Five Beeches for €10,-

Beeches are my favourite trees, their thick muscular trunks and smooth bark have a combination of elegance and power I like. Where I live, The Netherlands, a lot of people have Beech hedges. These are sold as youngling of around 4/5 years old at around ten euro per bunch of five 2cm thick younglings to be put in the ground in rows to hedge. About six years ago I bought one of those bunches and put a few in the garden to grow thicker and two others in a pot to be trained as Bonsai immediately.

Beeches are very nice and hardy, but they do have a few quirks that make them difficult for Bonsai, especially the European genus which is also sensitive to light (or too much of it). Most importantly they have a very distinct way of leafing out. Generally they have one flush of leaves in spring and that is all you get to work with that year. They also don’t leaf out in individual leaves, instead when their buds swell they throw out an entire branch at once. In general such a branch has 3 to 5 leaves and is very soft the first week. When you cut these new soft branches back to the first two leaves before it hardens it will yield a reasonably compact tree and when healthy and fed well it might even decide to do a second flush of buds halfway through summer. For growing it as Bonsai this is very important because treating it like that is practically the only way to get a nice structure with dense foliage. For this reason many growers find Beeches difficult. They also very rarely backbud on old wood making “foliage management” very important and it’s best to buy them with a thick trunk if that’s what you’re going for because they thicken very slow in a pot.

The good thing is that when you do this right, and make sure it watered well and avoid continuous direct sunlight these trees are almost impossible to kill. When treated right you’ll have a few fine trees for almost nothing. Below are two of them in their first year in a pot, with just a wee bit of wire.

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And now, five years later.

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Still not ready, especially the first one needs some further compacting/maturing, but they are rewarding trees to own regardless.

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