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Smoke Bush strategy 11 months 20 hours ago #80223

  • Jamminsalmon
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Hey all,
Still very new to Bonsai and I recently picked up a lilla smoke bush (cotinus coggygria lilla). Based on my understanding its not technically a tree, but I wanted to experiment with this one for bonsai as it seems to grow very well in my climate and I love the look of it (Im near Denver, Colorado USA).

I'm hoping some of you can help me understand some of my options for growing this one out. As a newbie, I dont feel like I understand all of the opportunities that the existing structure might offer. I'd like to develop a thicker base/trunk and ideally encourage this to grow for more height. I didnt want to rush into anything until I could get some ideas from anyone who might be willing to offer their expertise.

Any help or commentary would be greatly appreciated. A picture should be attached and can provide any more as needed. Thanks in advance and I look forward to any conversation we might have on this one.

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Smoke Bush strategy 11 months 17 hours ago #80225

  • Tropfrog
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If you want to grow out the trunk and height there are no work to be done now except for watering and fertilizing.

In the long run, when you are happy with the trunk I think the two obvious posibilities is Bloom style or informal upright. I would go for clip and grow instead of wiering.
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Smoke Bush strategy 11 months 17 hours ago #80228

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If you want to develop this including growing a bigger trunk, make sure you do not keep more than two-way splits. If you have the trunk split into 3 branches / subtrunks, this is typically asking for bulges and inverse taper in the trunk, something you really need to avoid for a convincing bonsai later on.

I would reduce the branches at the split. Then let one grow tall with the intent to eventually remove that one. THe other I would keep short to prune back to once the trunk has thickened
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Smoke Bush strategy 11 months 15 hours ago #80229

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For broom style some inverse taper is typically very hard to avoid and generally accepted. That third leader may be needed in the future for this style.

If you go for informal upright i agree 100% with leatherback.
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Smoke Bush strategy 11 months 14 hours ago #80230

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Thank you both for your attention on this one, this has given me some really great food for thought. I'll do a little bit of homework on each style and make a choice on what to go for here.

Broom seems like a very natural fit, however Im wondering if the amount of trunk below the split is too short to be convincing later on. I'd like to see this thing get a decent amount larger. Torn between the two styles, I love them both... Decisions...

Very excited to be part of this forum and again, I appreciate you sharing some advice.

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Smoke Bush strategy 11 months 14 hours ago #80231

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Thank you both for your attention on this one, this has given me some really great food for thought. I'll do a little bit of homework on each style and make a choice on what to go for here.

Broom seems like a very natural fit, however Im wondering if the amount of trunk below the split is too short to be convincing later on. I'd like to see this thing get a decent amount larger. Torn between the two styles, I love them both... Decisions...

Very excited to be part of this forum and again, I appreciate you sharing some advice.


A broom would be a poor choice for the species, and certainly for the tree you have here. It is fairly coarse growing and will not make a convincing small tree. If you decide to grow a thicker trunk the branches that you have now will be even thicker and completely out of proportion.

Be wary of advice on the internet. Read it. Then go online / meet with people that have some great bonsai, and reflect/discuss.

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Smoke Bush strategy 11 months 13 hours ago #80232

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I appreciate the advice. Looking at how some of the native bushes grow out, I think I can see your point.

I marked up my image to represent some direction in the case of informal upright. Im hoping the markups arent too confusing.

I'm thinking about growing out branch 1 (vertical branch). Branch 2 would be cut somewhat short to become a future lead branch once the trunk has grown to a satisfactory size and 1 has been removed. Cuts are indicated in green.

I realize there are a lot of ways to execute this, but does the image capture what you are describing?

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Smoke Bush strategy 3 months 3 weeks ago #82048

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Hey all, follow up question regarding this smoke bush (and maybe a general question for deciduous variety). It is now late December and this tree has been in a cold frame with all of my other's for some time. Things seem to be going well, however the majority of leaves still have yet to drop. Nothing seems to be dried out or dead looking. As I'm still learning quite a bit I figured I'd consult with anyone willing to chime in here; should I be concerned?

The cold frame is out of direct sunlight and temperatures have been relatively cold for a few months (I'm in Colorado, USA). Given that the tree is still alive considering those things - I'm imagining that we've successfully entered into dormancy. Happy to add photos, unless there is something typical about what I've described and someone here has some insight. Thanks in advance to anyone willing to advise!

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Smoke Bush strategy 3 months 3 weeks ago #82049

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I will pass on the question, but have a reflection for you.

"Relativelly cold" is just what it sais, relative to something else. Maybe your own experience? In my experience it is relativelly cold when it drops below -10 degrees. In lapland it may be -30. We had a forum member from the caribean not long ago the experienced 22 degrees as cold. If you want tips regarding trees reactions in different temperatures it is a good idea to actually quantify your temperature.
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Smoke Bush strategy 3 months 3 weeks ago #82050

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To further assist anyone's speculation on my question I'll be a bit more precise; I appreciate the suggestion @Tropfrog. Month to date (in my city) my recorded high and low temps have been between 18 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to 22 Celsius). Colorado climate can be unpredictable and fast changing. We get these occasional and bizarre warm spells, sometimes in the same week as a blizzard.

I may be vague in the way I characterize this, but Colorado is typically cold by most standards; I would think cold enough put a lot of species into dormancy by this time of year but I may be understating the difficulty of growing in our volatile climate. My hopes in using a cold frame in a shaded area is to buffer some of the rapid temperature changes we go through.

Part of this is just me thinking out loud, but I hope to provide as much information as possible to anyone willing to comment.

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