Story of my bonsai tree: Cornus mas No.1 "Vesna"

Spring time is approaching very fast during last days in our area. It will not take too long until winter will be gone definitely.

During my walks around I use to look on fields around the village. I was thinking about all those generations of our ancestors who were working on such fields. Their dependence on weather influenced strongly how they thought about nature. If weather was good, there was enough rain, but not too much, and sunny summer, crop was good and everybody was happy. If it was not the case, when winter was to long, spring too dry or some other weather disturbances, there was not enough food. We live in very different era now. Global trade is able to deliver any kind of goods all around the globe including food. Almost any kind of crop and food is delivered from one continent to the other. We are lucky there is no major famines anymore, and local shortages of food due to bad weather conditions during growing season are eliminated by trading.

But we still understand how important successful growing seasons are. I use to think something like inherited bond with our ancestors and nature force us to look on our trees in spring time. We are looking for any sign of spring, enjoying swelling buds and fresh green growth. This is signal for us, that does not matter how freezing winter was, it will definitely loose its force and come to an end, some day in March (in Central Europe). We can see that life is strong, and new season can bring us new hope and joy. And maybe that's why I use to look at my trees in early spring daily, sometimes multiple times during single day. I love this dynamic process of change on the trees in springtime.

For me the first messenger of spring in my garden is Cornus mas (Dogwood). Tree from this post use to open its flower buds long before anything else wakes up in my garden. In Slavic mythology we have mythological female character dedicated to springtime and her name is Vesna. In our language “vesna” is one of the poetic names for the spring. So when I was thinking about name for this tree I decided I will give it name after goddess Vesna.

I have this tree since 2009. It is collected tree from the wild but not by myself, I purchased it back then since I needed some material for upcoming workshop. When brought home I decided it will not go to workshop with me. Tree was not ready and not much could have been done in short time. Tree was most probably grazed into its shape by wild animals. Canopy was full of the dried out branches growing in different directions, cross growing and contorted. It took me many hours just to cut all this dry stuff. You can still see cut marks on branches.
Tree had one of the main branches which did not fit overall design plan. I tried to air layer it back in 2010 and you can find on blog it had failed. During Walter Pall visit in my garden back in 2011 he made tree critique of this tree and after this it get its present general shape. You can find several other air layering attempts on tree dedicated to improve nebari. There will be some other works since nebari will need improvement in the future.

Tree was repotted two times already. First time not major root work was done and a lot of original soil was left as it was. Second repotting into temporary bonsai pot was done in March 2013 . Many unnecessary roots were removed, but many were left not to disturb the tree too much. This is the reason why tree is sitting on rather high hill. Plan is to plant it into much flatter pot next time and hopefully hill will be reduced as much as possible.

Having tree with this hill planting you can have problems with drying out roots in top level of the pot. Only way how I was able to avoid this problem was to cover whole surface by moss. I have to say it works well. Right now top level of the soil is wet enough and is full of new fiber roots. You can see them on some pictures.

Last year the tree was one of my entries into Bonsai Slovakia exhibition. Not much work was done on it then. So this season was just about the time to make few reductions and some minor wiring. You can see the result on pictures. Wire will go down in early summer most probably after defoliation before it will bite in.

I can say this tree makes me very happy. It is changing through whole season, flowering, bringing fruits, changing leaves colors. And I found this tree to be photogenic, probably most photographed tree as you can find on my blog.  

One of the first pictures from 2010. Unfortunately I do not have pictures in container as purchased and untouched. Despite I tend to make a lot of pictures, I did not documented early stages of this tree in my garden. 


Late Orctober 2010
my air layering attempt in 2010

In June 2011 tree was reduced after recommendations from Master Walter Pall.

July 2011

July 2011

August 2011 - you can see emerging new growth which filled empty space in canopy on right side of the picture

April 2012

August 2012 with "black bird protection"

November 2012

August 2012 - nebari improvement attempt with air layer

Early March 2013 - after taking out from winter storage just before repotting

roots are just fine in zeolite substrate

And in new pot

April 2013 covered with moss
October 2013

November 2013

November 2013 - flower buds prepared for spring

March 2013 in flower 

April 2014 on Bonsai Slovakia exhibition

July 2014 with fruits all over the tree

February 2015 after wiring and editing. 

February 2015 after wiring and editing. 

February 2015 
February 2015 

February 2015 

February 2015 

Visible little scars after removing dozens of dry branches on first year.

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