Beech is one of the preferred essences for the creation of bonsai. Those who prefer native essences make their choice on Fagus sylvatica, the common beech, widespread in the woods of our continent. It is not a simple essence, but with a little ‘application can give great satisfaction. It is not difficult to find on the market small specimens, both of the species and of some cultivars with red leaf or with a decumbent deportment.
Moreover, if allowed by the authorities, it is possible to take small specimens already with some particular predispositions (for example a large trunk). As a last alternative, it is possible to grow a sapling directly from seed, harvesting beeches in autumn.
Aesthetic characteristics and variety
The beech is appreciated for its beautiful structure, very harmonious and light, but at the same time resistant. The leaves are very attractive: they are green during the year and turn to red and golden yellow in autumn. They almost always remain on the tree throughout the winter period to fall only when the buds push again.
Obviously, we can opt also for the cultivars of the group atropurpurea. The most common ones vary only for the colouring of the foliage (purplish and then coppered), but there are also some with particular portions (columnar, decumbent).
The Fagus crenata (with smaller leaves and very intense colours) are also very appreciated.
Usually beech trees tend to create groves (Yose-Ue style), obtaining the natural shape with pruning. It is not uncommon, however, that some particularly beautiful specimens are used alone. In this case the styles chokkan (formal erect) and hokidachi (upside down broom, with rounded crown) are followed. There are also cases of windy style, although it requires a lot of experience and patience.
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In addition to the purchase we can proceed by sowing, withdrawing or layering a branch.
Sowing (in sand and peat) takes place at the end of the winter after stratification in damp sand for about 3 months, at low temperature. The peeled fruits are used by inserting them at the point at the bottom. After germination, let’s keep them protected from direct sunlight and keep the humidity always high. To enlarge the trunk, we suggest transplanting it in the ground for a few years.
The layering is quite successful, as long as it guarantees a very humid environment.
The roots do not suffer particularly, but it is also necessary to take a good amount of soil around them. For the development of the tree, it is important that there are the mycorrhizae typical of the area in which it was born.
The beech bonsai has an average vigorous development (concentrated in spring), but requires specific climatic conditions. Usually it is good to grow it in the shade, especially if the humidity is not comparable to that of a forest. In this way we will avoid the foliar drying up and a thinning of the bark.
At high temperatures (above 25°C), it is advisable to spray the soil and the canopy.
The only exception is spring: in this period the tree will benefit from a sunny position by growing more vigorously and producing more abundant and smaller leaves.
In winter we place the pot in a sheltered area because the roots are sensitive to frost.
In spring, the irrigation should not be excessive: it would accentuate the lengthening of the branches and internodes. In summer, however, we must not skimp on when the soil is dry. We pour water repeatedly so that even the deep layers become moist.
They always have to be read. On a young tree it is better to let it develop freely. Afterwards, when the secondary branches have been lignified, they are cut leaving only two buds: this will stimulate the growth of the canopy. On mature specimens we intervene with the bud closed by making the selvedges: we will shorten the internodes and stimulate the development of the lower buds.Important cuts always require the use of mastics to avoid ugly scars.
They must be made with aluminium from mid-summer onwards, when a partial lignification has already taken place: in this way we will not damage the bark.
It is recommended to use specific products for slow release bonsai, to be distributed in late winter (March) and mid-summer (August).
We proceed towards April, before the vegetative restart. The young specimens usually repot themselves every other year, but it is also possible to do it every year. Later on, on the contrary, the ideal timing is every 3-4 years. It does not suffer from radical pruning, which can (indeed, must) be quite drastic, eliminating even half of the apparatus.
For the new soil you can opt for a normal product for green plants, rich in organic matter.