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From Nursery to Exhibition: an RMBS New Mexico Privet

By Mike Horine

RMBS member and nursery stock guru

Text and photos courtesy of Mike Horine and

Of my 6 New Mexico Privet – Forestiera neomexicana Bonsai trees this is my oldest tree in the collection. I obtained this tree at a Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society sponsored event at Arborland Nursery in Milikin, Co. somewhere around March 3, 2010 time frame. The event was coordinated by then President Paul Gilbert and a bunch of club members descended on the nursery all looking for the perfect New Mexico Privet.

RMBS members evaluate stock trees March 2010

I picked out this tree and promptly cut off the left side of the tree much to the horror of my new friends in the club. I intended to design the tree as a wind swept tree growing to the right of the trunk. I kept this idea of a windswept tree right up to a few weeks ago (Aug/2020) when I abandoned the idea once and for all. I still developed the tree to the right but designed the tree as a more normal growing tree to the right who somehow lost all of its branches on the left side of the tree for some reason. This tree has been pretty much allowed to grow anyway it wanted but all growing to the right of the tree. The tree has been wired several times during this time frame and must be de-wired on a regular basis to keep it from scaring the branches, if you look close enough you can see some scars. I have kept most branches and did cut off one large branch in August 2020 and have left a stump for the time being. I am allowing this stump to die back on its own before doing something with it. Older lions in the club recommended leaving jin’s on this species of privet since cut marks do not seem to heel and often start to rot out. So I have left jin’s on this tree right from the start. Branches on this species are easy to wire and generally hold well if you use the right sized wire. Fall color will be a soft yellow. The tree will bloom in the earliest part of spring and maybe even late winter and the flowers are extremely tiny and may be overlooked if your not paying attention. Watch for the bees visiting the flowers which might look like a bare branch except for the bees! This is a small Bonsai tree and can be picked up easily with one hand and carried around. The berries are extremely tiny.

Privet bears fruit

This is the first of my privets to produce fruit. In fact of the trees in Bonsai pots this is the first one that I am aware of that bloomed. I did not see the blooms either! The only proof of blooms is the fact that it is was covered in tiny green berries which latter turned a beautiful blue color. These berries are really watery when you crush a couple of them.

I selected a steam punk designed Bonsai pot made by Chuck Iker for the tree. I thought the tree would look great in the pot with the different colors in the pot plus the rectangular squares in the pot design. I think the color of the trunk goes well the colors in the pot and the soft green/yellow colors of the leaves go well with the pot to. I would love to credit for how well the berries go with the pot colors but that would be a big lie on my part. So I will just say that I am the luckiest Bonsai person you might ever run across. The berries are just so cool on this tree and everyone who has seen the tree in person with its berries comments on them and they are positive comments to! This tree has silver tip moss growing on top of the soil. I prefer this moss to the normal green moss I use on most trees. Silver Tip moss is most difficult to find and believe it or not you can sometimes find some on the top of soil on nursery trees being sold.

Steampunk inspired pot by Ohio potter Chuck Iker

I did submit this tree to the 2020 Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society Virtual Bonsai Show. I went with a traditional three point display with one tree, stone and accent plant.

Visit this site on September 20-27th, 2020 to see Mike's privet and all of the bonsai for our 2020 RMBS exhibition!

Please see the rest of the gallery including photos from the original nursery excursion here!

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1 Comment

Mike Horine
Mike Horine
Nov 22, 2021

This tree (species) is actually in the Olive family and it is not in the Privet family of trees.

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