (new leader) below the fork of the two leaders?…..this also gives you the smaller branc on the right as another potential main top branch!

  3. Jon says:

    Looking forward to the next instalment, How about an air layer at the cut point to get a second tree?

    • crataegus says:

      Air layer always a possibility…only one gets a small tree that isn’t worth much, in this instance. And beech can be tricky to air layer, much more difficult than maple. Very commonly one gets a one-sided root system.

  4. john says:

    This is good tree for my Japanese Beech forest. Like you said, it will never be a specimen tree but would work well in a forest or group. Need to cut right underneath the ugly knob at the top.

    • crataegus says:

      This beech is more of a field tree, really, one that grew up outside a forest. The branches are low on the tree, and they grow outwards rather than upwards. For a good forest tree the trunk needs a tall fluid trunk without many branches except near the top.

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