Dwarf Thuja - 1st styling

Another cool Thuja to share!

Based on the dense/rounded growth pattern I believe that this is a “Hetz Midget”, but am not certain about that. I purchased it from a local nursery and don’t believe it was ever worked as bonsai, only left to grow in to the pot (re: super root bound)

Tree on 7/31/19

As you can see above, the tree is much less coarse and far more random in the orientation of it’s fronds compared to regular Thuja. The photo above was taken after a very hard pruning and some wiring to see how the branches took to it. When purchased it essentially looked like a bush.

Shortly after the above photo was taken, I wired it as seen below. My intention with the wiring was not to style the tree but to start to see what kind of structure was hidden there and give myself time to think about where the tree could go. I removed a few branches, created some deadwood and set out to learn more about the growth pattern.
Tree on 6/2/20

What I’ve learned about this particular cultivar is that it wants to be a bushy, rounded form. It does not throw the strong vertical/horizontal fronds of regular Thuja but instead throws them every-which-way, even upside down. They do not seem to mind these upside-down fronds either - they grow strong and healthy. Had I left the tree wired as above, it would have filled in and once again looked like a bush. Next time you walk around your neighborhood, take a look at your neighbor’s landscaping, there may very well be one of these there.

Same front, leaned and styled 6/25/20

A couple days ago I finally got the time to get to this tree and began trying to make something more interesting out of it. What you can’t see (and I should add photos) is that the tree was previously almost dead vertical. The trunk had interesting movement but did not feel like it had any depth. So the first thing I did was lean the tree forward. From there I began thinning/removing unnecessary foliage/branches and wiring the branches to resemble that of a more mature tree.

YES - agreed, it does not look like any thuja you’ve seen out in the wild. In fact, it looks an awful lot like a deciduous tree to me. But hey why fight the tree?

As I wired it, I noticed a couple of other potential fronts and wanted to share them for feedback.
What I prefer about these options is they make better use of the awkward intersection of the large jin and lowest branch. Which is your favorite?

Option 2 - more movement to the right, more interest in the lower trunk

Option 3 - even more movement to the right, even more interest in the lower trunk

I am looking forward to seeing how the tree responds and anticipate heavy editing throughout the next growing seasons to keep it from getting too dense. I’ll upload more photos of the tree from all angles (before/after) later.


I’m in love with option 2. Really hope that’s the choice you decide on

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I really like option 2! But I find myself coming back to option 3. The apex moving off center feels like it adds more character.

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I like option 3, as you stated moves the apex off center and adds more movement to the tree

Since posting this I’ve positioned the tree on my bench as displayed in option 3. I keep meaning to update with more photos from the sides/top. It really is the best option in terms of depth and movement. I’m looking forward to working on the jin/hole in the trunk next year. I’ll be connecting those two areas.


Bringing this thread back from the dead :slight_smile:
I am happy to report that I’ve just finished the 2nd big styling for this tree. A couple things I have learned about it before I dive into it…

  1. TL:DR - go nuts with water, sun, and fertilizer. I know this goes without saying for every tree in our gardens but given consistent care this tree responds far more predictably than other species I have. It never shows signs of stress from water or heat (which is great for MI weather patterns). It does best with organic ferts too.

  2. When left to it’s own devices, the fronds grow more predictably than I previously thought. When I first styled the tree I was worried that I would always be fighting fronds but after laying out the foliage in the first styling the tree mostly kept to the orientation that I had placed everything in.

  3. Wire bites very quickly but should be left quite a long time to retain the desired styling.

  4. Have squirrels/cats/raccoons that like to knock things over? This tree responds well to that.

  5. When pruning/styling - remove any of the weaker interior growth you need to with little discretion. It will fight you and try to replace it I promise.

Alright enough of that. Here’s the update.
As of last week: the tree was styled 2 years ago and was not pruned in that time. I only removed wire as it was necessary and fed on a regular schedule (fert bags at all times, organic liquid fert every week). A creature of some kind knocked this down in early winter of 2021 and I lost one of the larger top branches. Although frustrating, it’s for the best.

The tree put on a ton of top growth which only seems to want to reach for the sky. Fortunately the main branches all held their positions with only the secondary/tertiary branches needing to be pushed back down.

I also discovered that one of the roots coming off the front right side of the tree was dead and, after removing the bark, has a very nice jin (for roots?)

It took a solid 3-4 days but the work that was done in the previously styling made decisions fast and easy.

I originally thought that the tree looked best in “option 3” above (deadwood, lean, etc.) but after looking at the tree for 2 years I now realize that turning the tree to the left provides a much more dramatic lean and that, let’s be honest, the deadwood isn’t all that interesting anyhow. I may opt to remove some of the lower left foliage so you can see the trunk/deadwood, but for now, it stays. The final selling point for the shift was the interesting root jin.

As of today:

Uploading: IMG_0733.JPG…

Root jin:

Thoughts? Critiques? Questions? All is welcome.