Making a Large Christmas Tree Bonsai

In this video I take the raw material, Alberta spruce, and show you how to create a very nice upright bonsai.

Our lovely robin also makes an appearance.

Right we are almost near christmas and you see that we have a lot of christmas trees here and you must be wondering what i’m going to do with them i’m going to work on a couple of them first of all these are almost one meter tall and most people wonder how can i deal with a tree that big and i’ll show you what i do with it but let me talk about some other pieces as well while i’m out here now these are the big ones which are one meter tall but we have a very popular line and by the way you can see what i’ve been doing i’ve been cutting the tops off and in case when you order it and you get one that has the top cut off don’t despair because one meter is much too tall for a bonsai i will show you how to reduce the height so that you get a more manageable tree now these ones are about 30 to i would say 40 centimeter tall and you will see that i have a batch of 45 trees that i picked out and i must tell you about this very interesting project that i’ve got the museum of modern art in helsinki are going to give their staff i think 40 or 50 of them a christmas treat and i’m going to do a zoom conference where all their staff are going to get a tree each and the right amount of wires and a pot and they’re going to follow me on the zoom conference and they’re going to make a christmas tree each christmas tree bonsai with a spruce for christmas so that’s going to be an exciting project so these trees that i picked out are going to be shipped to helsinki in finland but let me now go to the back of the greenhouse because i’m going to show you how i’m going to deal with these tall one meter trees as i told you i’ve already cut some of them this one is not cut yet so we’ll go to the back greenhouse and i will show you how exactly we deal with these so as you can see it’s getting cold so i’m not wearing my hawaiian shirt today so what am i going to do i’m going to work on this one meter tall piscear because as i said to you it’s much too tall to be a bonsai you would need a massive pot you could use the whole height but i prefer not to use the whole height so always with these trees the first thing to do by now you must have guessed is to take it out of the pot and let’s spread the roots to find good radial roots and that will also help me decide which is the front and which is the back amazing how they can get these plants in these small pots they must be grown very intensely intensively and there you go if you take a close look at the trunk it’s a massive trunk there and i’m now going to for good measure scrape some of the soil and this reveals the very very powerful base i have so the first thing i do is to maybe if the tree’s gonna stop there i don’t need the branches that low by the time i wire them down i think i can safely remove some of these very low branches i know getting these low branches is quite a difficult thing because it takes years to grow but they serve the purpose these low branches have helped to take in the trunk so they have acted as a sacrificial so if there’s a word you’ve learned hopefully this year is sacrificial so we can start the tree from about here a low spreading branch that one at the back we probably won’t need so looking at that beautiful trunk you can straight away see that very powerful tree i know i’ve done this video before but just to reinforce your learning process i’m doing it again i don’t think there’s any harm in repeating myself okay now let me decide how far i go but before i do that i might as well wire some of these branches now this trunk would be every bit i would say two inches uh two inches in uh new money is uh five centimeter is an inch two point five four two five no no no what am i saying okay this and this okay so starting there so that is what we call a two inch trunk going there going there going there i’m having a rough look to see how far i can chop it now if i use this as the front what i’m looking for in a new leader is one shoot that goes up like this so that is a possible leader if i don’t want the tree to be that tall i can stop it here or that’s another place i can stop it i could stop it there so let’s get rid of this label well certainly i don’t need all of it that’s for sure i don’t need all of it so the first option is i could make a chop here i could make the tree that tall but it’s still too tall if i go further down you see what i mean by getting a new leader that will take over as the main leader that’s shooting upwards where’s the next place i can cut i can cut there that can also make a leader there so i could do that one so you have so many choices so let us be a bit radical and take this off okay i’m going to reduce the tree by this much in fact i’m going to in future send the trees much shorter because many people struggle to make a decision as to where to cut it so rather than let them struggle i think i will take the pain out of the decision-making process so this is what i’ve cut off this much i’ve cut off at least i would say 30 centimeter that much i’ve taken off the top so that is a more manageable height for the tree so i hope you can see the way i’m thinking now let’s do the first wiring and here’s my little robin it’s become a permanent visitor and it loves to see me whenever i work so this wire that i’m using let me just double check this wire is three and a half mil wire three and a half mil wire because the branches are quite thick so this is what i’m using to wire the first pair of branches with christmas coming you’ll find that there are lots of these trees available make sure that when you buy these trees they are quite fresh and not dried up because many of these trees because christmas is such a busy time in many of these stores they store it in a dry place and they know that people who buy it they keep it for christmas and after christmas they chuck it out for the garbage man to take away but if you want to grow it you’ve got a beautiful bonsai so be careful when you buy these trees from the stores make sure that they’re not dried up and as you know at christmas the robin is the uh archetypal image of christmas the robin at christmas so how appropriate is this with this little robin looking at us making a christmas tree and i hope you will feel the christmas spirit with the little robin here they’re looking for little worms and little grubs and this is wide i’m not going to cut it off i’m just going to shorten it a little bit and i’m going to make that the first pad so that’s going to require only slightly thinner wire so the first pad i will use i think i’ll use two and a half millimeter wire i hope me telling you what greater wire i use will give you a rough guide and help as to what to use but as i’ve always said you’ve got to play it by ear and you’ve got to assess the situation for yourself because the age of the trunk or the branch plays a big part in deciding what wire to use if it’s an old branch it won’t bend so easily so you may need slightly thicker wire so there is never a rule of thumb i hate rules there’s no rule of thumb that says that you’ve got to use that grid of wire if it’s a certain thickness or branch okay so i’m now just going to trim the ends trimming the ends won’t hurt it it will make it bush more i’m always trying to reveal the trunk as much as possible so that’s going to be the back branch and then i want to arrange the next branch so that it’s not too low and clouding the back so some of these thinner branches are going to go because i’m going to use most of the branches this thickness so i’m going to tear that one and one at the back there i’ll repair those two and then this can come out so i keep pairing them and wiring as i go along i haven’t looked at the top yet i’m not bothering to look at the top just yet i’m taking the wire around the trunk once because that gives the branch more stability for wiring and you notice that i’m not bothered if the wire doesn’t go right to the very end of the branch it’s just to keep the branch down you can take it to the end if you wish but i’m trying to save on just a bit of wire if you don’t have the gin class an only pair of electricians plus would do but the pliers does help you to tweak the end and when you come to the end we will shorten these a bit will certainly grow again look at the cheeky little robin already looking like a tree so i’m trying to leave spaces between branches as i said you so i’m taking out the thinner ones let me see if i put that there will it affect it no that’s quite nice that should be okay this could be okay like that but i think this is better like that it’s too close so i don’t need this one this one will do the job so i can get rid of this one so it’s always a method of elimination so this one is this one is too close to this one so i take this one off i hope you get the idea so let’s concentrate on wiring these two first and then we’ll take the next one now that one is there do i need that no i don’t need this even so let’s get rid of this so we can watch these two i can wire these two now let’s wire these two let’s swap these two if the bird understands english it can probably understand the instructions what i’m doing so let me just do this one i don’t think there are many people who actually use this species of tree for bonsai very few i would say certainly in the uk i don’t think anyone uses this you may get the odd person who uses it after seeing what i’ve done but it’s not a tree that people normally use for bonsai so we’ve got so far so you can see the way the tree is coming along so so now we resume by taking more decisions about the further branches let me just put a marker here in case i forget which is the front and which is the back the roots are quite good now i’ve got to decide what to do here if we see here now if there’s a decision whether i keep this branch or not this branch is too close to this one even when i bend it down low you can see that it’s too close it doesn’t leave enough gap between this and the next one so if i don’t need it i take it off i know that many of you will find it very daunting and frightening to decide what to take off and what to keep now these i will see they can go to the back but because they go to the back it’s not interfering with the space i can remove these two so these two although they’re close i could use these two but i see another branch there so let me see what if i do that one okay now that means i’ve got three branches look at it i’ve got three branches i’ve got this this and that now that could be too much so what do i do given the choice of having these three i feel that it’s a bit much so do i remove this one or remove this one i think you could easily remove the center one and keep it like that maybe because if i keep just these turning move this there’s too much gap there so this is what goes through my mind so i’m just revealing how i think as i go along so with these three because if i remove this one i get more spacing this is my preferred choice if i remove this one these two are too close so i will prefer to do as i say keep these two and remove the center one so i will do the same thing and while those two first in case i get it wrong i can always have a full back position so if you’re not sure you can just do as i’m doing keep the option open in case you need to go back to that so i have two volunteers here so we’re going to do another interesting project after this one where we are going to make several pisces and put them together in a christmas scene so it’s going to be like a christmas tree landscape you’ll find that very interesting i always return to the front because that’s where i’m going to see it so that is the my marker so that is the front now let me arrange those branches there that can go that side and i think there is a case for keeping that there so i wouldn’t remove it just yet i will keep it i’m glad i didn’t remove it and then the next two i’ve got to decide which is the next one that is a useful space there this is useful i think we’ll keep these two okay always try and move along like this so i hope it would work so i’ve now gone down one grade lower this is just three milliwatt instead of three and a half as you go higher up the trunk you see the thickness of the branches has reduced so i don’t need such thick wire so you’ve always got to match the thickness of the branch you’re wiring with the right grade of wire if it is too thin it won’t work it won’t hold if it’s too thick it would be very cumbersome to use and it could also hurt the branch so as i’m going up i’m going to trim the long branches the tips so that i get more of a conical shape so already you can see the shape of that tree and although i’ve removed about 30 centimeters of the top or even more i’ve now got a shorter tree so you don’t have to use the entire tub we will deal with the apex when we get there now what about this one is that too much i will decide the less is more principle can be quite intimidating because like you must be thinking if i cut it it becomes irrevocable you can’t go back so like here there’s quite a lot there so there’s three there so i can safely remove this one so try it in position now this one is still bothering me do i keep it or not see with that there i don’t think i need it now that this is down here i can more or less see that i don’t need this one so let’s take this one off so it’s still looking good as we proceed so it turns out i’m keeping the front value open trying not to have a branch poking you in the eye i like that expression because you don’t want to be poked in the eye certainly so now this and this could go there would it go there so there are again three branches i probably don’t need all of them this is too close to that so i’ll remove the center one i know some people criticize me for working too fast but it’s because i have taken the right decision i don’t expect everyone to be able to decide as quickly as i do but it’s not a problem you can take as long as you like and in case i’m giving the impression that i’m having a race i’m not having a race for the sake of the video i can’t spend two three hours doing this because you learn the same principles in the time that i take to do the tree but it’s a good thing to go through the thought process of analyzing whether you need it or not it is analysis every time you look at a problem you’re analyzing the problem asking yourself do you need this do you need that why am i doing this why am i doing that there are logical processes involved in making bonsai okay now there is a space there i need to fill a space there this one is coming straight out at me do i need it probably not let me try the next branch so the next branch you notice what i’m doing is i’m not visualizing the entire tree i’m proceeding as i go along as i go along i take the decision i don’t try to look too far ahead i don’t think it is necessary to do that now that would go there this can go here okay now this seems to be close if i bring this down this may be better can you see if i brought this down in this down this may be too close to that so if i brought this down this may be better so let’s get rid of this one so it’s only by trying the position that you get to get a pull for whether it is appropriate or not there is no right or wrong it’s just whether it’s appropriate or not you can always rectify it even if you make a mistake okay that can go there so that would fill the space this can go this side so i think let’s work on these two first again using thinner wires i’m using the two mil wire i reckon with this tree i’m removing about i would say 45 maybe 50 of the existing branches that’s the amount of branches i’m removing mind you this is a very healthy tree all these are very healthy trees with lots of branches and because you have so many branches you have the choice of taking out what you don’t feel is necessary for the design so this again reinforces the view that you don’t need to have every tree being made into an s shape in case i give the impression that all i like is the s shape not so i have some very very good personal trees that are what we call formal upright trees they are absolutely bolt upright and they are absolutely exquisite trees okay so that is okay there i think this may be all right let me just wire these two i’ll work and see if it fits if it works or not now i’m going even lower now i’m going down to two mil wire i had another comment to one of our videos saying that oh i would like to see this tree in a year’s time and i think the tone of the remark was such that i bet in a year’s rubbish i can only reinforce the fact that if you keep it a year look even better except that most of these trees that i make people beg me to sell them to the two that i made earlier in the year i had about six people wanting to buy it they have been sold sometimes they bring them back for me to tweak and improve okay so the corn is gradually tapering to a point and this is what i want to do you can sometimes bring a branch which comes out towards you not exactly straight at your eye but slightly to the slant like that because there are so many branches on this type of tree the decision making is not difficult if you had very few branches that restricts your choice restricts the options and that makes it difficult so where you have a situation where there are lots of branches to choose from it makes the problem solving that much easier so that’s why i love these trees so easy especially for beginners this one of the best trees i think for beginners so i’m just carrying on wiring as i go along as i reach the top at some point i’m going to have to decide how i finish the top there’s still a lot of branches here lots of branches i don’t need i don’t need those this is still the front i keep coming back to the front because that reminds me where the front of the tree is okay okay can you still use that back one this is the scary part if i take too much off i may have to just jig the branch no i don’t think so i can still carry on this can still come there this is still too close i can still remove some stuff i’m almost there almost there i think just three more pairs of branches and i’m finished i think that can also go that can also go so for those of you who are buying a tall tree like this you will know that you don’t have to use the full one meter height you can cut it down by at least 30 centimeters because this tree is now just slightly over 60 centimeter and it is perfectly adequate don’t need more than that this is the front stir i keep looking at the front and the last pair is the apex going to the top and the little side branch there and then you can wire some of these very thin ones with very thin wire like one mil and let us see i can certainly use much much thinner wire or even 0.8 ml i’m not going to do every single twig so there you go that’s your christmas tree instead of the original one meter let me find that this is what i took off it was that long and i’ve taken it down to there and that is your tree and i’m going to put it in a pot and the final shot will be this in its pot so i hope you’ve learned from repeating this exercise and now we’re going to work on some more pisces to make into a christmas group which will be another video so this is the big piece here that i’ve been working on and as you can see again my resident robin is always here and i’m glad i put that bit of mesh there see what the robin is doing it’s pecking all the moss i put the moss there only five minutes ago and i covered with mesh here so that the robin doesn’t steal the moss and although the robin is very friendly it does things that uh are not what i would like to see happen so it’s pecking the moss and poor robin i think is looking for worms but there is such a lot of worms and debris in the nursery i don’t know why it doesn’t go elsewhere to find the worms so this are piscea which was done very rapidly and it’s been potted in this mica pot let me remove the mesh and i’ve shown some of the exposed root and this is how i finished it off and there you are no longer just a christmas tree but a stately formal upright tree i will try and keep this as i’ve always said to people who ask questions on the youtube comments uh i’ll i’d like to see the tree in a year’s time but you won’t believe most people handcrafted the trees i make so i seldom managed to keep them for very long but i can assure you that in a year’s time it will look even better it will look even better the pads will have developed much more so this is how this tree has turned out and i will put the mesh back so that the robin will not be tempted to dig up the moss that’s a little idea for you put mesh like this and cover it up and you can tie it down because you never know the robin may yank that mesh off and get at the moss so there you go [Music] you

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