Thuja progression and a year of learning

I first dabbled into bonsai over 10 years ago. Got one Carmona, tried to learn the basics, killed the tree within a year and forgot bonsai until last summer. For some reason, I got really interested in bonsai again. So, off I went to a garden center and picked up three thujas for 4€ a piece. With all the little knowledge long forgotten I proceeded to really abuse these poor trees. I bare rooted them in July during a heat spell and heavily reduced the foliage at the same time. As I thought I hadn’t tortured the trees enough I went on with another heavy pruning in less than two months in late August that same year.

Enter Mirai! Around September 2018 I started by watching the BSOP series on youtube and began to realize how many mistakes I’ve made and how utterly uneducated I was on basic plant physiology in general and anything concerning bonsai in particular. So, I signed up for Mirai Live and I have pretty much went through the whole library of videos, making notes, rewatching many streams and really boosted my knowledge and understanding of bonsai. I can’t think of a better investment to learn bonsai (and I’m sure my trees are thanking me as well)!
Thankfully thujas seem to be quite resilient and forgiving because by some miracle they all survived my initial butchering and made it through the winter. So, with all the new knowledge I’d acquired from Mirai I decided to let my thujas grow wild all summer before doing an initial styling in late summer this year.

Here’s the progression of one of these trees. It’s by no means a great tree and it probably never will, but at least it’s alive, doing well and being great practice material to turn all the theoretical knowledge into practice.

July 2018 - Nursery stock ready for major mistreatment

August 2018 - The thuja after it’s second major pruning in under two months, what a thing of beauty! :see_no_evil:

August 2019 - The tree after a year of unrestricted growth, just prior to styling

August 2019 (exactly a year after picture 2) - Initial styling done with new front and planting angle

A few more years and maybe it’ll start to resemble a bonsai. The straight untapered middle section of the trunk really bothers me, but I doubt there’s much I can do about it. Maybe I can get a small branch there someday to disguise and distract from it.

I’d love to hear comments, critique and suggestions on how I could improve the design.


Glad your trees made it! :+1: and you give me hope for the thuia I bought this summer and mistreated in a very similar manner. :sweat_smile: It looks really bad after I heavily pruned it and the sun burnt away much of the remaining foliage.
From my bonsai newbie point of view, your tree looks pretty great! Encouraging to hear how much they can take and survive and to see what can be made in short time of such a humble piece of material.

I hope your tree will make it! I think that as long as you have some foliage that has green tips or new growth emerging form the branches your tree should survive. If you’ve lost all foliage on a branch you might loose that one though. I’d love to see what your material looks like.

Thank you for your kind words about the design. It’s still very early stages, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I really like the species, it grows and develops quite fast and isn’t too fuzzy even when mistreated.

If you’re interested I could try to get a picture or two of the other two thujas as well. The second one is fully wired but the third one needs new structural wire and secondary wire (it took less than two months for the first set of structural wire to start biting in significantly).

Yes, Im worried that I may lose a couple branches… I just realized that I don’t yet have any pics of my Thuja by itself… the only one that I found shows it before pruning and wiring next to two other trees.
It‘s one of my first attempts at designing and repotting a nursery stock piece (and from before I discovered Mirai and got my ambitions raised considerably. :blush:) I‘ll take some pics of its remains tomorrow.

I finally got to taking a few pictures of the other two thujas. The windswept without wire I’ll try to get wired this fall so that I can better direct and control the growth next year.

The more I look at the spindly trunk in the front crossing in front of everything the more I’m leaning towards cutting it off, maybe jinning a small portion of it closest to the trunk.

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