Spaeth’s Purple European Beech: 2-Year Progression (thanks Ryan!)

I’ve always been on the lookout for purple beech that would make acceptable bonsai, but because of the almost-always ugly graft unions on the decent-sized cultivars you find at nurseries, and the difficulty of successfully air-layering them above the grafts (at least for me), it’s an almost impossible endeavor. Anyway, and in spite of past failures, in the Spring of 2019 I came across a few large ball-and-burlapped Fagus Sylvatica Spaethiana at a local nursery, and finding one with low branching that interested me, I decided to give it another shot. These particular beeches leaf out a week later and have a slightly smaller leaf than the species; they also retain their rich purple color much longer than any other beech. Of course, working on a B&B tree is labor intensive, to say the least. After uncovering the usual ugly graft and getting down to the surface roots, I reduced the rootball to an acceptable level and planted it in a plastic cement mixing tray (which I punched full of holes), and also trimmed the branches back some (pic #4.) The process to a solid 8 hours, so if you ever try this and want to finish in one day, you better start early in the morning! After a six-week period had passed, the air-layer was begun directly above the graft. I built a wooden box with 2 of its sides and the bottom made of doubled plastic drainage mesh, suspending and stabilizing the box in the proper position (pic #5.) 3 days later (pic #6), I got a little creative and reduced the branches again (this might’ve been the wrong thing to do, but what the heck, it survived, and even budded back some!) In March 2020, I checked the air-layer and discovered no noticeable roots, so I re-scored the now-formed callous, and using Ryan’s tutorial, root-grafted 4 seedlings just a tiny bit above the graft-line. In late Spring 2020, I treated the tree as if it were in bonsai training and performed a partial defoliation (again, probably pushing it, but I’m not getting any younger.) Pic #7 (the last photo with the wooden box) was taken in Oct. 2020 with the seedlings still attached. In March 2021, I discovered 2 lines of air-layered roots, plus at least 2 of the root grafts quite solidly fused, so the tree was finally separated. The last 2 photos show the separated tree; it may not look like much now, but moving forward I think it has possibilities. And I accomplished what I was trying to accomplish.


(Ooops!) Edit: The 4 seedlings were thread-grafted slightly above the air-layer line; I mistakenly wrote the graft-line.

wow, lots of technique and work gone into this one, well done! I absolutely love purple beech.

Looks like this tree is going to reward your effort and bravery, good luck!

Thx. the trickiest part was stabilizing the separated tree in the Anderson flat. Wish there was an easier way to find an ungrafted purple beech with bonsai potential, with a 3.5" trunk.